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Vougas v. Suttell And Hammer, PS

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

September 3, 2019

ALYSSA VOUGAS, Plaintiff/Counter Defendant,
v.
SUTTELL AND HAMMER, PS., Defendant/Counter Plaintiff,

          ORDER RESOLVING CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE

          ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Suttell and Hammer, PS (“Suttell”), ECF No. 12, a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment by Plaintiff Alyssa Vougas, ECF No. 20, and a Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment by Suttell, ECF No. 23. Having reviewed the parties' filings regarding all three motions, and the relevant law, the Court is fully informed.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff Vougas had an American Express Centurion Bank (“American Express”) credit card account. ECF Nos. 13 at 1; 17 at 1. American Express charged off Vougas's account in May 2012, at which point Vougas's unpaid balance was $14, 968.09. ECF No. 13 at 2. American Express secured a default judgment against Vougas on July 19, 2012, in the amount of $14, 968.09. ECF No. 14-1 at 2. The default judgment found that American Express was entitled to recover from Vougas:

1. The amount of $14, 968.09 as the balance due, owing, and unpaid.
2. All costs of [the default judgment] proceeding.
3. Post-judgment interest on said sums from the date of Judgment until paid at the rate of 5.0% per annum, which is the legal rate under §304.004. TEX. FINANCE CODE, compounded annually in accordance with § 304.006, TEX. FINANCE CODE.

ECF No. 14-1 at 2.

         American Express retained Suttell, a law firm based in Bellevue, Washington, to collect from Vougas pursuant to the default judgment. ECF Nos. 14 at 2; 17 at 1. Vougas contests Suttell's assertion that American Express hired Suttell to collect the $14, 968.09 without the interest, and maintains that “[i]n all likelihood, American Express hired Suttell & Hammer to collect the entire judgment amount, not just the original amount of the judgment listed in Suttell's letter, but discovery is needed to prove this.” ECF No. 17 at 1.

         Suttell sent Vougas a letter dated March 22, 2019, informing her that Suttell had taken responsibility for collecting her debt to American Express in the amount of $14, 968.09, the subject of a judgment entered on July 19, 2012. ECF No. 14-1 at 5. The letter further provided Vougas with a reference number and partial account number associated with her debt and informed her:

We have a wide range of payment options that may be available to assist you with the repayment of the above-referenced debt. We are committed to assisting you in resolving the outstanding balance owed on the above account.
Unless you notify this office within thirty days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within thirty days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such verification or judgment. Upon your written request within the thirty day period after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

ECF No. 14-1 at 5.

         Vougas filed the Complaint in this matter on October 22, 2018. ECF No. 1. Vougas claimed a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., and the Washington Collection Agency Act (“WCAA”), ch. 19.16 Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”). Vougas alleged in her complaint that “[w]ithin the last year, Defendant took multiple actions in an attempt to collect a debt from Plaintiff.” Vougas continued, “Defendant's conduct violated the FDCPA and WCAA in multiple ways, including the following.” Vougas then specified only one action by Suttell that allegedly violated the FDCPA and WCAA:

Violating the FDCPA and WCAA by failing to disclose the interest rate and other details applicable to the debt in the initial letter to Plaintiff (15 USC 1692e & g(a) & RCW 19.16.250(8)(c)).

ECF No. 1 at 2.

         The Jury Trial Scheduling Order entered in this matter set April 12, 2019, as the deadline for any motion to amend pleadings. On April 17, 2019, Vougas served written discovery requests on Suttell and ...


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