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Rogers v. Summit Receivables

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

March 5, 2018

KEVIN ROGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
SUMMIT RECEIVABLES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge.

         This case is presently before the court on plaintiff Kevin Rogers' motion for default judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

         Background

         On September 22, 2017, Rogers filed this action against Summit Receivables, a debt collection agency, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p. On September 27, 2017, a private process server personally delivered copies of the summons and complaint to an agent authorized by law to receive service of process on behalf of Summit Receivables. See Proof of Service, Docket No. 4. Accordingly, service was proper under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h).

         Despite being properly served, Summit Receivables failed to answer or otherwise defend the action within the time period permitted by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On October 24, 2017, the Clerk entered default against the defendant. Summit Receivables has not moved to set aside the entry of default, or otherwise appeared in any manner in the case. Rogers has now moved for default judgment, and the matter is ripe for disposition.

         Standard of Review

         Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establishes a two-step process for obtaining a default judgment. Jefferson v. Briner. Inc., 461 F.Supp.2d 430, 433 (E.D. Va. 2006). First, "the [C]lerk must enter the party's default." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Second, a party may move the court for default judgment under Rule 55(b).

         In reviewing a motion for default judgment, the court views all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true for purposes of liability. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6) ("An allegation-other than one relating to the amount of damages-is admitted if a responsive pleading is required and the allegation is not denied."); see also Ryan v. Homecomings Fin-Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001) ("[T]he defendant, by his default, admits plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations of fact.") (internal citation omitted). Consequently, in the default judgment context, the "appropriate inquiry is whether or not the face of the pleadings supports the default judgment and the causes of action therein." Anderson v. Found, for Advancement, Educ. &Emp't of Am. Indians. 187 F.3d 628, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 18633, at *2 (4th Cir. Aug. 10, 1999) (unpublished table opinion).

         If the facts alleged in the complaint establish liability, then the court must determine the appropriate amount of damages. Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780-81. The court may make a determination as to the amount of damages without a hearing if the record contains sufficient evidence to support the award. See Anderson v. Found, for Advancement, Educ. & Emp't of Am. Indians, 155 F.3d 500, 507 (4th Cir. 1998) (noting that "in some circumstances a district court entering a default judgment may award damages ascertainable from the pleadings without holding a hearing"); Ortiz-Gonzalez v. Fonovisa, 277 F.3d 59, 63-64 (1st Cir. 2002) (concluding that an award of statutory damages without a hearing was within the district court's wide discretion).

         Discussion

         I. Liability under the FDCPA

         The FDCPA was enacted to protect consumers from abusive and deceptive practices by debt collectors, and to protect non-abusive debt collectors from competitive disadvantage. United States v. Nafl Fin. Servs.. Inc.. 98 F.3d 131, 135 (4th Cir. 1996). It is "a strict liability statute that prohibits false or deceptive representations in collecting a debt, as well as certain abusive debt collection practices." McLean v. Ray, 488 Fed.Appx. 677, 682 (4th Cir. 2012). In order to establish a violation of the FDCPA, the plaintiff must prove: (1) that the defendant is a "debt collector" as defined by the FDCPA; (2) that the plaintiff has been the object of collection activity arising from a consumer debt; and (3) that the defendant has engaged in an action or omission prohibited by the FDCPA. Ruggia v. Wash. Mut. 719 F.Supp.2d 642, 647 (E.D. Va. 2010). "Because the FDCPA is a strict liability statute, a consumer need only prove one violation to trigger liability." Grant-Fletcher v. McMullen & Drury, P.A., 964 F.Supp.2d 514, 521 (D. Md.2013).

         According to the complaint, Summit Receivables "regularly collects, or attempts to collect, debts allegedly owed to third parties, " Compl. ¶ 14, Docket No. 1, and is therefore a "debt collector" for purposes of the FDCPA. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6). In July of 2017, Summit Receivables began attempting to collect an "alleged" consumer debt that Rogers originally owed to Mobiloans. Compl. ¶¶ 16-18. Summit Receivables called Rogers' cellular telephone number on multiple occasions as part of its efforts to collect the alleged debt. On more than one occasion, Rogers spoke with one the defendant's representatives. During at least one of the conversations, Rogers requested that Summit Receivables provide written documentation to verify the alleged debt. However, Summit Receivables refused to provide the requested documentation.

         Summit Receivables also left voicemail messages on Rogers' cellular telephone number. At least one of the messages described Rogers' conduct as "malicious." Id. ΒΆ 22 (internal quotation marks omitted). At least one of the messages "threatened that [d]efendant would ...


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