Judge Grants MSJ for Defendant in Case Over Social Security Number

A District Court judge in Illinois has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case involving how the defendant, and the original creditor, came to be in possession of the plaintiff’s husband’s Social Security number.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Billups v. I.C. System can be accessed by clicking here.

Comcast placed the plaintiff’s account with the defendant for collection, and the defendant called the plaintiff’s home. The plaintiff’s wife answered the phone and during the course of the conversation, questioned the defendant’s representative how the defendant obtained her husband’s Social Security number. The representative responded that it had received the information from Comcast. Later that day, the plaintiff’s wife, the representative from the defendant, and a representative from Comcast participated in a three-way call. The Comcast representative stated that he could see the last four digits of the plaintiff’s husband’s Social Security number, but that there was no Social Security number attached to the account “on Comcast’s end.” The plaintiff’s wife disputed the account during that call.

The plaintiff and his wife subsequently filed suit, accusing the defendant of violating the FDCPA by misrepresenting that Comcast had verified the debt using the Social Security number, and that the defendant failed to communicate that the debt was disputed.

An affidavit provided by a manager a Comcast explained that the company received the Social Security number from Equifax and transmitted that information to the defendant when it placed the account. The call center employee “did not have all the information at his fingertips” and could not have known that Comcast had acquired the information.

After first determining that the plaintiff “barely” had standing to sue, Judge Jorge Alonso of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois then made short work of the plaintiff’s allegations. Ultimately, all the plaintiffs had to prove their allegations were the comments made by the Comcast representative during the second call. But the plaintiffs did not catch the name of the representative, making the representation “pure hearsay,” according to Judge Alonso. “Summary judgment is the ‘put up or shut up’ moment in a lawsuit, and plaintiffs have not put up sufficient evidence to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict in their favor,” Judge Alonso wrote.

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