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Urquhart v. Credit Bureau of Napa County, Inc

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

May 30, 2019

MARY URQUHART, Plaintiff,
v.
CREDIT BUREAU OF NAPA COUNTY, INC. d/b/a CHASE RECEIVABLES, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          TILMAN E. SELF, III, JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Mary Urquhart incurred a consumer debt for some unspecified purpose. See [Doc. 1, at ¶ 19]. She defaulted on this debt and her creditor transferred it to Defendant Credit Bureau of Napa County for collection. See [Id. at ¶¶ 21 & 22]. Defendant then sent Plaintiff a collection letter with the following language in compliance with 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a):

Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days from receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. If you request of this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

[Doc. 1, at ¶ 25]. So far so good. The trouble starts-at least in Plaintiff's view-right after this paragraph, where Defendant goes on to state that:

         If you would like to submit a dispute you can call us at 877- 256-2510 or send it by mail to:

CHASE RECEIVABLES
1247 BROADWAY
SONOMA CA 95476-7503
877-256-2510

[Id.] (formatting in original). Plaintiff believes that the letter's “submit a dispute statement overshadows the notice provided pursuant to [§] 1692g” because it “has the propensity to cause unsophisticated consumers . . . to call with a dispute rather than properly mailing a written dispute.” [Id. at ¶¶ 28 & 29]. Consequently, Plaintiff initiated this action, alleging that Defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (hereinafter “FDCPA”); the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act, O.C.G.A. § 10-1-390 et seq.; and the Georgia Unfair or Deceptive Practices Toward the Elderly Act, O.C.G.A. § 10-1-850 et seq. See [Id. at ¶¶ 24-54]. Defendant responded to Plaintiff's Complaint by filing the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 9] in which it challenges Plaintiff's assertion that the “submit a dispute” statement overshadowed the letter's 15 U.S.C. § 1692g notice. The Court agrees with Defendant that the “submit a dispute” statement did not overshadow the letter's § 1692g notice; therefore, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 9] and DISMISSES Plaintiff's Complaint [Doc. 1] with prejudice.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “After the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The Court reviews a motion for judgment on the pleadings in the same way it reviews a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Sun Life Assurance Co. of Can. v. Imperial Premium Fin., LLC, 904 F.3d 1197, 1207 (11th Cir. 2018) (“The standards for reviewing decisions on motions to dismiss and motions for judgment on the pleadings are the same: whether the count stated a claim for relief.”) (internal quotations omitted). Consequently, the Court will grant a defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings if the facts a plaintiff alleges cannot support a claim for relief. See Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1131 (11th Cir. 2002).

         DISCUSSION

         The facts in this case are not really in dispute. Instead, the dispute here centers on whether the “submit a dispute” statement in Defendant's collection letter, as a matter of law, “overshadowed” the § 1692g(a) notice provided in the same letter. The Court finds that it did not. Under § 1692g(a), a debt collector must, within five days of the “initial communication” with a debtor, send a written notice to the debtor regarding various rights she has to verify and dispute the amount owed. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a). Following, this notice, a debt collector may not, for thirty days, engage in any “collection activity” or “communication” that “overshadows or [is] inconsistent with the disclosure of the consumer's right[s]” under § 1692g(a). 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b). To determine whether a communication or collection activity overshadows the debt collector's § 1692g(a) notice, the Court applies the “least sophisticated consumer” standard. See Jeter v. Credit Bureau,Inc., 760 F.2d 1168, 1177 n.11 (11th Cir. 1985). Applying the “least sophisticated consumer” standard, ...


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