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Brown v. Southwest Credit Systems, L.P.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 5, 2018

DONALD L. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHWEST CREDIT SYSTEMS, L.P., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Donald Brown (“Brown”) has filed this lawsuit pro se alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq., the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq., the Massachusetts Fair Debt Collection Act and the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act (“MCPA”), Mass. Gen. L. c. 93A. D. 1-1. Over the course of this litigation, three Defendants have been dismissed by stipulation, D. 28-30, leaving only Defendant Southwest Credit Systems, L.P. (“SWC”). SWC has moved for summary judgment. D. 44. For the reasons stated below, the Court ALLOWS SWC's motion.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is material if it carries with it the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law.” Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting Sánchez v. Alvarado, 101 F.3d 223, 227 (1st Cir. 1996)). The movant “bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations or denials in her pleadings, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), but “must, with respect to each issue on which she would bear the burden of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier of fact could reasonably resolve that issue in her favor, ” Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano- Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). “As a general rule, that requires the production of evidence that is ‘significant[ly] probative.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). The Court “view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable inferences in his favor.” Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009).

         When a motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the Court “is still bound to review the case on the merits based on the uncontroverted facts before [the Court].” Cordi-Allen v. Halloran, 470 F.3d 25, 28 (1st Cir. 2006) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “[E]ven an unopposed motion for summary judgment should not be granted unless the record discloses that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Rivera-Torres v. Rey-Hernández, 502 F.3d 7, 13 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Vélez v. Awning Windows, Inc., 375 F.3d 35, 42 (1st Cir. 2004)). “In most cases, however, a party's failure to oppose summary judgment is fatal to its case.” Ferreira v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 794 F.Supp.2d 297, 301 (D. Mass. 2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. Factual Background

         Because Brown did not did not file an opposition or move for additional time to do so, the Court deems the following supported facts from SWC's motion for summary judgment to be admitted. See Stonkus v. City of Brockton Sch. Dep't, 322 F.3d 97, 102 (1st Cir. 2003) (quoting D. Mass. L.R. 56.1) (providing that “[m]aterial facts of record set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed for purposes of the motion to be admitted by the opposing parties unless controverted by the statement required to be served by opposing parties”) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         SWC sent Brown a letter on October 20, 2016 informing him that his “account ha[d] been assigned to [its] office for collection” and advising him that absent a response within 30 days of receipt, SWC would assume the debt was valid. D. 45-3 at 2. On November 18, 2016, SWC received a copy of the letter from Brown with the words “Disputed! No. Calls!” written over the text. D. 45-6 at 2. Brown included a letter explaining that Comcast had quoted him a lower price than the one he had been charged and accordingly “refuse[d] to pay the enclosed bill.” D. 45-6 at 3. He also included a copy of his Comcast bill with “Disputed” written on it. D. 45-6 at 5. On July 14, 2017, SWC sent Brown another letter advising him that SWC had received his dispute regarding the debt and confirmed that his balance was nonetheless due in full at that time. D. 45-4 at 2.

         IV. Procedural History

         Brown filed this action in state court against four Defendants on January 8, 2018. D. 1-1. On February 6, 2018, the matter was removed to this Court. D. 1. Several months later, three Defendants were dismissed by stipulation, D. 28-30, leaving SWC as the only remaining Defendant. Accordingly, the only counts pending before the Court are Counts Eleven through Fourteen of Brown's complaint, which pertain to SWC. SWC has now moved for summary judgment. D. 44. Brown, acting pro se, did not file an opposition. Brown also did not appear at the noticed and scheduled hearing on November 27, 2018 on this motion. That day, in light of Brown's failure to appear, the Court took the motion under advisement on the papers. D. 46.

         V. Discussion

         SWC argues initially that the Court need not conducts a merits analysis because Brown failed to respond to discovery requests within the time allotted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 36 and they are deemed to have admitted that SWC did not commit any of the violations alleged in the complaint. D. 45 at 2-3. Although the Court might be justified in doing so, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (indicating that the Court may issue any “appropriate order” if a party fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c)”); see also Ferreira, 794 F.Supp.2d at 301, since even under a merits analysis, the Court concludes that SWC is entitled to summary judgment, the Court turns now to the merits and need not reach SWC's alternative basis for granting summary judgment.

         A. FDCPA and Massachusetts Fair Debt Collection Act ...


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