United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NOS.
R. SWEENEY II JUDGE
Sonja Pennell alleges that Defendant Global Trust Management,
LLC (“GTM”) sent her a letter that violated the
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15
U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. GTM and Plaintiff each
move for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 25, 30.)
LLC originated a loan to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff defaulted.
Plaintiff's counsel sent Mobiloans a letter stating that
(1) Pennell refused to pay the debt, and (2) all future
communications must be directed to her counsel. Thereafter,
GTM purchased Plaintiff's debt from Mobiloans, but
Mobiloans did not provide the letter from Plaintiff's
counsel or any other information indicating that Plaintiff
had counsel or refused to pay the debt. (Torres Decl. ¶
8, ECF No. 25-1.) GTM then sent Plaintiff a letter attempting
to collect, and Plaintiff's counsel responded by letter,
informing GTM that Plaintiff refused to pay and that
Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (ECF No. 25-8, ¶
1; ECF No. 26 at 3; ECF No. 31 at 5, ¶ 11.) GTM never
again attempted to contact Pennell directly about the debt.
(ECF No. 25-1 at ¶ 6; ECF No. 26 at 3.)
alleges that GTM's letter violated § 1692c(a)(2) and
(c) because Plaintiff notified Mobiloans in writing that she
refused to pay the debt and that she was represented by an
attorney. Section 1692c(a)(2) prohibits a debt collector from
communicating with a consumer “if the debt collector
knows the consumer is represented by an attorney, ” and
section 1692c(c) forbids communication “[i]f a consumer
notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer
refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt
collector to cease further communication[.]” GTM argues
that it is entitled to summary judgment because it had
neither actual knowledge that Plaintiff was represented by
counsel nor notice that Plaintiff had refused to pay the
debt. Plaintiff responds that Mobiloans's knowledge and
notice were imputed to GTM when GTM purchased the debt.
debt purchaser, GTM does not appear to be a “debt
collector” subject to the FDCPA. See Henson v.
Santander Consumer USA Inc., 137 S.Ct. 1718 (2017).
“A distinction between creditors and debt collectors is
fundamental to the FDCPA, which does not regulate
creditors' activities at all.” Randolph v.
IMBS, Inc., 368 F.3d 726, 729 (7th Cir. 2004). Summary
judgment would thus appear to be warranted without even
wading into the FDCPA's prohibitions, but GTM-rather
puzzlingly-first denies in its answer, (Answer ¶ 25, ECF
No. 8), and then “admits[, ] for the purpose of this
litigation only, that it meets [the] definition of debt
collector set forth in the [FDCPA].” (Def.'s Supp.
Resp. to Pl.'s Interrog. ¶ 10, ECF No. 25-8.)
assuming that GTM is a debt collector subject to the FDCPA,
GTM is entitled to summary judgment. Courts do not impute to
debt collectors the information in creditors' files.
See Randolph v. IMBS, Inc., 368 F.3d 726, 729 (7th
Cir. 2004). But, Plaintiff argues, GTM is not merely a debt
collector; it is a debt purchaser and
therefore-according to Plaintiff-acquired “all rights
and liabilities” associated with Plaintiff's debt.
Plaintiff's authorities all address the acquisition of
rights and liabilities through assignment. See Olvera v.
Blitt & Gaines, P.C., 431 F.3d 285, 288 (7th Cir.
2005) (“the assignee steps into the shoes of the
assignor, assuming his rights as well as his duties”);
Cox v. CA Holding Inc., Case No. 1:13-cv-1754-JMS,
2015 WL 631393*13 (S.D. Ind. Feb. 13, 2015) (“an
assignee has rights and liabilities identical to those of its
assignor”); Scott v. Durham, 772 F.Supp.2d
978, 980 (N.D. Ind. 2011) (“it is a well-settled
principle of contract law that a valid assignment gives the
assignee neither greater nor lesser rights than
those held by the assignor”). Knowledge, though, is
neither a right nor a liability; it is “a state of
mind.” See Knowledge, Black's Law
Dictionary (11th ed. 2019); Randolph, 368 F.3d at
729 (“the statute asks what the debt collector knows,
not what the creditor knows”). A debt purchaser does
not acquire the seller's knowledge-or any other state of
mind-any more than a homebuyer acquires the seller's
neighborly grudges or fond memories of last year's block
party. Lacking knowledge (actual or otherwise), GTM did not
violate the FDCPA by sending the letter, and summary judgment
for GTM is warranted.
GTM's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 25) is
granted, Plaintiff's cross motion for
summary judgment (ECF No. 30) is denied, and
Plaintiff's claims are dismissed on the
merits with prejudice. Final judgment shall be entered