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Elizabeth H. Katz, Pro Se v. Main Street Acquisition Corp.

April 26, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge


Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (MSJ, ECF No. 16.) Plaintiff Elizabeth H. Katz, proceeding pro se, opposes the motion (Opp'n, ECF No. 24), and Defendants have replied (Reply, ECF No. 25). Having considered the parties' arguments and the law, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.


Plaintiff filed the underlying Complaint in this Court on August 17, 2011, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e(2), e(10), and f(1), by all Defendants. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff states she sent Defendants a "validation letter" after receiving notice of a debt collection lawsuit filed against her in San Diego Superior Court, but she never received a letter from Defendants in response. (Compl. 2.) She now brings this action under the FDCPA, claiming Defendants falsely represented the character, amount, or legal status of her debt, used false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect a debt, and collected or attempted to collect an amount not authorized by law or agreement.

Defendants answered, and subsequently brought the instant motion for summary judgment. In it, Defendants provide more background facts, which Plaintiff has not contested, except to say there is "no proof." (Opp'n 2.) Defendants state that Wells Fargo sold Plaintiff's credit card debt of approximately $3,223.71 to Defendant Main Street Acquisition Corporation ("Main Street") at some point in 2010. (MSJ 1, Ex. B.) On December 6, 2010, Main Street retained Defendant Gordon & Wong Law Group ("G&W") to assist in collecting the debt. Defendants Gordon, Wong, and Ford are attorneys at G&W, and Defendant Stewart is President of Main Street.

According to Defendants, G&W sent an initial demand letter to Plaintiff on December 9, 2010, advising her of her right to dispute the debt. (MSJ 2, Ex. B.) The letter was not returned as undeliverable, but Plaintiff never replied. (MSJ 2.) Plaintiff states she received no written communication from any Defendant prior to April 11, 2011. (Compl. ¶ 12.) G&W then made "several unsuccessful attempts" to reach Plaintiff by mail and phone. (MSJ 2.) On April 11, 2011, G&W filed suit against Plaintiff in state court to collect the debt. Plaintiff was served with the summons and complaint in that case on or around April 18, 2011. (Id.)

In a letter dated May 1, 2011, Plaintiff sent G&W a "request for VALIDATION" in response to a "notice sent to [Plaintiff] on April 20, 2011," citing § 1692g of the FDCPA. (MSJ Ex. C.) The letter states: "I respectfully request that your offices provide me with competent evidence that I have any legal obligation to pay you," and demands several specific pieces of information and documentation.*fn1 (Id.)

Although Defendants allege G&W had no legal requirement to respond to Plaintiff's May 1, 2011 letter because the validation request was outside the 30-day validation period mandated by the FDCPA, G&W apparently sent a response anyway on May 16, 2011. (MSJ 2.) According to Defendants, this letter provided verification of Plaintiff's debt, stating: "Pursuant to your request we have verified with our client that you are the correct debtor in regard to this matter, further their records show that the balance is due and owing. . . . At this time we are not required to send additional information." (MSJ Ex. D.) Plaintiff asserts she never received any such letter from Defendants in response to her request. (Compl. ¶ 14.) She subsequently brought this action, and Defendants now move for summary judgment. The Court took the matter under submission without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1.


1. Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 permits a court to grant summary judgment where (1) the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Material," for purposes of Rule 56, means that the fact, under governing substantive law, could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). For a dispute to be "genuine," a reasonable jury must be able to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

The initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact falls on the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant can carry his burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party "failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof." Id. at 322-23. "Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

Once the moving party establishes the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth facts showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact remains. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The nonmoving party cannot oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by "rest[ing] on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts ...

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