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Erickson v. Elliott Bay Adjustment Company, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 3, 2017

KELLY ERICKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ELLIOT BAY ADJUSTMENT COMPANY INC. and JOHN DOES 1-25, Defendant.

          SHOW CAUSE ORDER REGARDING STANDING UNDER SPOKEO

          JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The court is in receipt of Plaintiff Kelly Erickson's motion for class certification. (Mot. (Dkt. # 11).) Having reviewed Ms. Erickson's motion, Defendant's (“Elliot Bay”) response to the motion (Resp. (Dkt. # 13)), Ms. Erickson's reply memorandum (Reply (Dkt. # 16)), Ms. Erickson's complaint (Dkt. # 1), Elliot Bay's answer (Dkt. # 6), the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law, the court defers its consideration of Ms. Erickson's motion and instead ORDERS Ms. Erickson to show cause why the court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Elliot Bay is a “collection agency” and “debt collector” as defined by the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6). In 2015, Elliot Bay attempted to collect a debt from Plaintiff (and putative class representative), Ms. Erickson on behalf of Family Health Care (“FHC”), one of Elliot Bay's clients. (Compl. (Dkt. # 1), ¶¶ 15, 16; Resp. at 2.) Ms. Erickson alleges that many of Elliot Bay's attempts to collect the debt violated the FDCPA and two Washington consumer protection statutes. (See generally Compl.)

         On March 17, 2015, in its first attempt to collect the debt, Elliot Bay delivered a letter to Ms. Erickson:

NOT HAVING HEARD FROM YOU ON THIS ACCOUNT, LEGAL ACTION IS NOW BEING CONSIDERED. TO AVOID PAYING ADDITIONAL COURT CHARGES AS WELL AS THIS AMOUNT, IMMEDIATELY SEND THE BALANCE IN FULL BY RETURN MAIL TO THE ABOVE ADDRESS.

((Id., ¶ 21; Ex. A (emphasis in original).) Elliot Bay admits that at least forty custumers in addition to Ms. Erickson received collection letters with identical language. (Mot., Ex. B at 6 (attaching Ms. Erickson's requests for admission and responses thereto).) In fact, the Collection Letter contains standard language included in letters to all of Elliot Bay's costumers “on all types of accounts and on all types of amounts owed.” (Id.) Although Ms. Erickson's two claims on behalf of the class-Counts II and III-allege many other FDCPA violations, Ms. Erickson seeks class certification solely on the basis of the March 17, 2015, collection letter. (See Mot. at 1, 7.) Ms. Erickson claims that the letter violates the FDCPA by threatening “additional court charges . . . [f]alsely representing that if payment [is] not made in full that court charges would automatically be added to the balance of the alleged debt.” (Id. ¶¶ 26, 52, 53(e).)

         On May 12, 2015, Elliot Bay sent a second letter to Ms. Erickson listing Ms. Erickson's alleged debt in the categories of “Principal, ” “Interest, ” and “Misc./CC.” (Id., ¶ ¶ 27, 28; Answer ¶¶ 27, 28.) When Ms. Erickson's counsel contacted Elliot Bay about the “Misc./CC” charge, Ms. Erickson claims that Elliot Bay explained that the charge, totaling $283.00, represented $200.00 in attorney's fees and $83.00 in filing fees. (Id., ¶ 30.) According to Ms. Erickson, Elliot Bay had no legal or contractual right to attorney's fees. (Id. ¶ 31.)

         On June 5, 2015, Ms. Erickson notified Elliot Bay that she had retained counsel and directed Elliot Bay not to contact her and to address all future communications regarding the debt to her attorney. (Id., ¶¶ 33-34 (citing Exs. C, D).) Nevertheless, Ms.Erickson received a third collection letter on September 10, 2015. (Compl. ¶ 37; Answer ¶ 37.) This time, the collection letter listed Ms. Erickson's debts as $120.00 in “Principal, ” $61.32.00 in “Interest, ” and $323.00 in “Misc./CC.” (Compl. ¶ 39; Answer ¶ 39.) Ms. Erickson believes Elliot Bay did not have a legal or contractual right to charge $323.00 in “Misc./CC” fees. (Compl. ¶ 40.) The third collection letter also stated:

IF YOU PAY THE ACCOUNT IN FULL AND ASK FOR DELETION FROM YOUR CREDIT FILE(S), WE WILL REQUEST DELETION ON YOUR BEHALF.

(Compl. ¶ 41; id., Ex. E (emphasis in original); Answer ¶ 41.) Ms. Erickson claims that the third collection letter misleads by implying that Ms. Erickson could only clear her credit report by asking Elliot Bay for deletion, when there are other avenues for removing the debt from her report. (Compl. ¶ 42.)

         On September 3, 2015, and January 19, 2016, Elliot Bay reported Ms. Erickson's debt to a credit bureau. (Id. ¶ 35; Answer ¶ 35.) Ms. Erickson alleges that Elliot Bay did not notify the credit bureau that her debt was disputed, as required under the FDCPA. (Compl. ¶ 36.)

         On April 28, 2015, after six weeks of failed attempts to recover payment, Elliot Bay filed a collection lawsuit against Ms. Erickson in Snohomish County District Court. (Berggren Decl. (Dkt. # 15) ¶ 6, Ex. A.) The collection lawsuit was eventually dismissed after Elliot Bay made ...


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