United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
ROSS A. MILLER, Pro se Plaintiff,
MEDICREDIT, INC., Defendant.
J. NOVAK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Ross A. Miller ("Miller") brings this action
against Defendant Medicredit, Inc. ("Medicredit"),
alleging violations of multiple provisions of the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et
seq. ("FDCPA") arising from the collection of
a medical debt. Medicredit moved for summary judgment on all
of Miller's claims, arguing that Miller's claims fail
as a matter of law because its voicemails and letters to
Miller complied with the FDCPA, and that it could rely on the
address it obtained from the original creditor - the same
address that Plaintiff provided the original creditor.
Plaintiff also moved for summary judgment, arguing that
Medicredit's contacts with him violated the FDCPA,
especially because it had sent the initial letter to an
address where Miller did not receive mail. Miller has failed
to put forth admissible evidence that raises a genuine issue
of material fact that would prevent a reasonable fact finder
from returning a verdict in Medicredit's favor.
Consequently, for the reasons set forth below, the Court
hereby GRANTS Medicredit's Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 36) and DENIES Miller's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 40). The parties have also filed several
motions related to the summary judgment motions, which will
November 9, 2017, Miller sought medical treatment from
Primary Health Group -Johnston Willis ("PHG").
(Def.'s Mem. at 2.) At that time, Miller completed a
Patient Registration Form and listed his address as 3512
Chapel Drive, Richmond, Virginia, 23224 (the "Chapel
Drive address"). (Id.) At that time, Miller did
not receive mail at that address. (Id.) PHG
submitted the bill and billed Plaintiff $32.81 for his
co-insurance obligation. (Id.) Miller did not pay
the co-insurance balance, so PHG placed the account with
Medicredit for collection. (Id. at 3.) PHG provided
the Chapel Drive address to Medicredit as Miller's
March 26, 2018, Medicredit called Miller and left him a
voicemail message. (Id.) On March 27, 2018,
Medicredit sent Miller a letter at the Chapel Drive address.
(Id.) On March 29, 2018, and April 18, 2018,
Medicredit again left Miller voicemails. (Id. at 4.)
April 19, 2018, PHG placed another account with Medicredit
for collection, this account relating to medical services
rendered on December 5, 2017. (Id.) On April 25,
2018, Medicredit mailed Miller a letter regarding this
account to the Chapel Drive address. (Id.) On April
26, 2018, Miller sent a letter to Medicredit disputing the
debt and requesting verification. (Id.) Upon receipt
of the letter, Medicredit ceased calls to Miller's
residential telephone, changed Miller's address to the
P.O. Box listed on Miller's letter, and sent all
correspondence thereafter to Miller's P.O. Box.
(Id.) On May 7, 2018, in response to the request for
validation, Medicredit mailed a letter to Miller containing
itemized statements. (Id.) That same day, Medicredit
put all collection efforts on hold. (Id.) On July
16, 2018, Miller sent a second dispute letter to Medicredit.
August 6, 2018, PHG placed a third account with Medicredit.
(Id. at 5.) On August 11, 2018, Medicredit sent
Miller a letter purporting to acknowledge a dispute of this
third account. (Id.)
August 31, 2018, Miller filed his original complaint. (ECF
No. 1.) On October 3, 2018, with the Court's leave,
Miller filed his Amended Complaint. (ECF Nos. 7, 8.)
Miller's Amended Complaint alleges violations of 15
U.S.C. §§ 1692c(b), 1692d, 1692e, 1692f, and
October 23, 2018, Medicredit filed an Answer. (ECF No. 16.)
On August 26, 2019, Medicredit filed its motion for summary
judgment. (ECF No. 36.) On September 10, 2019, Miller
responded to Medicredit's motion and, on September 16,
2019, filed his own motion for summary judgment. (ECF Nos.
39-40.) On September 16, 2019, Medicredit filed a reply in
support of its motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 42.) The
next day Medicredit also filed a Motion to Strike
Miller's Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that it
failed to comply with the Local Rules and Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 43.) Miller moved to strike that
Motion to Strike. (ECF No. 48.) On September 19, 2019, Miller
filed a response to Medicredit's reply in support of
summary judgment, which Medicredit also moved to strike that
same day. (ECF Nos. 44-45.) On September 26, 2019, Medicredit
responded to Miller's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF
No. 47.) Miller also filed discovery motions and requested an
extension of discovery, but the Court denied those motions.
(ECF Nos. 55, 57-58, 64.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgement,
as here, "the court must review each motion separately
on its own merits to determine whether either of the parties
deserves judgment as a matter of law." Rossignol v.
Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (quotations
omitted). Pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, summary judgment should occur "if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The relevant inquiry
in a summary judgment analysis focuses on "whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a [factfinder] or whether it is so one-sided
that one party must prevail as a matter of law."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-
52 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the
Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Id. at 255. Moreover, the Court
cannot weigh the evidence to enter a judgment, but simply
must determine whether a genuine issue for trial exists.
Greater Bait. Or. for Pregnancy Concerns v. Mayor of
Baltimore, 721 F.3d 264, 283 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249).
the moving party properly submits and supports a motion for
summary judgment, the opposing party has the burden of
showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86
(1986). The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; instead, there must be
no genuine issue of material fact. Anderson, 477
U.S. at 247-48. "Only disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."
Anderson, 411 U.S. at 248.
the Court must grant summary judgment if the non-moving party
"fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 411 U.S. 317,
322 (1986). To defeat an otherwise properly supported motion
for summary judgment, the non-moving party "must rely on
more than conclusory allegations, 'mere speculation,'
the 'building of one inference upon another,' the
'mere existence of a scintilla of evidence,' or the
appearance of some 'metaphysical doubt' concerning a
material fact." Lewis v. City of Va. Beach Sheriffs
Office, 409 F.Supp.2d 696, 704 (E.D. Va. 2006)
(citations omitted). A "genuine" issue concerning a
"material" fact only arises when the evidence,
viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
allows a reasonable factfinder to return a verdict in that
party's favor. Anderson, 411 U.S. at 248.
to deserve consideration on summary judgment, the evidence
supporting the facts set forth by the parties must be such
that it would be admissible in evidence. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(c); see also Mitchell v. Data General
Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1315-16 (4th Cir. 1993) ("The
summary judgment inquiry thus scrutinizes the plaintiffs case
to determine whether the plaintiff has proffered such
sufficient proof in the form of admissible evidence that
could carry the burden of proof in his claim at
prevail on a claim under the FDCPA, a plaintiff must prove
that "(1) the plaintiff has been the object of
collection activity arising from consumer debt; (2) the
defendant is a debt collector as defined by the FDCPA; and
(3) the defendant has engaged in an act or omission
prohibited by the FDCPA." Ruggia v. Washington
Mul., 719 F.Supp.2d 642, 647 (E.D. Va. 2010).
Miller's claims arise out of nine total contacts
Medicredit directed at Miller-six letters and three
voicemails. According to Miller, each gives rise to various
claims under the FDCPA. In analyzing these contacts, the
Court notes that it must do so from the perspective of the
"least sophisticated consumer." United States
v. Nat'l Fin. Servs., Inc., 98 F.3d 131, 136 (4th
Cir. 1996). However, this does not require the Court to
entertain "bizarre or idiosyncratic interpretations of
collection notices," but rather the Court maintains
"a quotient of reasonableness and presumes a basic level
of understanding and willingness to read with care."
The Letters from Medicredit to Miller
the Court will analyze Miller's section 1692g claims,
because these claims pervade the Amended Complaint and stem
from Medicredit's letters sent to the address provided by
Miller. Then, before conducting an analysis of whether any of
the letters violate the FDCPA, the Court must first determine
which letters the FDCPA covers. Finally, the Court will turn
to specific letters and the allegations that they violated
The Initial Letters Fulfilled Medicredil's
Obligations Under 1692g.
claims throughout his Amended Complaint that Medicredit
violated section 1692g by failing to include the proper
notifications in its communications with him. (See,
e.g., Am. Compl. ¶¶ 55, 57, 69.) Section 1692g
requires a debt collector to send written "validation
notices" to debtors informing them of their rights to
require verification and to dispute a debt. Russell v.
Absolute Collection Servs., 763 F.3d 385, 392 (4th Cir.
2014); 15 U.S.C. § 1692g. The validation notice must
contain the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and
a statement that the debt "will be assumed valid by the
debt collector" unless the debtor disputes the validity
within thirty days. 15 U.S.C. § l692g(a)(1)-(3). The
notice must also inform the debtor that, upon written request
within thirty days, the debt collector will provide
verification of the debt and the information of the original
creditor. 15 U.S.C. § l692g(a)(4)-(5). The debt
collector must send these validation notices within five days
after the initial communication with a consumer. 15 U.S.C.
initial letters that Medicredit sent on March 27, 2018 and
April 25, 2018 contained all of the required section 1692g
disclosures. (ECF Nos. 37-6, 37-7.) Both list the amount of
the debt ($32.81 and $21.50). Plaintiff claims that the
letters do not contain the name of the creditor, but also
claims that "[t]he true creditor is PHG Johnston
Willis." (Pl.'s Opp. at 6, 7.) But, Medicredit
identified PHG Johnston Willis in its letters. Likewise, the
statements relating to Miller's dispute rights match
nearly word for word the language of section 1692g.
the timing of these letters complies with the statute.
Medicredit sent the first letter one day after the initial
voicemail. The second letter, for the second account,
constituted the first communication regarding that account.
Therefore, Medicredit sent both letters within five days of
the initial communication.
claims that Medicredit did not satisfy its section 1692g
requirements, because he never received these notices.
(Pl.'s Opp. at 10.) Miller further claims that Medicredit
needed to send him additional validation notices upon
learning of his correct address. However, Medicredit mailed
these letters to the address that PHG-Johnston Willis
provided to Medicredit, and the letters were never returned.
(ECF No. 37-15.) Debt collectors may rely on information
obtained from the original creditors, especially when they
have no reason to question that information. McLean v.
Ray, 488 Fed.Appx. 677, 683 (4th Cir. 2012). Moreover,
the statute requires the debt collector to "send the
consumer a written notice..." but it does not require
the debt collector to verify the consumer received the
notice. 15 U.S.C. § 1692g. Miller cites to no particular
evidence in the record that would demonstrate that he did not
receive the letters. See Senftle v. Landau, 390
F.Supp.2d 463, 474 (D. Md. 2005) (finding no genuine dispute
of fact that plaintiff received section l692g notices because
the plaintiff had produced no evidence that he did not
receive them); Mahon v. Credit Bureau, Inc., 171
F.3d 1197, 1201 (9th Cir. 1999) (finding no violation of
section 1692g when plaintiffs offered no evidence to rebut
presumption of delivery). Instead, the evidence shows that
Medicredit sent the validation notices to the address
that Plaintiff provided to PHG-Johnston Willis, and
the letters were never returned. Therefore, no genuine
material fact exists that Miller received the validation
notices. Because no genuine dispute exists as to whether
Miller received the validation notices, the Court need not
address whether Medicredit had an obligation to re-send the
bottom, Miller seeks to impose liability on Medicredit for
sending letters to the address that Miller himself provided.
But, the Court will not fault Medicredit for Miller's
Not All Letters Sent by Medicredit Fall ...