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Lombardi v. Columbia Recovery Group, LLC

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 9, 2013

MICHAEL LOMBARDI, Plaintiff,
v.
COLUMBIA RECOVERY GROUP, LLC, Defendant.

ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #23). Plaintiff Michael Lombardi filed this action against Defendant Columbia Recovery Group, LLC ("CRG") for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion shall be GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND

Mr. Lombardi brought this FDCPA action after he received a debt collection notice sent by CRG on December 1, 2011. The debt alleged in the notice relates to a personal apartment lease between Mr. Lombardi and 705 Weller Apartments in Seattle, Washington. See Dkt. #1, ¶ 10. The notice sent by CRG stated in relevant part:

Unless you notify this office within thirty days of receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, this office will assume thisdebt is valid. If a written dispute is received within thirty days this office will obtain verification of the debt and if requested forward the proof of your liability to you.

Dkt. #1-1, p. 2. Mr. Lombardi contends that this language constitutes a violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(3) and (4). Specifically, Mr. Lombardi contends that CRG's notice violated § 1692g by failing to explicitly state that Plaintiff could challenge "any portion" of the debt. In addition, Mr. Lombardi contends that the notice violated § 1692g because it included language that improperly imposed a requirement not found in the language of the statute. CRG stipulates that the notice attached to Mr. Lombardi's Complaint is a true and correct copy of letter sent by CRG. Dkt. #25, p. 2.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is proper where "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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court does "not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter but only determine[s] whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Crane v. Conoco, Inc., 41 F.3d 547, 549 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing FDIC v. O'Melveny & Myers, 969 F.2d 744, 747 (9th Cir. 1992), rev'd on other grounds, 512 U.S. 79 (1994)). Material facts are those which might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

The parties do not contest any factual issues in this matter. The single issue before the Court is whether the language of the debt collection notice violated the FDCPA. A violation of a provision of the FDCPA is sufficient to establish liability on summary judgment. Gonzales v. Arrow Fin. Servs., LLC, 660 F.3d 1055, 1064 n.6 (9th Cir. 2011).

B. Analysis

Congress enacted the FDCPA to "eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses." 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e). The statute regulates the conduct of debt collectors by "imposing affirmative obligations and broadly prohibiting abusive practices." Gonzales, 660 F.3d at 1061. Although the statute may be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, private litigants may bring suit as "private attorneys general." Id. As a strict liability statute, litigants need not demonstrate proof of an intentional violation under the FDCPA. See id.

To determine whether a debt collector's conduct violates the FDCPA, the court engages in an objective analysis that applies the "least sophisticated debtor" standard. Moritz v. Daniel N. Gordon, P.C., 895 F.Supp.2d 1097, 1103 (W.D. Wash. 2012). "This standard ensure[s] that the FDCPA protects all consumers, the gullible as well as the shrewd... the ignorant, the unthinking, and the credulous." McCollough v. Johnson, ...


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