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Born v. State Collection Service, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

June 18, 2019

ROSE BORN, on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE COLLECTION SERVICE, INC., a foreign profit corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          THOMAS O. RICE Chief United States District Judge.

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant State Collection Service, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14). This matter was heard with oral argument on June 18, 2019. The Court has reviewed the record and files therein, and is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 30, 2018, Plaintiff Rose Born initiated this putative class action against Defendant State Collection Service, Inc. (“State”) under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., the Washington Collection Agency Act (“WCAA”), RCW 19.16 et seq., and Washington's Consumer Protection Act (“WCPA”), RCW 19.86 et seq. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff primarily alleges that Defendant's name “State Collection Service” gave the false impression that the debt collection company was in some way associated with the State of Washington in violation of the FDCPA.

         On April 24, 2019, Defendant State filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's federal and state law claims. ECF No. 13. Plaintiff filed a response to Defendant's motion on May 28, 2019. ECF No. 20. In her response, Plaintiff voluntarily withdrew her state law claims under the WCAA and the WCPA. Id. at 12. Accordingly, those state law claims are hereby dismissed. Only Plaintiff's FDCPA claims remain before the Court.

         FACTS

         The following are the undisputed facts unless otherwise noted. Between January 31, 2018, and February 1, 2018, Plaintiff received medical services at MultiCare Deaconess Hospital (“Deaconess Hospital”) in Spokane, Washington. ECF No. 17 at ¶ 9. The charges for Plaintiff's medical services totaled $16, 051.51. Id.

         On August 15, 2018, Plaintiff made a payment of $7, 419.00 on her account. ECF No. 17 at ¶ 12. On August 29, 2018, Plaintiff received a write-off of her balance, totaling $8, 200.88, for qualifying charity care from Deaconess Hospital. Id. at ¶ 13. After applying the charity care discount to her account, Plaintiff was left with a balance of $431.63 ($16, 051.51 less $8, 200.88 less $7, 419.00). Id. Deaconess Hospital also gave Plaintiff an additional self-pay discount of $361.16, further reducing Plaintiff's remaining balance to $70.47. Id. On October 15, 2018, Plaintiff made a $10.00 payment to Deaconess Hospital, which left a balance of $60.47 on her account. Id. at ¶ 15.

         On or about November 2, 2018, Deaconess Hospital sent Plaintiff's account to collections. Id. at ¶ 16. The account was received by and assigned to Defendant State on November 5, 2018. Id. That same day, Plaintiff called Deaconess Hospital's “Patient's Financial Experience Department” to discuss the status of her account. Id. at ¶ 17. Speaking with a Hospital employee, Plaintiff explained that she received a threatening letter informing her that her account was going to be sent to collections. Id. at 3. The Hospital employee confirmed that Plaintiff's account “did leave the office and go to collections as of last week.” Id. at 4. When Plaintiff asked if she could do anything about the account being sent to collections, the Hospital employee stated that she could “definitely provide [Plaintiff] with the number for the agency” that had been assigned the account. Id. After noting the phone number, Plaintiff asked the Hospital employee to provide “the name of the collection agency.” Id. The Hospital employee stated that the name of the collection agency was “State Collections.” Id.

         On November 7, 2018, Defendant State sent its first collection notice to Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 18; see id. at 22 (Ex. 3). The letter informed Plaintiff that a past due account had been referred to Defendant for debt collection from Deaconess Hospital and confirmed that the account balance was $60.47. Id. The letter was printed on Defendant State's letterhead, which displayed the name “State Collection Service Inc.” along with an address in Madison, Wisconsin. Id. The following disclosure was included at the bottom of the letter:

This communication is from a debt collector. This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information will be used for that purpose.
This collection agency is licensed by the Division of Banking in the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, www.wdfi.org.

Id. (emphasis in original).

         Before the letter was received by Plaintiff, on November 8, 2018, Plaintiff called Defendant State to discuss the status of her account. Id. at ΒΆ 19. After pulling up Plaintiff's account and asking Plaintiff to verify her date ...


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