December 11, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, New Albany Division. No. 18-cv-00339 -
Richard L. Young, Judge.
Flaum, Hamilton, and Barrett, Circuit Judges.
plaintiff Thomas Dennis received a debt collection letter
listing "original" and "current"
creditors, which he claims violated the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDPCA requires that a debt
collector send the debtor a written notice containing
"the name of the creditor to whom the debt is
owed." Because the letter accurately and clearly
identified the creditor to whom Dennis's debt was owed,
we affirm the district court's judgment on the pleadings
in favor of defendants.
fell behind on a debt owed to Washington Mutual Bank. After
his default, defendant-appellee LVNV Funding bought the debt
and the other defendant-appellee, Niagara Credit Solutions,
sent a form debt collection letter on LVNV's behalf. The
letter included the following language: "Welcome to
Niagara Credit Solutions, Inc. We are here to help. Your
account was placed with our collection agency on
09-14-17." The letter further stated that Niagara's
"client" had authorized it to offer a payment plan
or a settlement of the debt in full.
letter identifies Washington Mutual Bank as the
"original creditor" and LVNV Funding as the
"current creditor." It also lists the principal and
interest balances of the debt and the last four digits of the
filed a putative class action complaint in 2018, alleging
that the defendants violated § 1692g(a)(2) of the FDCPA
by "fail[ing] to identify clearly and effectively the
name of the creditor to whom the debt was owed." The
defendants successfully moved for judgment on the pleadings,
arguing that the letter adequately identified LVNV as the
current creditor. Dennis timely appealed.
review the district court's judgment on the pleadings de
novo, accept all well pleaded allegations as true, and
construe all alleged facts in the light most favorable to ...
the non-moving party." Brown v. Dart, 876 F.3d
939, 940 (7th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). Under the FDCPA,
a debt collector must "send the consumer a written
notice containing ... the name of the creditor to whom the
debt is owed." 15 U.S.C. § l692g(a)(2). The
defendants' letter clearly and unambiguously identifies
LVNV Funding as the "current creditor/' and the
district court's entry of judgment on the pleadings was
summarizes his argument as follows:
Listing two separate entities as "creditor" - one
of them a debt buyer, which would likely be unknown to the
consumer - and not explaining the difference between those
two creditors, then stating that Niagara was authorized to
make settlement offers on behalf of an unknown client - could
very likely confuse a significant portion of consumers who
received the letter as to whom the debt was then owed.
satisfy § l692g(a), the debt collector's notice must
state the required information 'clearly enough that the
recipient is likely to understand it.'" Janetos
v. Fulton Friedman & Gullace, LLP, 825 F.3d 317, 321
(7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Chuway v. Nat'l Action Fin.
Servs., Inc., 362 F.3d 944, 948 (7th Cir. 2004)).
"We view potential FDCPA violations through the
objective lens of an unsophisticated consumer who, while
'uninformed, naive, or trusting,' possesses at least
'reasonable intelligence, and is capable of making basic
logical deductions and inferences.'" Smith v.
Simm Assocs., Inc., 926 F.3d 377, 380 (7th Cir. 2019)
(quoting Pettit v. Retrieval Masters Creditor Bureau,
Inc., 211 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2000)).
defendants' letter expressly identifies LVNV Funding as
the current creditor. It therefore meets the FDCPA's
requirement of a written notice containing "the name of
the creditor to whom the debt is owed." 15 U.S.C. §
l692g(a)(2). Dennis complains that the letter does not
explain the difference between the original and current
creditors, but an unsophisticated consumer would understand
those terms in the context in which they were used here.
Dennis contends that in Smith we affirmed the
dismissal because the letters in question did "not
identify any creditor other than Comenity Capital Bank, which
might have led to consumer confusion." Dennis posits the
defendants here included both an original and current
creditor, thereby violating Smith.
a meritless claim. In Smith, the original and
current creditors were the same. In this case, where a
consumer's debt has been sold, it is helpful to identify
the original creditor (which the customer is likely to
recognize as he had done business with them in the past) and
the current creditor (which the customer may not recognize,
and which the FDCPA requires the letter to identify). An
unsophisticated consumer will understand that his debt has
been purchased by the current creditor-an example of the type
of "basic inference" we believe such consumers are
able to make. The ...