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Henderson v. General Revenue Corp.

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

August 30, 2019

WILLIE HENDERSON, individually and behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL REVENUE CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         On August 20, 2019, the parties appeared before the court for a hearing on pending motions. This memorandum opinion sets forth the court's rulings on certain issues raised by the parties.

         Background

         On June 22, 2017, plaintiff Willie Henderson filed the instant action against General Revenue Corporation ("GRC"), alleging that GRC violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p, in its efforts to collect student loan debts from Henderson and others similarly situated. Because the loans at issue originated under the Federal Family Education Loan Program, they are governed by federal regulations adopted under the Higher Education Act. Henderson's original complaint was based on a letter dated February 7, 2017, in which GRC advised Henderson that he had defaulted on his student loan debt and owed over $100, 000 in principal, interest, and collection costs. Henderson alleged, among other claims, that GRC violated the FDCPA in sending the letter because GRC had not made disclosures required under the applicable regulations.

         On December 21, 2017, the court granted Henderson's motion for leave to file an amended complaint. The amended complaint included additional facts regarding GRC's alleged violations of the FDCPA. It also added claims against a new defendant, Pioneer Credit Recovery, Inc. ("Pioneer"), stemming from Pioneer's communications with Henderson, which included a garnishment notice.

         On January 10, 2018, Henderson moved to compel GRC to respond to his discovery requests. The court subsequently referred all non-dispositive pretrial motions, including the motion to compel, to United States Magistrate Judge Robert S. Ballou for disposition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). On March 12, 2018, the motion to compel was granted in part and denied in part by Judge Ballou.

         In the meantime, GRC and Pioneer moved to dismiss certain counts of the amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). The court referred the motion to dismiss to Judge Ballou for a report and recommendation under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). On September 25, 2018, the court adopted Judge Ballou's report and recommendation, and denied the defendants' partial motion to dismiss.

         The parties proceeded with discovery, including the depositions of GRC and Pioneer under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6). Prior to the depositions, GRC and Pioneer lodged objections to the topics identified in the respective deposition notices. The parties were unable to resolve the objections on their own. The record indicates that Judge Ballou "offered an informal resolution process," and that Henderson, GRC, and Pioneer ultimately "conferred with [Judge Ballou] at length on each objection." Pl's Br. Supp. Mot. Sanctions 2-3, n.2, Dkt. No. 141. The Rule 30(b)(6) depositions of GRC and Pioneer were conducted in December of 2018.

         On February 4, 2019, Henderson moved for leave to file a second amended complaint, which added Navient Portfolio Management, LLC ("NPM") as a defendant and asserted claims of vicarious liability against NPM. The court granted Henderson's motion on March 21, 2019. On April 22, 2019, GRC, Pioneer, and NPM filed their respective answers to the second amended complaint.

         On May 29, 2019, the parties appeared before the court for a hearing on the plaintiffs amended motion for class certification. During the hearing, the defendants advised that they intended to move for summary judgment on the class claims asserted in the second amended complaint. The court elected to postpone ruling on the class-certification motion pending the resolution of the defendants' forthcoming motion for summary judgment.

         The parties then filed the following motions that are now pending before the court: (1) plaintiffs motion to compel NPM to respond to discovery requests; (2) plaintiffs motion for sanctions; (3) plaintiffs motion for partial summary judgment on defendants' affirmative defenses or, in the alternative, motion to strike defendants' affirmative defenses or, in the further alternative, motion to strike NPM's third and fifth affirmative defenses; and (4) defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. The parties appeared before the court for a hearing on these motions on August 20, 2019.

         Discussion

         I. Plaintiffs Motions

         A. Motion to Compel and ...


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