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Bell v. GC Services Limited Partnership

March 25, 2010

ALEX C. BELL, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
GC SERVICES LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

Defendant GC Services Limited Partnership's ("GC Services") motion for summary judgment came on regularly for hearing April 1, 2010. Fredrick Clement appeared for plaintiff. David Dalby appeared for defendant. Upon review of the motion and the documents in support and opposition, upon hearing the arguments of counsel and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT ORDERS AS FOLLOWS:

FACTS

The following facts are undisputed except when noted otherwise.

Plaintiff Alex Bell, Jr., is a resident of Sacramento, California. (Compl. at 2.) Defendant GC Services is a Delaware limited partnership engaged in the business of collecting debt with its principal place of business located in Houston, Texas. (Id.)

Plaintiff is a black man who is also known as "A.J." by his family and close friends. (Pl.'s Decl. at 2.) In 2007, plaintiff declared bankruptcy. (Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogs. at 4.) Related to his bankruptcy filing, plaintiff listed all of his creditors, insofar as he was aware of them, and no debt to defendant was identified in that bankruptcy. (Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogs. at 4.)

On June 3, 2008, plaintiff received three telephone calls. (Pl.'s Decl. at 2.) In the first call, which was received at 11:33 a.m., the caller asked to speak to "A.J." (Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogs. at 2.) Plaintiff did not identify himself but asked who was calling. (Id.) Plaintiff and the caller went back and forth asking each other to identify themselves, during which the caller became louder and more insistent. (Pl.'s Decl. at 2.) Plaintiff, growing weary of the exchange, hung up the phone. (Id.)

The second call was received at approximately 11:43 a.m. (Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogs. at 2.) The caller said something similar to the following: "Are you going to be a man and talk to me." (Id.) Plaintiff responded by saying "Screw you" and hung up the telephone. (Id.)

The third call was received at approximately 11:44 a.m. (Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogs. at 2.) Plaintiff did not answer the telephone and, instead, directed the call to voice mail where the caller left a message replete with threats, coarse language, and racial slurs. (See id.) In this message, the caller identified the address and telephone number of defendant's Irwindale, California call center, and stated the full name of defendant. (Id.)

On June 3, 2008, at approximately 2:38 p.m., 4:43 p.m., and 4:46 p.m., plaintiff contacted defendant to complain about the telephone calls. (Pl.'s Decl. at 3.) Plaintiff dialed the number left in the voice mail message (1-800-727-5848), though the number that appears on his attached cell phone bill at those times is 1-800-352-3778. (Id.) Each call began with the receiver saying "GC Services." (Id.) Eventually reaching Michael Swain, a supervisor, plaintiff played the voice mail message, upon which Mr. Swain allegedly said "We might have made a mistake" and promised to return plaintiff's call after investigating the incident. (Id. at 3-4.)

Neither Mr. Swain nor any other representative of defendant contacted plaintiff again. (Id. at 4.)

Defendant denies that any of its representatives ever contacted plaintiff. Defendant claims that, as of June 3, 2008, plaintiff did not owe a debt to defendant or to any person, company or entity of whom defendant is the direct or indirect assignee. (Def.'s Resp. to Interrogs. at 3.) Defendant further claims that it has no record of any account relating to plaintiff. (Swain Decl. ¶ 3(a); Def.'s Resp. to Interrogs. at 1-2, 4.)

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 19, 2009, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant GC Services asserting three causes of action: (1) violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.; (2) invasion of privacy; and (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff seeks actual damages, statutory damages, punitive damages, and costs / attorney's fees. On April 29, 2009, defendant GC Services filed an answer.

On February 24, 2010, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. On March 11, 2010, plaintiff filed an opposition. On March ...


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