United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
William M. Conley District Judge.
these consolidated cases, plaintiffs Julie Spaulding and her
husband Bryant Spaulding each allege violations of the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15
U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., by defendant Tri-State
Adjustments, Inc. In turn, Tri-State counterclaimed, alleging
abuse of process by both Julie and Bryant. Plaintiffs have
moved for summary judgment on their FDCPA claims, as well as
on defendant's counterclaim. Defendant has also moved for
partial summary judgment as to one of plaintiffs' FDCPA
claims. For the reasons set forth below, the court will deny
plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment as to their FDCPA
claims, grant plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment as
to defendant's counterclaim, and deny defendant's
motion for partial summary judgment.
Tri-State Adjustments, Inc. (“Tri-State”) is a
debt collection company. Between 2015 and 2017, Radiology
Associates of Wausau S.C. (“Radiology
Associates”) referred three debt accounts purportedly
owed by plaintiffs Julie and Bryant Spaulding to Tri-State
for collection. The parties dispute whether Tri-State sent
the Spauldings a written notice for all three debts, which
will be addressed in greater detail below. However, Tri-State
spoke with Bryant Spaulding on the phone on October 9, 2017,
in an attempt to collect on the Spauldings' debts. During
that call, Bryant advised that his wife, Julie, generally
takes care of the bills, and she would call Tri-State back
later. In fact, Julie did not call Tri-State back.
months later, on February 22, 2018, Radiology Associates sent
a letter to the Spauldings notifying them of their debts and
giving them thirty days to dispute those debts. After the
Spauldings failed to dispute the debts as instructed,
Radiology Associates filed a small claims complaint against
the Spauldings in Marathon County Circuit Court on April 23,
2018. The Spauldings received a formal Summons and Complaint
for this action, which noted that the “return
date” for the case was set for May 23, 2018.
May 4, 2018, and May 17, 2018, Julie then had four follow-up
phone conversations with various Tri-State representatives.
Each of these phone conversations was recorded and
transcribed; neither party disputes the accuracy of the
first phone call on May 4, 2018, Tri-State called Julie after
she had left a voicemail with Radiology Associates. The most
relevant part of the conversation is recounted below:
[Julie:] So, the $883.61, is that . . . the whole amount, is
that in collection.
[Tri-State:] Ah, so there's actually additional court
costs that have been added because it looks like a suit was
[Julie:] [C]an this be taken care of before court, like can
there be some payment plan or something or --
[Tri-State:] Ah, no, as far as court goes . . . the balance
of the . . . legal portion here, the $1, 002.11, that would
need to be paid in full in our office at least two days prior
to court with guaranteed funds . . . .
[Julie:] Okay. So, it would be a full balance?
[Tri-State:] Yes, it would need to be paid in full prior to
the court date with guaranteed funds in order to stop the
judgment. . . . Otherwise, it would be entered --
[Julie:] Then I won't pay anything on it today.
[Tri-State:] Okay. Yeah. Otherwise we can set up arrangements
to avoid garnishment in the future, after that judgment's
entered, but -- but a payment wouldn't stop it, right.
(Addis Decl., Ex. A (dkt. #50-1) 3-9.) On May 8, 2018,
Tri-State again called Julie in response to another message
she had left with Radiology Associates. During that call,
Julie informed Tri-State that she would have her attorney
call Tri-State back.
11, 2018, Julie next made a payment of $504.06 directly to
Radiology Associates. Later that same date, Julie called
[Julie:] So, I need to talk to somebody about our account
here. We got this Summons & Complaint and um, I talked to
the Radiology Associates and . . . they said that the only
thing that they have is a $504.06, and I just got done paying
that with them. . . . But, I'm confused because the
Summons & Complaint is for . . . $883.61.
[Tri-State:] Okay. They never reported a payment on it . . .
[Julie:] I just did it like ten minutes ago, so --
[Tri-State:] Okay. . . . So, I can note that you paid the
$504. . . . You said you paid the $504?
[Julie:] Right. . . .
[Tri-State:] Okay. And if that is for the account we have
here, that would be applied, but we still do have a remaining
balance after that payment would go through, if that was to
be applied here.
[Tri-State:] Okay. . . . if we assume that you did pay the
$504.06, there'd still be a balance of $944.15.
[Tri-State:] Okay. $329.78, that's principal balance so
-- I mean, there's court costs and interest on -- on the
accounts as well. So, the -- the payoff to stop any judgment
-- if we can confirm the $504.06 is $488.80.
[Julie:] So, $883.61 plus $118.50, and that would still be
added, even if the case is settled before that?
[Tri-State:] Yes, because it's -- the court cost is added
when it's filed, so - -
[Tri-State:] Yeah, unless the account's paid in -- all
the balance is paid in full prior to the court date with
guaranteed funds, the judgment would be entered if it
wasn't paid . . . .
(Addis Decl., Ex. A (dkt. #50-1) 13-28.)
again called Tri-State on May 17, 2018. During that
conversation, she asked what the account balance was, and
Tri-State again informed her that it was $1, 002.11. The
Spauldings have never disputed with Tri-State or Radiology