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Hinkle v. Midland Credit Management Inc.

United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Dublin Division

January 6, 2015

TERI LYNN HINKLE, Plaintiff,
v.
MIDLAND CREDIT MANAGEMENT, INC., MIDLAND FUNDING, LLC, and ENCORE CAPITAL GROUP, INC., Defendants.

ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment of claims asserted by Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("F.D.C.P.A."), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et sea., and the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("F.C.R.A."), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is GRANTED.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Factual Background

This is a dispute between a consumer and debt collection companies regarding two alleged debts (the "GE/Meijer account" and the "T-Mobile account"). Midland Credit Management, Inc. and Midland Funding, LLC, are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Encore Capital Group, Inc. (Ans. to Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 10.) For purposes of this Order, the Court refers to these entities collectively as "Defendants."

1. The GE/Meijer Account

On October 1, 2008, Defendants sent a debt collection letter to Plaintiff seeking a resolution of the GE/Meijer account, which had an outstanding balance of approximately $400. (Defs.' Ex F.) In the letter, Defendants extended a settlement offer of approximately $240. (Id.)

On November 17 and December 15, 2008, Defendants furnished information regarding the GE/Meijer account to credit reporting agencies ("CRAs"). (PL's App. of Exs. at 18.) Defendants identified, or "flagged, " the account as a debt that Defendants were attempting to collect. (Id.)

In December 2008, the GE/Meijer account was paid in full in accordance with the terms in Defendants' October 1 debt collection letter. (PL's Ex. 10-b.) On January 13, February 15, and March 16, 2009, Defendants reported to CRAs that the account was paid in full. (PL's App. of Exs. at 18.) After the March 16 report, Defendants ceased furnishing information regarding the GE/Meijer account to CRAs. (Id.)

2. The T-Mobile Account

On December 21, 2011, Defendants sent another debt collection letter to Plaintiff seeking a resolution of the T- Mobile account, which had an outstanding balance of approximately $300. (Defs.' Ex. F.) Defendants offered to settle the account for approximately $270. (Id.) The letter provides the following information:

(a) Current balance: $300.80; amount due: $270.72;
(b) Original creditor: T-Mobile, Current owner: Midland Funding, LLC, Current servicer: MCM;
(c) "Unless you notify MCM within thirty (30) days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, MCM will assume this debt to be valid;"
(d) "If you notify MCM, in writing, within (30) days after receiving this notice that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, MCM will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment (if there is a judgment) and MCM will mail you a copy of such verification or judgment;" and
(e) "If you request, in writing, within thirty (30) days after receiving this notice, MCM will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor."

(Id.) The letter also states that any information Defendants obtain will be used for the purpose of debt collection. (Id.)

On or about December 27, 2011, Plaintiff orally disputed the T-Mobile account during a telephone conversation with Defendants. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20.) Defendants continued their debt collection activities after that phone call. (Id. ¶ 22.) On July 26, 2012, Plaintiff mailed a letter to Defendants disputing the T-Mobile account and informing them of her intent to file a lawsuit. (PL's App. of Exs. at 34.)

Defendants placed several telephone calls to Plaintiff attempting to resolve the T-Mobile account. (Id. at 36.) Plaintiff's call log shows that Defendants called Plaintiff five times:

December 27, 2011

6:40 pm

1.800.825.8131

December 28, 2011

8:52 pm

1.800.825.8131

April 7, 2012

6:34 pm

1.800.825.8131

April 8, 2012

10:36 am

1.800.825.8131

April 30, 2012

6:37 pm

1.800.825.8131

(Id.)

On a monthly basis from February 2012 through March 2013, Defendants reported the T-Mobile account to CRAs as unpaid and disputed. (Ross Aff. ¶ 14; Def s. ' Ex E.) In July and August 2012, Defendants received notice from two CRAs, Equifax and Experian, that Plaintiff had filed a dispute with CRAs regarding the T-Mobile account. (Defs.' Ex E.)

After receiving this notice from the CRAs, Defendants conducted an investigation. (Ross Aff. ¶ 15.) Defendants verified that they were reporting to the CRAs the same information that they had received from the original creditor. (Id.) Defendants obtained Plaintiff s credit report during the course of their debt collection efforts to review Plaintiff s disputed debt. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 16.) Defendants also requested information from Plaintiff regarding ...


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