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Janet Heathman v. Portfolio Recovery Associates

February 27, 2013

JANET HEATHMAN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
PORTFOLIO RECOVERY ASSOCIATES,
LLC,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez United States District Judge

ORDER:

1. GRANTING IN PART AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION

FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND DENYING IN PART [Doc. No. 30]

2. DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS [Doc. No. 34]

Before the Court are Plaintiff Janet Heathman's motion for summary judgment as to liability, [Doc. No. 30], and motion for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37, [Doc. No. 34]. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for sanctions.

BACKGROUND

This case arises from a debt collection action in San Diego Superior Court admittedly filed against the wrong party. Plaintiff's summary judgment motion requests summary adjudication on the undisputed facts as to Defendant Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC ("PRA")'s liability under several sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") and parallel sections of California's Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("Rosenthal Act"). Plaintiff's motion for sanctions seeks to exclude evidence of a nonparty's debt, which PRA relies upon in opposing summary judgment, because the nonparty's debt was never disclosed during discovery.

I. Undisputed Material Facts

On July 21, 2011, Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC ("PRA"), a debt collector, filed a common counts complaint in San Diego Superior Court against Janet Heathman, attempting to recover $6,410.08 allegedly lent to Heathman and owed to PRA. [See Doc. No. 30-5 (S.D. Sup. Cpt.) ("Plaintiff: Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC alleges that defendant [] Janet B. Heathman became indebted to plaintiff . . . for money lent by plaintiff to defendant at defendant's request." No other name or alleged debt is mentioned in PRA's complaint. [See Doc. No. 30-5.]

Heathman answered the state court complaint and propounded discovery requests, requesting, inter alia, the identities of the parties to the alleged debt. [See Doc. No. 30-4 (Decl. of Recordon).] PRA did not respond to the discovery requests but instead voluntarily dismissed the state court action. [Id.] The parties now agree that Heathman was erroneously sued; no debt, credit, or any other relationship ever existed between Heathman and PRA. [See, e.g., Doc. No. 31 (Def. Opp. to MSJ) (conceding their attorneys "erroneously filed a lawsuit against Ms. Heathman.").]

II. Procedural History

On January 25, 2012, Plaintiff filed the original complaint commencing this action, [Doc. No. 1], and on April 5, 2012, Plaintiff filed the operative amended complaint, [Doc. No. 15]. On June 1, 2012, Magistrate Judge Reuben Brooks entered a scheduling order setting a discovery cutoff of January 30, 2013. [Doc. No. 24.] On December 4, 2012, Plaintiff filed the present motion for summary judgment. [Doc. No. 30.] Defendant filed its opposition to summary judgment on January 8, 2013. [Doc. No. 31.] On January 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed a reply, [Doc. No. 33], and the present motion for sanctions, [Doc. No. 34]. On February 5, 2013, Defendant filed its opposition to Plaintiff's motion for sanctions, [Doc. No. 38], and on February 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed a reply, [Doc. No. 39]. The Court heard oral argument on February 19, 2013. [Doc. No. 40.]

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Legal Standard

"Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine and disputed issues of material fact remain, and when, viewing the evidence most favorably to the nonmoving party, the movant is clearly entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Satterfield v. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 569 F.3d 946, 950 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56). Where, as here, "the moving party has the burden of proof at trial, that party must carry its initial burden at summary judgment by presenting evidence affirmatively showing, for all essential elements of its case, that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Fara Estates Homeowners Ass'n v. Fara Estates, Ltd., 134 F.3d 377, 378 (9th Cir. 1998); see also Miller v. Glenn Miller Productions, Inc., 454 F.3d 975, 987 (9th Cir. 2006) ("When the party moving . . . would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence . . . establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.").

"When the moving party has carried its [initial] burden[], its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "[T]he nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 587. And "there is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 ...


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