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Mavris v. RSI Enterprises Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 19, 2015

Joanna F. Mavris, Plaintiff,
v.
RSI Enterprises Incorporated, Defendant

For Joanna F Mavris, On Behalf of Herself and Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff: Michael L Greenwald, LEAD ATTORNEY, Greenwald Davidson PLLC, Boca Raton, FL.

For RSI Enterprises Incorporated, an Arizona Corporation, Defendant: David J Kaminski, LEAD ATTORNEY, Carlson & Messer LLP, Los Angeles, CA; Charles R Messer, Keith Alexander Yeomans, Carlson & Messer LLP - Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA.

Page 1080

ORDER

Neil V. Wake, United States District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, or Alternatively, Summary Adjudication (Doc. 41), the Response (Doc. 49), and the Reply (Doc. 53). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On two occasions in December 2012, Plaintiff Joanna F. Mavris received emergency room treatment at a hospital operated by Scottsdale Healthcare. Doc. 45-1 at 6-7. The hospital created separate billing accounts for these two visits, one ending in 0028 (" 0028 account" ) and the other ending in 0403 (" 0403 account" ). Doc. 41 at 6. Because Mavris was uninsured, she did not pay the hospital at the time of her treatment, and she has not submitted payment since. Id. Scottsdale Healthcare assigned the 0028 account and the 0403 account to Defendant RSI Enterprises Incorporated (" RSI" ) on January 14, 2013, and January 15, 2013, respectively, for collection efforts. Doc. 44 at 2. The day after referring each account, Scottsdale Healthcare sent Mavris

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a billing invoice on its own letterhead, but prepared by RSI. Id. at 2-3. Sometime around late January 2013, Mavris asked Scottsdale Healthcare for financial assistance in paying down her debts. Doc. 45-1 at 7-8. She submitted the requisite paperwork on March 4, 2013, which RSI claims " extend[ed] the time [Mavris] ha[d] to pay [her] account." Doc. 53 at 5; Doc. 43 at 3.[1] Scottsdale Healthcare denied the requests for " financial aid" in letters dated April 22, 2013, and May 10, 2013. Doc. 44 at 2. RSI's " collection notes" for the 0028 account show an entry dated March 8, 2013, that reads " CANCELLED-CAN 4062.64" ; a May 16, 2013 notation indicates " ACCT REACTIVATED PER NEW BIS FILE." Doc. 44 at 2; Doc. 44-1 at 4. The 0403 account's collection notes show similar entries made on March 8, 2013, and April 18, 2013. Doc. 44 at 2; Doc. 44-2 at 4.

Mavris received a letter on Scottsdale Healthcare letterhead, dated May 23, 2013, prepared by RSI, notifying her that the 0028 and 0403 accounts " remain[ed] unresolved" and requesting that she submit payment to Scottsdale Healthcare. Doc. 51-5 at 2. A June 20, 2013 letter, also on Scottsdale Healthcare letterhead, informed Mavris that the two accounts were " now seriously past due." Doc. 51-6 at 2. " If this account is not paid in full, or if suitable arrangements for payment have not been made within 30 days," the June 20 letter reads, " this account will be turned over to an outside collection agency for collection." Id. The letter also states, " THIS IS YOUR FINAL OPPORTUNITY TO RESOLVE YOUR ACCOUNT BEFORE IT IS PLACED WITH A COLLECTION AGNECY." Id. (emphasis in original). Both letters are signed " Sincerely, Scottsdale Healthcare" ; neither gives any indication that it was prepared and mailed by RSI, rather than Scottsdale Healthcare. See Doc. 51-5, 51-6. A month later, on July 18, 2013, RSI sent Mavris another letter regarding the 0403 account--this time on its own letterhead--that begins, " Scottsdale Healthcare assigned this balance to RSI Enterprises, Inc. for pre-collection efforts ... . If payment in full is not received or contact established with Scottsdale Healthcare within 30 days you may be sent to a third-party collections company." Doc. 51-7 at 2. Lower down, the letter contains the following warning: " This communication is from a debt collector. This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose." Id. (emphasis in original). In two separate locations, the letter instructs Mavris to send all payments and correspondence to Scottsdale Healthcare. Id. A substantially identical letter concerning the 0028 account followed on August 15, 2013. See Doc. 51-8.

The next day, Scottsdale Healthcare " recall[ed]" the 0403 account from RSI, which then " cancelled" the account and " returned" it to Scottsdale Healthcare. Doc. 44 at 3. RSI's collection notes for this date reflect entries reading " ACCOUNT CANCELLED AND RETURNED FOR BAD DEBT PER DAILY TRANS FILE" and " CANCELLED-CNR 3394.83." Doc. 44-2 at 8. Scottsdale Healthcare internally deemed that account to be in default and two weeks later, on August 30, 2013, referred it to West Asset Management, a " third-party debt collector." Doc. 41 at 8; Doc. 43 at 4. After attempting for a month

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to collect Mavris' debt, West Asset Management returned the 0403 account to Scottsdale Healthcare on October 3, 2013. Doc. 43 at 4.

Similarly, Scottsdale Healthcare declared the 0028 account to be in default and recalled it from RSI on September 13, 2013, then referred it to West Asset Management on September 27, 2013. Doc. 43 at 4. On RSI's collection notes for the 0028 account, two September 13, 2013 entries read " ACCOUNT CANCELLED AND RETURNED FOR BAD DEBT PER DAILY TRANS FILE" and " CANCELLED-CNR 4062.64." Doc. 44-1 at 7. The account was returned to Scottsdale Healthcare in January 2014 after unsuccessful attempts to collect the debt from Mavris. Doc. 43 at 4.

Mavris filed this putative class action on May 16, 2014, seeking statutory and actual damages, on behalf of herself and other members of the proposed class, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (" FDCPA" ), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Although the substance of Mavris' claims is not pertinent to this Motion, her allegations provide context helpful to understanding her dispute with RSI. The first of the Complaint's (Doc. 1) three causes of action alleges a violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b). Under § 1692g(a), " [w]ithin five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall" provide the consumer a " written notice" that contains:

the amount of the debt;
the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;
a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;
a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such ...

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