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Schroeder v. Meyer

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, LaFayette Division

March 31, 2017

MATTHEW A. SCHROEDER, Plaintiff,
v.
W. CHRISTIAN MEYER, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES T. MOODY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         Between December 7, 2011 and March 14, 2014, plaintiff Matthew Schroeder received medical services at GLHS Surgical Center. (DE # 21-1 at 25.) Schroeder allegedly incurred a $12, 814.16 debt to Unity Surgical Center, which was referred to defendant Walter Christian Meyer for collection. (Id. at 25, 27.) Meyer drafted a dunning letter concerning this alleged debt, and on May 23, 2014, he sent the letter to 210 N. Beach Drive in Monticello, Indiana. (DE # 18-3 at 9, 32.) On that same day, Meyer also sent a request to the United States Post Office ("USPS") to obtain the specific unit at 210 N. Beach Drive where Schroeder was residing. (DE # 21-1 at 33-34.) USPS responded that Schroeder resided at 210 N. Beach Drive, Unit B. (Id.) In actuality, Schroeder had moved from Unit B to Unit A some time in 2013. (DE # 18-1 at 6-7.)

         Nevertheless, Schroeder received the dunning letter as mailed and attempted to contact Meyer by phone. (DE # 21-2 at 23, 26.) Defendant's documents indicate that Schroeder called Meyer's office on June 4, 2014, to inform Meyer that he was planning to move to South Carolina. (Id.) Schroeder then sent Meyer a letter dated June 9, 2014, disputing the debt and requesting validation. (DE # 21-1 at 32.) In that letter, Schroeder provided his mother's phone number, email address, and home address -504 Anchor Drive, #203, Lafayette, Indiana-which plaintiff referred to as his permanent address. (DE # 21-2 at 10.) Schroeder also sent a second letter to Meyer, dated June 10, 2014, which asserted that he was moving to South Carolina as of that date. (Id. at 11.)

         On June 18, 2014, Meyer responded to Schroeder's request by sending a verification letter to 210 N. Beach Drive, Unit B in Monticello, Indiana. (DE # 21-1 at 33.) Schroeder alleges that he did not receive the verification because he had moved. (DE # 21-3 at 6-7.) However, Meyer disputes this and argues that Schroeder may have received the verification, because the letter may have been forwarded to South Carolina. (DE # 22 at 2-3.)

         In September 2014, Meyer submitted a second request for Schroeder's address to USPS. (DE # 21-1 at 62.) USPS responded stating that they showed Schroeder was living at the same Beach Drive address but in Unit A, instead of Unit B. (Id. at 63.)

         On September 25, 2014, Meyer filed a lawsuit on behalf of GLHS Unity Surgery Center against Schroeder in the Tippecanoe County Superior Court (the "state court"). (DE # 21-1 at 36.) Meyer attempted to serve Schroeder at 210 N. Beach Drive, Apt. A in Monticello. (Id. at 39-40.) However, service was not successful because Schroeder did not live at that address. (Id.) Meyer never asked Schroeder or his mother for Schroeder's new address in South Carolina. (DE # 21-1 at 66-67.)

         On December 5, 2014, an alias summons and complaint were attached to the door at 504 Anchor Drive Apartment 203. (DE # 21-1 at 83.) Schroeder's mother discovered the summons and complaint and called her son and advised him of the lawsuit some time in December 2014. (DE # 18-2 at 8.)

         On December 14, 2014, Schroeder sent Meyer a check containing his South Carolina address. (DE ## 21-1 at 41-42; 21-2 at 21.) Furthermore, on December 18, 2014, Meyer received Schroeder's affidavit stating he had never resided at the Anchor Drive address. (DE # 21-4 at 1-3.) Nevertheless, on December 29, 2014, Meyer filed a motion for default judgment on behalf of the plaintiff in the state court case. (DE # 1-3.) In that motion, Meyer wrote that Schroeder had been "duly served with process of this action pursuant to Trial Rule 4.1 of the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure." (Id.) The state court entered default judgment against Schroeder; however, that court later granted Schroeder's motion to set aside the default judgment. (DE ## 21-1 at 83; 24-1.)

         On April 16, 2015, Schroeder filed a complaint against Meyer in this court seeking statutory and actual damages, along with attorney's fees and costs, for violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the "FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C § 1692. (DE # 1.) Specifically, he alleges that Meyer violated sections 1692e, 1692f, and 1692g(b) of the FDCPA. (Id.) On May 2, 2016, Meyer moved for summary judgment on all of plaintiff's claims. (DE # 18.) That same day, Schroeder filed a motion for partial summary judgment as to liability on his FDCPA claims. (DE # 20). The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for ruling.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, against a party "who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "[S]ummary judgment is appropriate - in fact, is mandated-where there are no disputed issues of material fact and the movant must prevail as a matter of law. In other words, the record must reveal that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Dempsey v. Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 16 F.3d 832, 836 (7th Cir. 1994) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that these requirements have been met. Carmichael v. Village of Palatine, III, 605 F.3d 451, 460 (7th Cir. 2010). "[T]he burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing' - that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. Once the moving party has met his burden, the non-moving party must identify specific facts establishing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Palmer v. Marion County, 327 F.3d 588, 595 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). In doing so, the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must present fresh proof in support of its position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Donovan v. City of Milwaukee, 17 F.3d 944, 947 (7th Cir. 1994). In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Chmiel v. JC Penney Life Ins. Co., 158 F.3d 966 (7th Cir. 1998).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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