A Magistrate Court judge in Nevada has partially granted a plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case — but only on the grounds that there are no genuine issues of material fact that the plaintiff is a consumer, the defendant is a debt collector, and the debt in question arose out of a transaction for personal, family, or household purposes — otherwise denying the motion on all the counts related to allegedly violating the FDCPA.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Inserra v. Pinnacle Services can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff hired a company to perform pruning services in her yard and accepted a proposal to pay $2,300 for the work. Before the work was performed, the plaintiff asked the company to come out and take care of some work. The company did so, told the plaintiff the cost was $500, and the plaintiff paid by check. When the rest of the work was done, the plaintiff paid the company $1,800, thinking that the $500 charge was part of the original quote. The company disagreed and sent the unpaid balance to the defendant for collection.
The defendant sent a collection letter to the plaintiff, who responded by faxing in a dispute letter. The plaintiff contacted the defendant and asked for all future communications to be in writing. The plaintiff followed up on that conversation with a letter reiterating the contents of the conversation. The plaintiff then sent the defendant another dispute letter.
The defendant admits it called the plaintiff five times, with four of those calls after the plaintiff submitted the request for all future communications to be in writing.
The plaintiff claimed to suffer from severe anxiety and loss of sleep, which forced her to consult with a physician to address her symptoms. The plaintiff also claimed to have used 40 hours of vacation time from work to deal with the situation.
The plaintiff filed suit, accusing the defendant of violating Sections 1692d, 1692e(2)(A), 1692e(5), 1692e(10), 1692e(11), 1692f, and 1692f(1) of the FDCPA.
The defendant attempted to argue that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue, but Judge Carla Baldwin of the District Court for the District of Nevada, using a District of Nevada ruling from 2019, determined that allegations of anxiety, loss of sleep and appetite, and humiliation were sufficient for the plaintiff to have standing to sue.
The defendant also attempted to argue that the debt did not arise out of a transaction for personal, family, or household purposes — it was “agricultural” in nature, but Judge Baldwin likened the fee to one that would be charged by a homeowners association, which does fall under the purview of the FDCPA in the Ninth Circuit.
On all the claims related to violating the FDCPA, Judge Baldwin found that a genuine issue of material fact existed about whether the plaintiff owed the debt in the first place. As well, Judge Baldwin references a request made by the plaintiff to request a telephone call, after making the request for all communication to be in writing. A reasonable juror, Judge Baldwin ruled, “could find that Summit placed its calls to Inserra with the intent to reach her to collect the Debt, and not because it intended to annoy, abuse, or harass her.”