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Martin v. United Collections Bureau, Inc.

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

July 14, 2015

JOSEPH W. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED COLLECTIONS BUREAU, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment. (Doc. Nos. 19, 56) Plaintiff Joseph W. Martin ("Plaintiff") brings this action against Defendant United Collections Bureau, Inc. ("UCB"), asserting claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e, 1692g and 1692c(b). The motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition.

As a threshold matter, Plaintiff moves to strike portions of UCB's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts and portions of UCB's exhibits and supporting affidavit on the grounds that they contain inadmissible evidence and legal conclusions.[1] (Doc. No. 35) Motions to strike are not favored and infrequently granted, because they propose a drastic remedy. Stanbury Law Firm, P.A. v. Internal Revenue Service, 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir.2000). Nevertheless, resolution of such a motion lies within the broad discretion of the Court. Id . Rule 12(f) authorizes a court to strike from a pleading any "redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f).

A "pleading" as defined in Rule 7(a) does not include statements of fact submitted in support of, or in opposition to, a motion for summary judgment. Thus, there is no specific authority in the Federal Rules for striking a party's statement of uncontroverted facts. See Nelson v. Special Administrative Bd. of St. Louis Public Schools, 2012 WL 5508394, at *l-2 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 14, 2012) (citing United States v. Hawley, 812 F.Supp.2d 949, 962 n. 2 (N.D. Iowa 2011) (denying a motion to strike a statement of material facts offered in opposition to a motion for summary judgment)). Moreover, a motion for summary judgment will not fail merely because some of the statements contained in a supporting affidavit may be inadmissible. Scott v. Ranch Roy-L, Inc., 182 S.W.3d 627, 635-36 (Mo.Ct.App. 2005) (citing Jones v. Landmark Leasing, 957 S.W.2d 369, 376 (Mo.Ct.App. 1997)). "A court may look to the remaining portions of the affidavits and pleadings in a case to see if there is a basis to support the summary judgment." Id.

Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion to strike will be denied. The Court will examine the entire record, including UCB's Statement of Undisputed Facts and any properly supported factual contentions, to determine whether there are genuine disputes regarding material facts precluding the entry of summary judgment. See Fabian v. St. Louis Rams Partnership, 2014 WL 222816, at *1 (E.D.Mo. Jan. 21, 2014). Mere arguments, speculation and/or conclusions fail to create a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.

Similarly, UCB moves for sanctions against Plaintiff based on his violations of this Court's March 3, 2015 Order and discovery obligations under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a). Plaintiff sought to subpoena the three credit reporting agencies ("CRAs"), Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, for documents relating to Plaintiff and one Joseph A. Martin, including their credit reports and any correspondence from UCB related to those reports. (Doc. No. 41) Plaintiff also requested an extension of time to complete discovery. (Doc. Nos. 47, 50) Finding that Plaintiff's requests were made prior to the close of discovery, albeit late, the Court allowed the subpoenas to issue to the CRAs and extended the discovery deadline for that limited purpose. (Doc. No. 59)

In its motion, UCB states that despite the Court's Order extending the discovery period solely for the purpose of requesting documents from the CRAs, Plaintiff continued to pursue discovery from third parties Gateway Emergency Physicians, LLP, and Kroll Factual Data. He then filed his summary judgment motion and statement of material facts which include numerous exhibits that were never disclosed pursuant to Rule 26(a), never produced in response to UCB's discovery requests, and prohibited by this Court's order. (Doc. No. 60 at 5-6) UCB seeks an order striking Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, precluding him from using any documents or information not timely disclosed to UCB during the discovery period, and awarding it its fees and costs incurred in bringing its motion for sanctions and defending against Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

While Plaintiff may have violated the spirit and intent of this Court's order permitting discovery for a limited purpose, the Court finds no resulting prejudice to UCB given the Court's ruling herein. UCB's motion for sanctions will, therefore, be denied.

Legal standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists in the case and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The initial burden is placed on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir.1988). If the record demonstrates that no genuine issue of fact is in dispute, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth affirmative evidence and specific facts showing a genuine dispute on that issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate in a particular case, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Osborn v. E.F. Hutton & Co., Inc., 853 F.2d 616, 619 (8th Cir.1988).

Where parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, each summary judgment motion must be evaluated independently to determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Husinga v. Federal-Mogul Ignition Co., 519 F.Supp.2d 929, 942 (S.D.Iowa 2007). "[T]he filing of cross motions for summary judgment does not necessarily indicate that there is no dispute as to a material fact, or have the effect of submitting the cause to a plenary determination on the merits." Wermager v. Cormorant Township Bd., 716 F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir.1983). In determining the appropriateness of summary judgment, "the relevant inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Bingaman v. Kansas City Power & Light Co., 1 F.3d 976, 980 (10th Cir.1993) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52)).

Facts

On June 6, 2013, while in the process of applying for a home loan, Plaintiff learned of three collection accounts listed on his Residential Merged Credit Report obtained by Eagle Bank and Trust Company. The accounts were administered by Maximum Recovery Specialists, Inc., Consumer Collection Management, and UCB. The debt associated with the account administered by UCB arose from a medical bill owed to Gateway Emergency Physicians, LLP ("Gateway") by an individual by the name of Joseph A. Martin, whose social security number ends in 7519.[2] (First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), Doc. No. 13 at ¶ 8; Affidavit of Joseph W. Martin ("Martin Aff."), Doc. No. 58 at ¶ 9)[3]

The evidence of record demonstrates that on or about March 24, 2009, Gateway placed with UCB a debt for collection incurred by one Joseph A. Martin, whose social security number ends in 7519. (Doc. No. 23-1) From March 24, 2009 through December 23, 2013, UCB maintained an account number XXXXXXXX associated with this debt. (Id.) The record further demonstrates that on March 28, 2009 and May 27, 2009, UCB attempted to contact Joseph A. Martin for the purpose of collecting the debt, but was unsuccessful. (Id. at lines 66, 75) No further attempts to contact Joseph A. Martin were made after May 27, 2009. (Id.)

On July 18, 19 and 25, 2009, UCB packaged the credit information on account number XXXXXXXX to be reported to the three primary CRAs, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. (Id. at lines 77-79) On August 13, 2009, UCB transmitted the credit information pertaining to the debt incurred by Joseph A. Martin to the CRAs. (Doc. No. 23-2) This information did not involve or relate to Plaintiff. On ...


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