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Riel v. Immediate Credit Recovery Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 22, 2018

DANNEL RIEL, Plaintiff,
v.
IMMEDIATE CREDIT RECOVERY INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          J. P. Stadtmueller, U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff obtained student loans through the Department of Education (“DOE”). When he defaulted on the loans, the DOE brought in Defendant to help collect what was owed. Defendant sent Plaintiff a letter in March 2016, which he alleges was intentionally and misleadingly designed to look like a letter from the DOE itself. Plaintiff maintains that this conduct violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.

         On December 1, 2017, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #15). Plaintiff opposed the motion on December 29, 2017, and Defendant replied on January 12, 2018. (Response, Docket #21; Reply, Docket #23). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion must be granted.

         2. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 states that the “court shall grant summary judgment 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); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A “genuine” dispute of material fact is created when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         3. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Upon review of the parties' factual briefing, the Court finds that the following facts are material to Defendant's motion.[1] Defendant collects student loans on behalf of the DOE. Plaintiff's student loan was placed with Defendant for collection on March 26, 2016. Three days later, Defendant sent him its initial collection letter (the “Letter”). It appears as follows, both front:

         Image Omitted

         (Docket #17-4).

         As noted above, Plaintiff alleges that the Letter violates the FDCPA by misleading its recipients in numerous ways. Plaintiff commissioned a survey, in accordance with Seventh Circuit precedent on such claims, to determine what proportion of borrowers might be fooled, or at least confused, by the Letter.[2] The survey reveals that more than half of the respondents were confused by the Letter as a whole, as well as various specific portions of it.

         4. ANALYSIS

         Defendant seeks summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's claims and requests dismissal of the entire lawsuit. Plaintiff's Complaint states one cause of action: a violation of the FDCPA. Plaintiff first asserts that the letter violates 15 U.S.C. § 1692e. That Section prohibits the use of false or misleading representations in the collection of a debt. 15 U.S.C. § 1692e. Section 1692e further contains a number of subparts providing specific examples of prohibited conduct. Id. These include sending a letter “which creates a false impression” that it was “authorized, issued, or approved by any . . . agency of the United States, ” id. § 1692e(9), and a collector's use of any name other than its true name, id. § 1692e(14). Plaintiff also alleges, in the alternative, a violation of Section 1692f. Even if the Court finds the Letter is not misleading, he says, a jury could nevertheless conclude that Defendant's Letter was somehow “unfair or unconscionable, ” conduct proscribed by Section 1692f. Id. § 1692f. This claim is, in reality, no different than the Section 1692e claim.[3]

         Plaintiff's claims must be assessed from the viewpoint of an “unsophisticated consumer.” An unsophisticated consumer “may be uninformed, naïve, [and] trusting, but is not a dimwit, has rudimentary knowledge about the financial world, and is capable of making basic logical deductions and inferences[.]” Lox v. CD A, Ltd.,689 F.3d 818, 822 (7th Cir. 2012) (citations and quotations omitted). In the case of alleged letter-based FDCPA ...


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