United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
NICOLE REYES, ET AL.
JULIA PLACE CONDOMINIUM HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., ET AL.
ORDER & REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by
Defendant, Steeg Law (R. Doc. 679), and Plaintiff, Nicole
Reyes (R. Doc. 670). The parties ask the Court to determine,
inter alia, whether Steeg Law is a “debt
collector” for purposes of the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Having considered the
motions and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable
law, the Court finds that Steeg Law's motion (R. Doc.
679) should be GRANTED, and Plaintiff's motion (R. Doc.
670) should be DENIED.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
case has a long history, as evidenced by more than
eight-hundred docket entries. Recently, on October 12, 2016,
Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles conducted a settlement
conference and reported that a partial settlement was
reached. (R. Doc. 785.) The settlement resolved
Plaintiffs' claims against all Defendants, except Steeg
Law and Julia Place Condominiums Homeowners Association, Inc.
(“Julia Place”). Id. Thereafter, this
Court decertified Plaintiffs' FDCPA class and usury
class. (R. Doc. 804.) The present cross-motions for summary
judgment relate mainly to the FDCPA and whether Steeg Law is
a “debt collector.” In short, Plaintiff argues
that Steeg Law is a “debt collector” as defined
under the FDCPA, and Steeg Law argues to the contrary. The
motions are now before the Court on the briefs and without
argues that “Steeg has engaged in debt collection
activity every month from February of 2008 through the filing
of this lawsuit in August of 2012, and beyond.” (R.
Doc. 670-1 at 1-2.) In support of her motion for summary
judgment, Plaintiff submitted three exhibits- documents
relied upon for the summary exhibit produced, a summary
exhibit created by plaintiff of all documents, and a summary
of redacted billing records-that she argues prove Steeg Law
is “debt collector” as defined by the FDCPA.
Id. at 3. Plaintiff argues that the exhibits
demonstrate 1, 049 activities that are “directly
related to collection of condominium assessments from unit
owners between January 4, 2010 and December 5, 2012, ”
thus making Steeg Law a “debt collector.”
Id. Plaintiff further argues that Steeg Law is a
debt collector because its website markets debt collection
and representing condominium associations. Id. at 3.
Steeg Law's Arguments
Law argues that (1) it is not a “debt collector”
under the FDCPA, (2) Plaintiff lacks a cause of action
against it under Louisiana usury law, (3) Plaintiff may not
claim Steeg Law was negligent because it did not owe her a
duty under the law, and (4) that Plaintiff's class-wide
damages are limited under the FDCPA. (R. Doc. 679-3 at 1.) As
to Plaintiff's “debt collector” argument,
Steeg Law asserts that Plaintiff's argument lacks
evidentiary support. See (R. Doc. 708.)
Specifically, Steeg Law argues that the exhibits produced by
Plaintiff are based on assumptions from redacted invoices and
privilege logs, and that the information produced is not
proper summary judgment evidence. Id. at 1. Steeg
Law further asserts that it is not a “debt
collector” under the FDCPA because it does not
regularly engage in debt collection, and debt collection is
not its principal business. Id. at 6-18; see
also (R. Doc. 708.) Steeg Law argues that its billable
hours for debt collection for the two years prior to the
filing of this suit constitute less than 1.5% of its annual
revenue. (R. Doc. 679-3 at 7.) Further, Steeg Law argues that
its collection work amounted to less than 1% of its case load
in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Id. at 8. Steeg Law also
argues that it sent less than thirty lien letters on behalf
of its condominium association clients during the time period
prescribed by this Court, and that many of those letters
sought debts that were not “consumer debts” under
the FDCPA. Id. at 13. Finally, Steeg Law argues that
its alleged collection activities constituted less than 1.3%
of its revenue in 2012, less than 1.1% in 2011, and less than
1.0% in 2010. Id. at 15. For these reasons, Steeg
Law argues that it is not a debt collector under the FDCPA.
Steeg Law also argues that it is not liable for any violation
of Louisiana usury law, because it has not charged any
allegedly usurious interest or late fees. (R. Doc. 679-3 at
18.) Further, Steeg Law argues that Plaintiff's
negligence claim against it should be dismissed because it
did not owe Plaintiff a duty under Louisiana law.
Id. at 19. Finally, Steeg Law argues that
Plaintiff's class-wide damages are limited under the
FDCPA to 1% of Steeg Law's net worth. Id. at 21.
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c));
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any
material fact exists, a court considers “all of the
evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility
determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta
& Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co.,
530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences
are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot
defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or
unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable
jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.
dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear
the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must
come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a
directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at
trial.'” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v.
Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir.
1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by
either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or
“showing that the moving party's evidence is so
sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to
return a verdict in favor of the moving party.”
Id. at 1265.
dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will
bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may
satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence
in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential
element of the nonmoving party's claim. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the
nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to
evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue
exists. See Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest