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Webster v. Receivables Performance Management, LLC

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

October 21, 2019

SEPTEMBER WEBSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
RECEIVABLES PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Receivables Performance Management, LLC's (“RPM”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) (Filing No. 29). Plaintiff September Webster (“Webster”) filed this action against RPM, alleging violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 (“FDCPA”) (Filing No. 1). RPM filed an Answer (Filing No. 7) and then moved for judgment on the pleadings (Filing No. 29). For the following reasons, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required when reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court accepts as true the factual allegations in the Complaint and draws all inferences in favor of Webster as the non-moving party. See Emergency Servs. Billing Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 668 F.3d 459, 464 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Webster resides within the Southern District of Indiana. She incurred a debt that was primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. The debt owed by Webster went into default. RPM is a debt collection agency that operates from an address in Lynnwood, Washington. RPM is licensed by the State of Indiana and does business within the Southern District of Indiana. After Webster's debt went into default, the debt was placed with or transferred to RPM for collection, and RPM attempted to collect the debt from Webster. Webster disputed the debt and asked that RPM cease all further communications about the debt (Filing No. 1 at 2).

         Webster retained John Steinkamp & Associates for legal representation regarding her debts. Prior to September 27, 2018, RPM had reported to TransUnion, a credit reporting agency, that Webster owed a debt to its client. On September 27, 2018, Webster's attorney sent a letter to RPM via facsimile. The facsimile transmission to RPM was successfully received by RPM. In the letter to RPM, Webster's attorney indicated that Webster disputed the debt RPM was attempting to collect. On November 16, 2018, Webster obtained and reviewed a copy of her TransUnion credit report. On November 16, 2018, RPM was still reporting Webster's debt to TransUnion without indicating that the debt was disputed. The TransUnion credit report dated November 16, 2018 indicated that the debt had been verified in November 2018. The TransUnion credit report failed to indicate that the debt was disputed by the consumer. Id. at 3.

         On December 14, 2018, Webster initiated this action by filing a Complaint against RPM. Webster alleges that RPM violated Sections 1692e(8), 1692d, 1692f, and 1692e of the FDCPA by continuing to report the debt to a credit reporting agency without indicating that the debt was disputed. In her Complaint, Webster alleges that the failure to inform a credit reporting agency that a consumer disputes her debt will always have an influence on the consumer because this information will be used to determine the consumer's credit score. Webster requests actual damages, statutory damages, and attorney fees and costs (Filing No. 1). On January 29, 2019, RPM filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses (Filing No. 7), and then it filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on June 14, 2019 (Filing No. 29).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment after the parties have filed a complaint and an answer, and the pleadings are closed. Rule 12(c) motions are analyzed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp., 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007); Frey v. Bank One, 91 F.3d 45, 46 (7th Cir. 1996). The complaint must allege facts that are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, mere “labels, ” “conclusions, ” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Id. Stated differently, the complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         Like a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court will grant a Rule 12(c) motion only if “it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim for relief.” N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of S. Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Craigs, Inc. v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 12 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir. 1993)). The factual allegations in the complaint are viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party; however, the court is “not obliged to ignore any facts set forth in the complaint that undermine the plaintiff's claim or to assign any weight to unsupported conclusions of law.” Id. (quoting R.J.R. Serv., Inc. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 895 F.2d 279, 281 (7th Cir. 1989)). “As the title of the rule implies, Rule 12(c) permits a judgment based on the pleadings alone. . . . The pleadings include the complaint, the answer, and any written instruments attached as exhibits.” Id. (internal citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         “Congress passed the FDCPA to ‘eliminate abusive debt collection practices.' 15 U.S.C. § 1692. The FDCPA is liberally construed to achieve its purpose of protecting ‘the unsophisticated consumer.'” Hutton v. C.B. Accounts, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77881, at *4 (C.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2010) (quoting Horkey v. J.V.D.B. & Assocs., Inc., 333 F.3d 769, 773 (7th Cir. 2003)). The FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from using “unfair practices” or engaging in “harassing or abusive conduct” as well as using “false, deceptive, or misleading representations.” Further, the FDCPA specifically prohibits “[c]ommunicating or threatening to communicate to any person credit information which is known or which should be known to be false, including the failure to communicate that a disputed debt is disputed.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(8).

         RPM argues that judgment on the pleadings is appropriate for several reasons. First, RPM asserts that it never received Webster's faxed letter disputing the debt, which debt was then reported to TransUnion without indicating a dispute. In her Complaint, Webster allegedes she sent the dispute letter to facsimile number 1-888-203-3641 (“Facsimile 3641”), but RPM had removed its inbound fax line in January 2018, many months before Webster used Facsimile 3641. When Webster's attorney sent the letter to Facsimile 3641, the fax line had been removed by RPM from its consumer-facing media. RPM argues that, because Webster did not send the letter through proper channels to communicate with RPM, Webster never gave notice to RPM that she disputed the debt. Therefore, the “dispute” was not effective, and RPM could not violate the FDCPA by failing to report any dispute to a credit reporting agency.

         Second, RPM argues it is entitled to judgment because Webster's claims are moot. On February 26, 2019, RPM served an offer of judgment on Webster pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68, offering her $1, 000.00 and reasonable attorney fees. On March 27, 2019, Webster rejected the offer of judgment. RPM's offer to satisfy Webster's demand and her rejection of that offer eliminates Webster's stake in the litigation ...


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