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Williams v. Unifund CCR, LLC

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 20, 2017

Kevin T. Williams, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Unifund CCR, LLC, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the St. Joseph Circuit Court, The Honorable John E. Broden, Judge, The Honorable Larry L. Ambler, Magistrate, Trial Court Cause No. 71C01-1401-CC-78.

          Attorney for Appellant Judith Fox Alan Grigorian, Certified Legal Intern Notre Dame Clinical Law Center South Bend, Indiana.

          RILEY, JUDGE.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Defendant, Kevin T. Williams (Williams), appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of Appellee-Plaintiff, Unifund CCR, LLC (Unifund), on Unifund's Complaint against Williams for nonpayment of credit card debt.

         [¶2] We reverse.

         ISSUE

         [¶3] Williams raises four issues on appeal, one of which we find dispositive and which we restate as: Whether the evidence admitted at trial supports Unifund's claim.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] Unifund is a debt-buying company that purchases charged-off accounts from credit card companies by way of large portfolios of debt. When acquiring credit card accounts through assignment agreements, the accounts are handled by several assignees before being ultimately assigned to Unifund. Here, the account at issue was purchased by Pilot Receivables Management (Pilot), who assigned it to its affiliated entity Unifund CCR Partners (Unifund Partners), after which Unifund Partners assigned the account to Unifund. The account was transferred to Unifund in a very large Excel file, which "can contain anywhere from one to several thousand credit card accounts all displayed as a single line in that Excel spreadsheet." (Transcript p. 29). Unifund altered this spreadsheet in anticipation of trial.

         [¶5] On April 29, 2002, Williams opened a credit card account with Citibank. By 2009, Williams had accumulated monthly credit card debt in the aggregate amount of $10, 402.90. On or about March 25, 2013, Citibank sold a block of charged-off accounts, including Williams' account, to Pilot who, in turn, assigned the account to Unifund Partners. The information listed on the spreadsheet that Citibank provided to Pilot included the account number, the account balance, the date of the last payment, the account holder's name and social security number. On July 1, 2013, Pilot assigned "Receivables" to Unifund Partners "for collection purposes only, " with Pilot retaining "title and ownership of such Receivable." (Appellant's App. Vol. III, p. 107). That same day, Unifund Partners assigned these "Receivables" to Unifund. (Appellant's App. Vol. III, p. 108).

         [¶6] On January 21, 2014, Unifund filed a Complaint, alleging breach of contract, account stated, promissory estoppel, and unjust enrichment. On February 13, 2014, Williams filed his answer and motion to dismiss Unifund's Complaint, as well as a motion to strike Unifund's exhibits, arguing that the affidavit of debt, account statement, and bill of sale and assignment were based on hearsay and therefore inadmissible under Indiana Evidence Rule 802. On January 12, 2015, Unifund filed its motion for summary judgment to which Williams filed a brief in opposition. On April 1, 2015, following a hearing, the trial court denied Unifund's motion for summary judgment. On July 27, 2015, the trial court ordered Unifund to provide proof of the last payment date in Williams' account, as well as proof of ownership of the account. The trial court additionally directed that any additional exhibits offered at trial should be exchanged by the parties by August 17, 2015.

         [¶7] On August 31, 2015, the trial court conducted a bench trial. During trial, Unifund offered two Exhibits into evidence, both of which contained documents which had not previously been provided to Williams pursuant to the trial court's order. After a timely objection by Williams, the trial court took the admission of the Exhibits under advisement. On October 22, 2015, the trial court issued its judgment, admitting the Exhibits and awarding Unifund $10, 402.90 plus costs. On November 23, 2015, Williams filed a motion to correct error, which was denied by the trial court on March 28, 2016.

         [¶8] Williams now appeals. Additional facts will be ...


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