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Randall v. Paul

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 19, 2017

Bruce Randall, et al., Appellants,
v.
William D. Paul, Respondent.

         St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-CV-15-2514

          Thomas M. Skare, Thos. Skare Law Office, S.C., Cloquet, Minnesota (for appellants)

          William D. Paul, William Paul Law Office, Duluth, Minnesota (pro se respondent)

          Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Jesson, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         I. A debt collector engaged in the business of debt collection within the meaning of the Federal Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6) (2016), who serves a debtor with a mechanic's lien statement in compliance with the Minnesota mechanic's lien statute, Minn. Stat. § 514.08 (2016), is not immune from the FDCPA's requirements.

II. A debt collector's communication with a debtor is made "in connection with the collection of a debt, " triggering FDCPA notice requirements, if the communication's "animating purpose" is to induce payment by the debtor. Therefore, we adopt the approach set forth by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in McIvor v. Credit Control Servs., Inc., 773 F.3d 909, 913 (8th Cir. 2014).

          OPINION

          KLAPHAKE, Judge. [*]

         Appellants challenge the district court's grant of summary judgment to respondent on their FDCPA claims, arguing that the district court erred in determining that the FDCPA did not apply when respondent-attorney, who was engaged in the business of debt collection, served appellants with two mechanic's lien statements. Because respondent was not immune from the FDCPA by reason of complying with the mechanic's lien statute, and genuine fact questions exist regarding whether respondent's communications with appellants were made "in connection with the collection of a debt, " we reverse the entry of summary judgment in favor of respondent and remand to the district court for additional proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         FACTS

         Appellants Bruce and Kathy Randall hired Northstar Design and Build, Inc. (Northstar) to complete a home improvement project during the summer of 2014. On September 26, 2014, respondent William Paul, counsel for Northstar, served the Randalls via certified mail with a copy of a mechanic's lien statement and a letter, which said, "please find [enclosed] a copy of the Mechanics Lien Statement which is going to be recorded in the immediate future." Among other things, the lien statement provided that Northstar intended "to claim and hold a lien upon" the Randalls' land for the home improvement work in the amount of $9, 901.75, which was "due and owing." On October 2, 2014, Paul recorded the lien statement.

         On October 6, 2014, Paul served the Randalls via certified mail with a second copy of the mechanic's lien statement. For purposes of summary judgment, the parties appear to agree that the second copy of the lien statement was the same as the first copy, except it included an attachment providing a legal description of the Randalls' property. Paul explained in an accompanying letter to the Randalls that he realized after serving the first copy that he had failed to include the attachment, he was serving "a conformed copy" of the lien statement, and he had recorded the lien statement.

         Over one year later, on October 15, 2015, the Randalls sued Paul for damages under the FDCPA, claiming that Paul failed to provide what the parties call a "mini-Miranda" warning advising them that he was a debt collector and that anything they said could be used in a debt collection action. The complaint also alleged that Paul failed to send the Randalls a validation notice verifying the amount owed and providing the procedures they could follow if they disputed the debt.

         Paul moved for summary judgment, arguing that the letters and service of the mechanic's lien statements were not subject to the FDCPA because they were not "communications" regarding a debt collection action, and he was complying with the requirements under Minn. Stat. § 514.08 to perfect the lien. The district court granted Paul's summary judgment motion and dismissed the complaint, concluding that the Randalls were not entitled to relief as a matter of law because ...


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