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Dawson v. Genesis Credit Management, LLC

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

November 27, 2017




         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 16) and motion to strike (Dkt. No. 18). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 16), and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's motion to strike (Dkt. No. 18).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Mauriceo Dawson (“Dawson”) brings this lawsuit against Defendant Genesis Credit Management, LLC, (“Genesis”) for alleged violations of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., and the Washington Collection Agency Act (“WCAA”), Revised Code of Washington section 19.16.250.

         From 2008 to 2014, Dawson lived at the Sunset Park apartments (“Sunset”) in Seattle. (Dkt. No. 16-2 at 1-2.) In January 2014, Dawson signed a new six-month lease agreement that converted into a month-to-month tenancy upon expiration. (Dkt. No. 16-1 at 13.) At some point in November 2014, Dawson informed Sunset that he was terminating his tenancy and would vacate the apartment by the end of the month. (Id. at 3; Dkt. No. 17-1 at 9.)

         After Dawson moved out, Sunset identified several charges that he allegedly owed under the lease agreement. (Dkt. No. 16-1 at 9.) In June 2016, Sunset assigned the unpaid debt to Genesis for collection. (Id. at 8.) Genesis called Dawson multiple times to try and collect the debt. (Dkt. Nos. 16-1 at 21-27, 16-2 at 4.) On December 29, 2016, Genesis filed a lawsuit in King County District Court seeking a judgment on the debt. (Dkt. No. 16-1 at 29-30.)

         Dawson claims that Genesis made misleading statements about the debt, and that he did not owe the amount sought. (Dkt. No. 16 at 8.) He seeks summary judgment on the issue of Genesis's liability under FDCPA and WCAA. (Id. at 2.) If Genesis violated WCAA, Dawson also asks the Court to rule that he is entitled to collect civil penalties under the Washington State Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”), Revised Code of Washington section 19.86.140. (Id. at 12.)


         A. Dawson's Motion to Strike

         Dawson moves to strike the declarations of Mary Cobley and Crystal Salas, and a document titled “Notice of Intention to Vacate, ” all of which were attached to Genesis's response. (Dkt. No. 18 at 2-7.)[1] Dawson argues that the declarations should be stricken because they lack foundation and contain inadmissible hearsay. (Id. at 2.) Declarations presented at summary judgment must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). So long as a party complies with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, “it does not necessarily have to produce evidence in a form that would be admissible at trial . . . .” Block v. City of Los Angeles, 253 F.3d 410, 418-19 (9th Cir. 2001). Cobley is Sunset's custodian of records and Salas is Genesis's President. (Dkt. Nos. 17-1, 17-2.) The Court finds that their declarations contain testimony that could be admissible at trial and for which both declarants are competent to testify. To the extent that statements in the declarations do not meet the requirements of Rule 56, they will not be considered by the Court.

         Dawson asserts that Genesis did not provide the Notice of Intention to Vacate document in discovery, despite the company's agent testifying during her deposition that she was unaware of such a document. (Dkt. No. 18-2 at 7.) The Court can exclude information that was improperly withheld in discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1). Here, it is appropriate to exclude the document because Genesis did not produce it until its response to summary judgment, despite Dawson's specific inquiry about whether such a document existed. (Dkt. No. 18-2 at 7.) The Court therefore STRIKES the Notice of Intention to Vacate Document (Dkt. No. 17-1 at 8).

         B. Summary Judgment Standard

         “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). In making such a determination, the Court must view the facts and justifiable inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party “must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). When the party moving for summary judgment also bears the burden of persuasion at trial, “to prevail on summary judgment it must show that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it.” Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 890 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         C. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act

         Congress enacted FDCPA to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors. 15 U.S.C. § 1692. The statute imposes strict liability on debt collectors, meaning violations do not have to be knowing or intentional. Reichert v. Nat'l Credit Sys., Inc., 531 F.3d 1002, 1005 (9th Cir. 2008). Whether a debt collector's conduct violates FDCPA provisions “requires an objective analysis that considers whether ‘the least sophisticated debtor would likely be misled by a communication.'” Donohue v. Quick Collect, Inc., 592 F.3d 1027, 1033 (9th Cir. 2010). In the Ninth Circuit, whether an FDCPA violation has occurred is a question of law. Tourgeman v. Collins Fin. Servs., Inc., 755 F.3d 1109, 1119 (9th Cir. 2014).

         There is no dispute between the parties that Genesis is a debt collector subject to FDCPA liability or that the debt it sought to collect falls within the statute's purview. Dawson asserts that Genesis violated § 1692e and § 1692f of the FDCPA. (Dkt. No. 16 at 9-11.)[2] Under § 1692e, “A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.” Under ...

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