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Bartl v. Enhanced Recovery Co., LLC

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 5, 2017

Christopher M. Bartl, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
Enhanced Recovery Company, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Joan N. Ericksen United States District Judge

         This is a putative class action brought by Christopher M. Bartl against Enhanced Recovery Company, LLC (ERC), under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Bartl claimed that ERC violated the Act by continuing collection activity without responding to his written dispute of a debt and by failing to inform a credit reporting agency that he disputed the debt. The case is before the Court on Bartl's Motion for Certification of a Class Action. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Bartl's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Bartl incurred a debt with Sprint Corporation, which engaged ERC to act as its agent in collecting the debt. ERC contacted Bartl about the debt by letter dated March 18, 2015. ERC told Bartl that its “records indicate that [his] balance with Sprint remains unpaid” and that his “account has been placed with [ERC] for collection efforts.” ERC included the names of the creditor and the original creditor, the amount of the debt, and other disclosures required by the FDCPA.

         Bartl responded to ERC by letter dated March 26, 2015. In his letter, Bartl “demand[ed] validation of any debt” that ERC claimed he owed ERC. He asked for proof of the following: (1) ERC purchased or was assigned the debt; (2) the amount ERC paid for the debt; (3) the “full accounting of the transaction history”; (4) “[t]hat the debt is not time barred”; (5) the “[o]riginal contract between [him] and the original creditor”; and (6) the “[c]ontract between [him] and [ERC].” Bartl stated, “I do not believe I owe your company anything and dispute I owe your company anything.” Bartl directed ERC “to stop all collection activity pursuant to the FDCPA.” According to its records, ERC received Bartl's letter on April 15, 2015. That day, ERC marked Bartl's account as disputed. According to the testimony of Jason Davis, ERC's senior vice president of compliance, ERC's policies at the time it received Bartl's letter called for ERC to obtain information about the debt from Sprint and mail the information to Bartl. ERC's policies did not call for it to terminate credit reporting. ERC reported an account to credit reporting agencies approximately 45 days after Sprint placed the account with ERC for collection.

         Notwithstanding its policies, ERC did not obtain information from Sprint about Bartl's debt and did not respond to his letter. On May 3, 2015, ERC reported Bartl's debt to credit reporting agencies.

         In July 2015, ERC revised its policies. According to Davis, ERC decided “to delete any disputed tradeline from credit bureaus.” The revised policy applied to verbal disputes, written disputes, disputes that were previously reported, and disputes that had not been reported. On July 19, 2015, ERC directed the credit reporting agencies to delete Bartl's account.

         Bartl brought this action in early February 2016. The next month, he filed an amended complaint. In May, the Court denied ERC's motion to dismiss. In October, Bartl moved to certify the following class:

All consumers nationwide who, within the dates between February 3, 2015 until June 1, 2015, on any Sprint account, received a collection letter from Defendant ERC in a form substantially similar or materially identical to Exhibit A (attached to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint), then subsequently disputed the debt pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b) with Defendant, then failed to receive any correspondence and/or documentation from Defendant verifying the disputed alleged debt, and thereafter had their alleged debt reported to the national credit reporting agencies.

         II. DISCUSSION

         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) ‘sets out four threshold requirements that must be met before a plaintiff may file a lawsuit on behalf of a class of persons. Once those prerequisites have been met, the plaintiff must also establish that the class fits within one of three types of class actions listed in Rule 23(b).'” Sandusky Wellness Ctr., LLC v. Medtox Sci., Inc., 821 F.3d 992, 998 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Avritt v. Reliastar Life Ins. Co., 615 F.3d 1023, 1029 (8th Cir. 2010)). The four requirements of Rule 23(a) are:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or ...

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