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White v. Professional Claims Bureau, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 22, 2018

Cynthia White, Plaintiff,
v.
Professional Claims Bureau, Inc., Defendant. Matthew Shields, Plaintiff,
v.
Professional Claims Bureau, Inc., Defendant. Josephine Gracci and Bernabe L. Andres, Plaintiffs,
v.
Professional Claims Bureau, Inc., Defendant.

          Plaintiff is represented by Craig B. Sanders, David M. Barshay, and Jonathan Mark Cader of Sanders Law, PLLC

          Defendant is represented by Arthur Sanders of Barron & Newburger, P.C.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge

         Plaintiffs Cynthia White (“White”), Matthew Shields (“Shields”), Josephine Gracci (“Gracci”), and Bernabe L. Andres (“Andres, ” and collectively, “plaintiffs”) filed complaints against Professional Claims Bureau, Inc. (“Professional Claims Bureau” or “PCB” or “defendant”), alleging violations of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692g(a)(2) and 1692e of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the “FDCPA”) in Claims One and Two, respectively, of their complaints. Presently before the Court are plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. As plaintiffs' claims and grounds for moving for summary judgment are identical in plaintiffs' three separate cases, [1] the Court decides plaintiffs' motions together in this opinion.

         Plaintiffs notified the Court of two recent decisions in this district in which the courts granted summary judgment in favor of other plaintiffs against Professional Claims Bureau, finding the same Professional Claims Bureau form letters at issue in this case to be in violation of §§ 1692g(a)(2) and 1692e of the FDCPA. In addition to putting forth arguments for summary judgment on the merits of their cases, plaintiffs argue that, in light of these prior adverse rulings against defendant, this Court should find defendant collaterally estopped from relitigating these issues and rule in favor of plaintiffs.

         For the reasons set forth in detail below, the Court grants plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment. Specifically, the Court concludes that defendant is collaterally estopped from relitigating these issues and, in in any event, also independently holds that the letters at issue violate §§ 1692g(a)(2) and 1692e of the FDCPA.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background[2]

         The Court takes the following facts from the parties' joint Rule 56.1 Statements of Facts[3] and any admissible affidavits, depositions, and exhibits. The Court construes the facts in the light most favorable to defendant, the nonmoving party. See Capobianco v. City of New York, 422 F.3d 47, 50 n.1 (2d Cir. 2005).

         1. Defendant's Collection Letters to Plaintiffs

         Plaintiffs are “consumers” and defendant is a “debt collector, ” as defined by the FDCPA. (ECF No. 17 at 1.) Defendant sent plaintiffs collection letters “in an effort to collect an alleged debt.” (Id. (discussing defendant's letter to White, dated March 12, 2015); Shields, ECF No. 23 at 1 (discussing defendant's letter to Shields, dated September 8, 2015); Gracci, ECF No. 17 at 1 (discussing defendant's letter to Gracci, [4]dated January 14, 2016), ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 at 3 (attaching defendant's letter to Andres, dated February 2, 2016).) These collection letters were the initial written communication defendant sent to plaintiffs concerning these debts. (ECF No. 17 at 2.)

         The upper right-hand corner of each letter includes the following recipient-specific text:

Re: SAMARITAN EMERGENCY MED SVCS-ER Patient name: CYNTHIA WHITE Service Dated: 10/19/14

(ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 at 1.)

Re: NSLIJ HEALTH SYS-SOUTHSIDE
Patient name: RYAN THOMAS SHIELDS[5]
Service Dated: 01/26/14

(Shields, ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 at 1.)

Re: MSK PHYSICIANS
Patient name: JOSEPHINE GRACCHI[6]
Service Dated: 02/04/14

(Gracci, ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 at 1.)

Re: MERCY MEDICAL CENTER
Patient name: BERNABE ANDRES
Service Dated: 06/25/15

(Gracci, ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 at 3.)

         The collection notices also include the “Balance Due, ” “PCB #, ” and “Client Acct #” specific to each recipient in another box at the top of the letter. (ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 at 1.) The PCB and client account numbers are partially redacted. (Id.) Below this text, the collection letters provide defendant's information, including its name (Professional Claims Bureau, Inc.), contact information, and a computer icon accompanied by the message “Pay Online 24/7/365, ” below which defendant provides the website address “www.paypcb.com.” (Id.)

         The body of the letter contains the following message:

IMPORTANT ACCOUNT INFORMATION
The above referenced account has been referred to our offices for collection.
Our professional account representatives are available to help you resolve this situation in a way that is acceptable to both you and our client.
There is a good chance that this balance represents a balance after insurance or a balance that your insurance carrier has denied for some reason.
For your convenience you may access our website (24 hrs/7 days) to pay your bill by check or credit card. www.paypcb.com Additionally, feel free to mail your check, money order or credit card ...

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