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Healy v. Jzanus Ltd.

March 31, 2006

RAEGINA A. HEALY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JZANUS LTD., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, U.S. District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

Presently before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the instant complaint alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 ("FDCPA" or "the Act").*fn1 Plaintiff, Raegina A. Healy ("plaintiff"), alleges that defendant, Jzanus Ltd., ("defendant" or "Jzanus") violated three sections of the FDCPA when defendant sent plaintiff a letter in connection with a debt she owed. Defendant asserts that summary judgment is proper because the FDCPA is inapplicable to the letter in question. Alternatively, defendant argues that even if the FDCPA does apply, the letter does not violate the Act. For the following reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.

Background

Defendant is a corporation of approximately 166 employees with principal offices in Floral Park, New York. Defendant provides a range of financial services to health care providers in the New York City area, including assisting hospitals with obtaining payments from insurers to cover the costs of patients' treatment. Among the services it provides to hospitals, defendant acts as a licensed debt collector.*fn2 Medicaid Recovery Services ("MRS") is an unincorporated division of defendant, Jzanus, Ltd. However, MRS is not licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs to collect debts.

On January 6, 2001, plaintiff received medical services at Maimonides Medical Center ("Maimonides"). Upon her admission, plaintiff signed a document entitled "Financial Agreement, Assignment of Benefits & Release of Information" ("Patient Agreement"). This document states, in part, that plaintiff "will pay the entire remaining balance immediately upon notification by the Medical Center . . . in the event that these services are not paid in whole or in part by the insurance carrier, or other third party payor." Plaintiff was discharged from Maimonides on January 9, 2001.

In her deposition, plaintiff stated that when she left the hospital in January 2001, it was her understanding that Medicaid, Medicare or Healthfirst was going to pay for her hospitalization.*fn3

Following plaintiff's admission to Maimonides on January 6, 2001 and at all times prior to December 13, 2001, Maimonides listed the "Patient Balance" for her account as $0.00. During that time period, Maimonides did not send plaintiff an invoice for payment.

About six months later, in June of 2001, plaintiff received a letter ("June Letter") from MRS.

The June Letter stated that a balance of $12,000 existed for services rendered by Maimonides on January 6, 2001. The June Letter stated in part:

Our office represents the above-mentioned hospital in pursuit of Medicaid coverage for the above patient for their hospitalization. In order to complete this Medicaid application, additional information is necessary. We need your cooperation in this matter.

As the City of New York imposes time limits on these applications, it is essential that you contact us immediately.

The June Letter does not contain a demand for payment from plaintiff. The signature block of the June Letter reads, "Cathy Connolly, Medicaid Investigator."

The June Letter also contains a validation notice which is required by the FDCPA when a debt collector initially communicates with a debtor. The notice states, in part:

This is an attempt to collect a debt, and any information obtained will be used for that purpose. This ...


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