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Lavallee v. Med-1 Solutions, LLC

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

September 29, 2017

MED-1 SOLUTIONS, LLC, Defendant.


          Debra McVicker Lynch, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This case concerns whether defendant Med-1 Solutions, LLC, a debt collector, violated a provision of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a), that requires the debt collector to send a validation notice to the debtor with its initial communication to collect the debt or within five days after that initial communication. Both parties have moved for summary judgment, and they agree that the material facts are not disputed. As explained below, the court determines plaintiff Beth Lavallee is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ms. Lavallee's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 33) is GRANTED. Defendant Med-1 Solutions, LLC's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 26) is DENIED. Judgment will be entered in favor of Ms. Lavallee for statutory damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys' fees, with costs and fees to be determined upon the filing of an appropriate motion under Rule 54(d).

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law determines the facts that are material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

         Here, the material facts are not disputed, and the court can decide as a matter of law whether Med-1 Solutions violated FDCPA Section 1692g(a).

         Undisputed Material Facts

         The court considers the following undisputed facts.

         Defendant Med-1 Solutions, LLC is a debt collector within the meaning of the FDCPA. Plaintiff Beth Lavallee incurred two consumer debts for medical services provided to her by a hospital, the original creditor. Med-1 Solutions sought to collect those two debts.

         As part of its collection activity, Med-1 Solutions uses a vendor (Privacy Data Systems, its sister company) that created a software application called “SenditCertified™.” Nell Dep., Dkt. 27-1, 13:15-23. Med-1 Solutions supplies data through a data batch process to the vendor about debts it seeks to collect. The vendor's software application extracts the data and inputs it to populate a .pdf document. Id., 22:2-14 and 23:3-9. The .pdf document is “sent” to the intended recipient by email as a “secure package” in the following manner. The recipient is sent an email; the sender on the email is Id., 26:20-22. The subject of the email is that “Med-1 Solutions has sent you a secure message.” See Dkt. 33-1 at p. 66; Nell Dep., 26:9-17. If the email is opened by the recipient, the message reads: “Please find your message attached, ” thus alerting the recipient that she can pick up a “secure message” by clicking a link. Id.¸ 14:5-11; Nell Exh. 4, Dkt. 33-1. The email itself also includes Med-1 Solutions' name, phone number, and address.

         If the recipient clicks the link, she is redirected over the internet via a web browser to access the vendor's web server where there is another message “instructing the user to accept their attachment, ” i.e., the .pdf “secure package.” Id., 23:10-16. The recipient can “accept” the attachment by checking a box to “sign for this Secure Package” and verify that she is the person whose name and email is listed. Id., 34:1-11; Nell Exh. 2, Dkt. 33-1 at p. 59. If that box is checked, the recipient finally is given access to the .pdf document if she clicks on the “Open Secure Package” button appearing on her screen. Id., 34:1-11; Nell Exh 2, Dkt. 33-1 at p. 60.

         That .pdf “secure package” contains a letter to the recipient from Med-1 Solutions that is Med-1 Solutions' FDCPA Section 1692g(a) notification. See Dkt. 27-3 (the Section 1692g(a) notification for one of Ms. Lavallee's two debts that was her “secure package”).

         Med-1 Solutions provided the vendor with data about the two hospital debts it sought to collect from Ms. Lavallee, and the above process was used to send an email to Ms. Lavallee related to each debt.[1] The first email (for the first debt) was sent on March 20, 2015, and the second email (for the second debt) was sent on April 17, 2015.

         The email address used by Med-1 Solutions' vendor for Ms. Lavallee was one she had given the hospital. Ms. Lavallee regularly checks her email inbox and her email spam folder, which automatically deletes spam emails when they age over 30 days. Although Ms. Lavallee does not remember receiving either the March 20 or April 17 emails, Med-1 Solutions' vendor did not receive any error message indicating a problem in the transmission of either email. The emails were not returned as undelivered. Nell Dep., 45:16 to 46-10. Med-1 Solutions' vendor and Med-1 Solutions know too, however, that Ms. Lavallee never viewed or accessed the .pdf “secure package” document for either debt. That is because the vendor's system “records any attempt to view [the .pdf document, or “secure package”]” and there was no record of any attempt to view the secure packages. Id., 46:11-21. If Med-1 Solutions wishes to determine whether a .pdf secure package has been viewed by the debtor, it can ask the vendor or it can check its own logs. Id., 46:22-25.

         Therefore, it is undisputed that for each of the two debts at issue (1) Ms. Lavallee received an email from advising her she had an important message, (2) the email itself did not include Med-1 Solutions' Section 1692g(a) validation notice related to the debt or even mention the hospital, [2] and (3) Ms. Lavallee never ...

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