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Walton v. EOS CCA

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 29, 2017

DEBORAH WALTON, Plaintiff,
v.
EOS CCA, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Deborah Walton's (“Ms. Walton”) Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment, (Filing No. 111). On January 6, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, recommending that the Court grant Defendant EOS CCA's (“EOS”) Motion for Summary Judgment and deny Ms. Walton's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 110) (the “Report”). Ms. Walton filed this action seeking damages against EOS for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 91 Stat. 874, 15 U.S.C. § 1682, et seq., (“FDCPA”) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 84 Stat. 1128, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. (“FCRA”), arising out of collection efforts by EOS of a consumer debt Ms. Walton allegedly owed to AT&T for U-verse television services. For the reasons explained herein, Ms. Walton's Objections are overruled and final judgment shall be entered in favor of EOS on all of Ms. Walton's claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As noted in the Report, Ms. Walton filed several documents which she described as motions for partial summary judgment. The Court will treat the three motions, Filing No. 87; Filing No. 91; Filing No. 92, collectively as Ms. Walton's Motion for Summary Judgment. On December 19, 2016, EOS filed its Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 94). The Court notes that the document at Filing No. 93 is not a motion; rather it is EOS's Memorandum of Law in Support of its Cross-Motion. Accordingly, this Entry will correct the record to reflect only Filing No. 94 as EOS's Cross-Motion.

         The Report accurately states the undisputed facts which the Court only summarizes in this Entry. (Filing No. 110 at 16-23.) EOS, identifying itself as a debt collector, sent Ms. Walton a letter dated January 27, 2015, seeking to collect a debt allegedly owed by Ms. Walton to AT&T. The debt was for U-verse television services at Ms. Walton's home in Carmel, Indiana. The letter identified the AT&T account number as 864119170 and the total due as $268.47. It also identified an account number assigned by EOS (13075918). Ms. Walton received the letter on or about January 29, 2015. The AT&T account number (864119170) and the exact amount due ($268.47) were supplied by AT&T to EOS when AT&T assigned the account to EOS. EOS relied on the accuracy of the information supplied by AT&T about Ms. Walton. On several occasions Ms. Walton communicated with EOS both on the telephone and in writing and denied that she had an account or owed a debt to AT&T. However, Ms. Walton falsely denied the last four digits of her social security to EOS representatives. In March 2015, EOS reported the AT&T account to Experian and Trans Union credit reporting agencies. Soon thereafter, EOS received through the E-Oscar online system run by the credit bureaus which stockpiles every discovery dispute made to credit bureaus, an Automated Consumer Disputer Verification (“ACDV”) report. Two disputes regarding credit reporting are shown in the record: in her first ACDV, Ms. Walton wrote that she submitted a letter stating that the debt did not belong to her. That ACDV was processed by Andrew McCrevan (“Mr. McCrevan”), an EOS employee who verified Ms. Walton's account. In her second ACDV, Ms. Walton wrote: “EOS stated I owed for Uverse Acct 864119170. Actual ATT Acct 119864170. ATT sent refund check indicating I did not owe an addtl amount”. (Filing No. 93-3 at 32.) After the second ACDV, EOS closed its collection account and requested that Experian and Trans Union delete or close the account. On October 19, 2015, Ms. Walton paid $268.47 to AT&T for the outstanding U-verse bill because she needed to buy a new iPhone, and not because she believed she owed the debt.

         Ms. Walton identifies four material facts that she contends are in dispute: (1) Ms. Walton did not owe the underlying debt to AT&T that EOS was attempting to collect; (2) she disputed that debt, verbally and in writing; (3) EOS did not communicate with AT&T to verify the accuracy of the debt in response to Ms. Walton's disputes; and (4) EOS did not comply with the FDCPA, or the FCRA. (Filing No. 111 at 2.) Ms. Walton does not connect these disputed facts to any particular findings, conclusions, recommendations, or other parts of the Report, neither does she explain the effects on the Report's substance and recommendations if these asserted and mischaracterized facts are corrected. Therefore, the Court examines only the identified factual issues.

         A. Whether Ms. Walton owed the underlying debt.

         The Report makes no finding that Ms. Walton owed the debt. To the contrary, it repeatedly uses the terms “debt allegedly owed” or “alleged debt” (Filing No. 110 at 16, 19, 20, 21). It treats this factual dispute under the heading “Certain Fact Disputes Between the Parties, ” id., at 23. The Report specifically declares that “there is a genuine issue about whether Ms. Walton actually owed the money, ” id., at 24; it explicitly states that, for the purposes of the summary judgment motion, it assumes that Ms. Walton did not owe the alleged debt. id. In addition, and the Report concludes that whether Ms. Walton actually owed the debt or not “is not material to resolving the cross-motions for summary judgment, ” id. The Report contains no finding that it is undisputed that Ms. Walton owed the underlying debt to AT&T. Reviewing this part of the Report de novo, the Court concludes that the Report's treatment of this factual issue is correct.

         B. Whether Ms. Walton disputed the Debt.

         There is no finding in the Report that Ms. Walton did not dispute the debt. To the contrary, the Report recounts Ms. Walton's three telephone calls to EOS, a certified letter she wrote to EOS, and two ACDV reports generated by Ms. Walton's reports to the credit reporting agencies. The Report describes all of these communications as disputing the debt and all are discussed under the heading “Undisputed Material Facts.” Filing No. 110 at 16-23. The Report explicitly finds that Ms. Walton disputed the debt. Reviewing this part of the Report de novo, the Court concludes that the Report's treatment of these factual issues is correct.

         C. Whether EOS contacted AT&T directly to verify the debt.

         The Report neither finds nor describes any communication that EOS had with AT&T to verify Ms. Walton's alleged debt. To the contrary, the Report lists as undisputed facts that (1) the only verification of the debt that EOS performed in response to Ms. Walton's certified letter was to check EOS's data against the information originally sent to it by AT&T, Filing No. 110 at 20; (2) the only verification that EOS performed in response to the first ACDV was, again, to check EOS's data against AT&T's original information; (3) Mr. McCrevan, EOS's employee who handled Ms. Walton's collection account, did not contact AT&T, id., at 22; and (4) in response to the second ACDV, EOS closed its collection account without attempting to verify the information with AT&T, id. Reviewing this part of the Report de novo, the Court concludes that the Report's treatment of these factual issues is correct.

         D. Whether EOS complied with the FDCPA and the FCRA.

         Ms. Walton's final contention of disputed fact, that EOS did not comply with the FDCPA and the FRCA, is a conclusory statement. This contention is not a description of a disputed issue of material fact, but merely an abbreviation of Ms. Walton's legal claims in this law suit. Because ...


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