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Baruch v. Health Care Receivable Management

October 29, 2007

IRVING BARUCH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HEALTHCARE RECEIVABLE MANAGEMENT, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sifton, Senior Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Irving Baruch brought this action against defendants Healthcare Receivable Management, Inc. ("Healthcare Receivable" or "defendant"), John Doe, Jane Roe, and XYZ Corp. Plaintiff's complaint ("Complaint"), filed November 16, 2005, sought damages and declaratory relief for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, tortious infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. Now before this Court are plaintiff's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's September 11, 2007, Report and Recommendation ("Report and Recommendation") as to damages. For the reasons set forth below, I adopt in part and modify in part the Report and Recommendation.

Background

A. Procedure

Plaintiff filed the Complaint herein on November 16, 2005. On February 9, 2006, defendant, represented by counsel, filed an answer. On November 8, 2006, I granted defendant's counsel's motion to withdraw, effective upon the filing of a Notice of Appearance by new counsel, and referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Azrack for a settlement conference. A settlement conference was scheduled for January 6, 2007, and defendant was ordered to retain and appear with new counsel by that date. On January 15, 2007, Gilbert Hernandez, owner of defendant, expressed defendant's desire to "not spend any more funds on a case that has no merit." As defendant refused to appear or otherwise further defend this case, plaintiff made a motion for default judgment on February 21, 2007, which was served on defendant, which filed no opposition.

On May 9, 2007, the Clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York noted the defendant's default pursuant to Local Rule 55.1 and Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The matter was thereafter referred to the Magistrate Judge for an inquest. The remaining defendants were dismissed from the case by plaintiff on May 14, 2007.

On September 11, 2007, Magistrate Judge Azrack filed a Report and Recommendation, granting plaintiff $2,500 in actual and statutory damages and $305 in costs. On September 19, 2007, plaintiff filed an Objection to the Report and Recommendation.

B. Facts*fn1

Plaintiff, who resides in Queens, alleged in the Complaint that on two occasions, February 4, 2000 and March 24, 2000, he went to Raytel Medical Imaging ("Raytel"), which is also located in Queens, for X-rays. On both occasions plaintiff told one of Raytel's employees that he would not be able to pay anything for the procedure, and that Raytel would have to accept any Medicaid disbursement as full payment. According to plaintiff, on each occasion the employee to whom plaintiff spoke conferred with her supervisor for a few minutes and stated the supervisor agreed on behalf of Raytel that plaintiff would neither receive any bill nor be responsible for any additional payment. Plaintiff thereafter went forward and had the X-rays taken and made no payments for the procedures.

In January, 2005, plaintiff began receiving calls from defendant. In these calls, defendant's representative stated the company was collecting a debt for Raytel. Plaintiff explained his arrangement with Raytel and refused to pay. Thereafter, on June 20, 2005, July 21, 2005, July 26, 2005, and September 13, 2005, defendant sent letters threatening legal action against plaintiff. Following receipt of each of these letters, plaintiff called defendant and asked if he were being sued. A representative told him he was "not being sued yet." On these calls, plaintiff requested that defendant cease sending him letters and reiterated his refusal to pay. Defendant in turn threatened to report the debt on plaintiff's credit report. Plaintiff alleges that he was greatly upset by these calls, letters, and threats.*fn2

Discussion

Plaintiff objects to the damages award recommended by Magistrate Judge Azrack, as well as the Magistrate's failure to award attorney's fees*fn3 and all costs requested by plaintiff. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) provides that when ruling on objections to a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation, which is dispositive of a case, [t]he district judge to whom the case is assigned shall make a de novo determination upon the record, or after additional evidence, of any portion of the magistrate judge's disposition to which specific written objection has been made. The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision, receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.

Accordingly, I review the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation de novo.

As an initial matter, I adopt the portion of the Report and Recommendation, for the reasons stated therein, in which Magistrate Judge Azrack concludes that the Complaint establishes that ...


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