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Wagner v. RJM Acquisitions, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 19, 2015

DONNA WAGNER, Plaintiff,
v.
RJM ACQUISITIONS, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JEAN C. HAMILTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, filed December 18, 2014, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed December 19, 2014. (ECF Nos. 29, 31). The motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition.

BACKGROUND

At some point in late 2011 or early 2012, Plaintiff Donna Wagner placed an order for skin care cosmetics with the Meaningful Beauty Company, paying in full with her credit card. (ECF No. 29-2, PP. 7-9). Meaningful Beauty then sent Plaintiff two additional shipments of cosmetics that Plaintiff did not order. ( Id., P. 8). Plaintiff marked the products "did not order, " and returned them to Meaningful Beauty. ( Id. ).

On or about December 12, 2012, Defendant RJM Acquisitions, LLC ("RJM"), a debt collector, became involved in this matter, when it purchased a Meaningful Beauty Skin Care Products account opened in the name of Donna Wagner from Guthy-Renker LLC ("Guthy"). (ECF No. 29-1, ¶ 5; ECF No. 38, ¶¶ 1, 2). The address provided by Guthy was 1110 Schumacher Road, Fenton, MO, 63026, an address at which Plaintiff has resided for fifteen years. (ECF No. 38, ¶¶ 3, 4).

On February 19, 2013, RJM sent a collection letter to Plaintiff at the Schumacher address. (ECF No. 38, ¶ 5; ECF No. 29-5). When Plaintiff did not respond to the letter[1], RJM sent a second letter on September 4, 2013. (ECF No. 38, ¶¶ 6, 8; ECF No. 29-6). Plaintiff did not respond to the September, 2013, letter either. (ECF No. 38, ¶ 9).[2]

In furtherance of its business RJM utilizes third-party vendors TransUnion and Experian, skip trace services that provide address move updates. (ECF No. 38, ¶ 12). According to RJM, the procedure is as follows: RJM inputs the information that it received from the creditor into TransUnion and Experian; TransUnion and Experian electronically provide RJM with an updated address, if one is found, and the name associated with the updated address; and RJM's database automatically is updated with the new information. ( Id., ¶¶ 13, 14). If RJM receives a new address and the "characteristics match, " it then sends a collection letter to the new address. ( Id., ¶ 15).

On or about September 21, 2013, through TransUnion and/or Experian, RJM obtained the following address for Plaintiff: 1347 W. Lark Industrial Dr., Fenton, MO, 63026. (ECF No. 38, ¶ 16). RJM sent a collection letter to the Lark address on October 22, 2013. ( Id., ¶ 17; ECF No. 29-3). As with the two prior letters, this letter was addressed solely to Plaintiff, and bore the notation "Personal and Confidential" on the outside of the envelope. (ECF No. 38, ¶ 18).

According to Plaintiff, the Lark address is her father's business address, and she has never resided or worked at that address. (ECF No. 29-1, ¶¶ 8-10). Plaintiff's father received the letter at the Lark address, opened and read it, and thus learned about the alleged debt. ( Id., ¶ 16). Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff's father visited Plaintiff's home with the letter in hand, and asked if Plaintiff was suffering financial difficulties. ( Id., ¶ 17). Plaintiff maintains this encounter (and the fact that RJM had disclosed the debt to her father) caused her great embarrassment, anxiety and stress. ( Id., ¶ 18; ECF No. 2, ¶ 12).

On October 30, 2013, Plaintiff called RJM, and informed its representative that the Lark address was one for her father's place of employment. (ECF No. 38, ¶¶ 19, 21).[3] Plaintiff further informed the representative that she did not purchase the products that formed the basis of the debt. ( Id., ¶ 22). RJM notated its file that Plaintiff did not owe the debt, and ceased all collection efforts at that time. ( Id., ¶¶ 23, 24).

On or about November 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed her Petition for Damages ("Complaint") in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Missouri. (ECF No. 2).[4] Plaintiff's Complaint purports to be "an action for statutory and actual damages brought by an individual consumer for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. ("FDCPA"), which prohibits debt collectors from engaging in abusive, deceptive and unfair practices." ( Id., ¶ 1).

As stated above, the parties filed competing Motions for Summary Judgment on December 18, and 19, 2014. (ECF Nos. 29, 31).

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

The Court may grant a motion for summary judgment if, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The substantive law determines which facts are critical and which are irrelevant. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome will properly preclude summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 ...


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