Judge Grants MSJ For Defense Over Cease Contact Request Sent to Agency Affiliate

A District Court judge in Illinois has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by continuing to contact a plaintiff after the plaintiff’s attorney had sent an online message to stop doing so, because the message was sent to an affiliate of the collection agency and not the agency itself.

A copy of the ruling in Garcia v. MiraMed Revenue Group LLC can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received three collection letters from the defendant in relation to an unpaid medical debt. The letters included the following statement, “Please Send All Correspondence, Including Bankruptcy Notices, To: MiraMed Revenue Group, 360 E. 22nd St., Lombard, IL 60148,” as well as a third-party website address where payments could be made. The plaintiff’s attorney sent on online message to an affiliate and parent of the collection agency, Miramed Global Services, Inc., requesting that the agency stop contacting the plaintiff. The defendant subsequently called the plaintiff four more times, after which he filed suit against the defendant.

There was no policy or procedure in place to automatically forward messages meant for MiraMed Revenue from Miramed Global, although sometimes, the parent company did forward some messages. Because some individuals had attempted to contact MiraMed Revenue through the parent company previously, the collection agency should have set up policies and procedures to account for this, and could not use the FDCPA’s bona fide error defense, ruled Judge Manish Shah of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

That being said, there is no proof that the defendant received the message — since messages were deleted 30 days after they were received.

“That Miramed Global sometimes forwarded messages it thought were intended for Miramed, does not allow the inference that Miramed received Garcia’s message,” Judge Shah wrote. “And Miramed Global’s receipt is not attributable to Miramed. A debt collector can be vicariously liable for unlawful collection activities others take on its behalf. … Miramed Global is not a debt collector, nor was it engaging in collection activity on Miramed’s behalf. Though the two companies are affiliated, they are not the same, and notice to one does not automatically count as notice to the other. Because Garcia has not shown that Miramed received his message, no reasonable jury could conclude that Miramed’s subsequent calls violated the act.”

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