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Stark v. RJM Acquisitions LLC

March 9, 2009

SHERYL STARK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RJM ACQUISITIONS LLC, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Sheryl Stark brings this putative class action against defendant, RJM Acquisitions LLC, alleging that it failed effectively to provide her with debt validation notice as required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §1692, et seq. Presently before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part, and plaintiff is directed to move for class certification within 90 days of the date of this memorandum opinion.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the Complaint, the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements, and submissions in connection with this motion. Disputes are noted.

Plaintiff Sheryl Stark is a resident of the State of New York and the Eastern District of New York. Compl. ¶ 4. Defendant RJM Acquisitions, Inc., is a New York business engaged in the collection of debts owed by consumers. Id. ¶¶ 6-7.

According to defendant, at an unspecified time prior to May 7, 2008, plaintiff incurred a debt of $986.79 on her Target National Bank Visa card. Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement ("Def.'s Stmt.") ¶ 1. On April 25, 2008, defendant purchased certain debt obligations owned by Target National Bank, presumably including a debt owed to Target by plaintiff. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff made no payments on the debt due to defendant. Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiff does not deny these facts, but asserts that they are irrelevant and proved through hearsay. Plaintiff's Local Rule 56.1 Statement ("Pl.'s Stmt.") ¶¶ 1-3.

On May 7, 2008, defendant sent plaintiff a one-page, double-sided letter seeking to collect the balance allegedly owed to it. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 4; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 4; Declaration of Douglas I. Greenberg dated December 15, 2008 ("Greenberg Decl."), Ex. A (copy of notice). The front page of the collection letter bears the headline "THREE OPPORTUNITIES." See Greenberg Decl. Ex. A. After explaining that defendant acquired a debtor account registered to plaintiff from Target National Bank, the letter sets forth three "opportunities" for plaintiff to settle her debt to defendant.*fn1 It also requests a response by June 21, 2008, and notes that "[u]pon completion of any of the above offers, your account will be Satisfied in Full," as well as stating that "[t]his is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose." Id.

Below the settlement offers, in bolded and slightly larger type, the letter states, "Please see reverse side of this letter for important information regarding your right to dispute this debt and the effect of any such dispute on above offer(s)." Id.

The reverse side of the letter bears the headline "IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR DEBT." After acknowledging the requirement to notify consumers of their rights, it states in the first of two text boxes:

This communication is from a debt collector, and it and others from us are an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose. This debt is owed to RJM Acquisitions LLC. Unless you dispute the validity of all or part of this debt within 30 days after receipt of this notice, we will assume the debt is valid. If you notify us in writing within the 30-day period, we will mail a copy of verification of the debt or the judgment to you and will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor for this debt.

Id. Just below the first text box and above the second, the reverse side of the letter provides as follows:

Your acceptance of the offer(s) described on the reverse side of this letter prior to the expiration of the 30-day period for dispute described above will not extinguish your right to dispute all or part of the original debt. All disputes within the 30-day period will be honored.

Id. In the second text box, which is approximately four times the size of the first text box, although the font size of the text it contains is the same as the first text box, the letter also contains various disclosures addressed to residents of California, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Tennessee, and New York City, none of which are relevant here.

Plaintiff commenced this action on June 10, 2008. According to defendant, plaintiff has filed at least three other complaints in this district against different defendants alleging violations of the FDCPA, one of which was resolved on a motion to ...


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