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Fish v. Stone, Higgs & Drexler, P.C.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

December 29, 2017

BENJAMIN FISH, Plaintiff,
v.
STONE, HIGGS & DREXLER, P.C., Defendant.

          ORDER

          SAMUEL H. MAYS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Benjamin Fish brings this action against Defendant Stone, Higgs & Drexler, P.C., alleging violation of Section 1692(i) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Before the Court are three motions.

         First is Defendant's July 12, 2017 Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 17; see also ECF No. 17-1.) Plaintiff responded on August 9, 2017. (ECF No. 23.) Defendant replied on August 23, 2017. (ECF No. 25.)

         Second is Defendant's July 12, 2017 Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions Against Plaintiff's Counsel (“Rule 11 Motion”). (ECF No. 18; see ECF No. 18-1.) Plaintiff responded on July 26, 2017. (ECF No. 22.)

         Third is Plaintiff's July 26, 2017 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 20.) Defendant responded on August 23, 2017. (ECF No. 24.) Plaintiff replied on September 6, 2017. (ECF No. 26.)

         For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Defendant's Rule 11 Motion are DENIED.

         I. Background

         At all relevant times, Plaintiff resided in Horn Lake, Mississippi. (ECF No. 24-1 at 285.)[1] Plaintiff received a loan from Pioneer Credit Company (“Pioneer”).[2] (ECF No. 21-1 at 183.) The loan was issued in the form of a check, which was mailed to Plaintiff's home. (Id. at 183-84.) After receiving the check, Plaintiff went to a bank branch in Horn Lake, endorsed the check, and cashed it. (Id. at 185-86.)

         On November 13, 2014, Pioneer filed an action against Plaintiff in the DeSoto County Justice Court in Southaven, Mississippi, to collect on the loan. (ECF No. 21-2 at 189-90.) Plaintiff was given the opportunity to defend against the action, but did not. (ECF No. 23-1 at 250.) On December 19, 2014, Pioneer obtained a judgment against Plaintiff in the amount of $1, 513.00. (ECF No. 24-1 at 191.)

         On June 4, 2015, Defendant filed a Notice of Filing of Foreign Judgment in the Circuit Court of Tennessee for the Thirtieth Judicial District at Memphis on behalf of Pioneer. (ECF No. 17-4 at 83.) The Notice sought to enforce the Mississippi judgment against Plaintiff. (Id. at 83-84.) On February 11, 2016, the Circuit Court of Tennessee issued a summons requiring Plaintiff to answer or object to the judgment against him within thirty days. (ECF No. 21-3 at 203.) Should Plaintiff fail, “the Clerk may issue execution on the foreign judgment against [Plaintiff].” (Id.) Plaintiff was served with the summons on March 7, 2016. (ECF No. 23-1 at 252; ECF No. 17-6 at 95.) Plaintiff did not answer or object.

         On May 16, 2016, the Circuit Court entered an Order Authenticating and Enrolling Foreign Judgement. (ECF No. 17-7.) The Order authenticated the Mississippi judgment “[in] the sum of $1, 676.50, including interest at 5.25 percent per annum through the date of the entry of this order, and 10 percent interest post-judgment.” (Id.)

         On August 22, 2016, Defendant asked the Circuit Court to issue a writ of fieri facias -- a document allowing the county sheriff to seize Plaintiff's assets in the amount of the judgment -- and asked the Court to “[l]evy execution on the wages of [Plaintiff].” (ECF No. 21-3 at 208-10; ECF No. 17-9 at 101.) On September 20, 2016, a Notice of Garnishment was served on Plaintiff's then-current employer, Radial. (ECF No. 23-1 at 252; ECF No. 17-9 at 101.) On October 20, 2016, Radial filed its Answer of Garnishee for Wages and Salary. (ECF No. 23-1 at 252; ECF No. 17-10 at 104.) On March 7, 2017, Defendant informed the Circuit Court that the judgment against Plaintiff had been satisfied on February 17, 2017. (ECF No. 23-1 at 215.)

         On February 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed this Complaint against Defendant alleging violation of Section § 1692i of the FDCPA. (ECF No. 1 at 1.)

         II. Jurisdiction

         The Court has federal-question jurisdiction. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, U.S. district courts have original jurisdiction “of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” The Complaint asserts that Defendant “violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692i(a)(2) by bringing a legal action on a debt against Plaintiff . . . where the action was not brought in the judicial district . . . where Plaintiff resides or signed the contract creating the Debt.” (ECF No. 1 at 6.) That claim arises under the laws of the United States.[3]

         III. Standard of Review

         A. Summary Judgment

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court shall grant a party's motion for summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party can meet this burden by pointing out to the court that the nonmoving party, having had sufficient opportunity for discovery, has no evidence to support an essential element of his case. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); Asbury v. Teodosio, 412 F. App'x 786, 791 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)).

         When confronted with a properly-supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “A genuine dispute exists when the plaintiff presents significant probative evidence on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for her.” EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., 782 F.3d 753, 760 (6th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted). The nonmoving party must do more than simply “‘show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'” Adcor Indus., Inc. v. Bevcorp, LLC, 252 F. App'x 55, 61 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)).

         A party may not oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by mere reliance on the pleadings. See Beckett v. Ford, 384 F. App'x 435, 443 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324). Instead, the nonmoving party must adduce concrete evidence on which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his favor. Stalbosky v. Belew, 205 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2000); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The court does not have the duty to search the record for such evidence. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); InterRoyal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989).

         Although summary judgment must be used carefully, it “is an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action[, ] rather than a disfavored procedural shortcut.” FDIC v. Jeff Miller Stables, 573 F.3d 289, 294 (6th Cir. 2009) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         The standard remains the same when both parties move for summary judgment. Taft Broad. Co. v. United States, 929 F.2d 240, 248 (6th Cir. 1991). “When reviewing cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must evaluate each motion on its own merits and view all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Wiley v. United States (In re Wiley), 20 F.3d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1994).

         B. Rule 11

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(b) provides that, when an attorney signs a written motion or pleading, the attorney certifies that the claims made therein are warranted by existing law or are nonfrivolous arguments to extend, modify, or reverse existing law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b). The purpose of Rule 11 is to deter baseless filings. Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 393 (1990).

         “[T]he test for the imposition of Rule 11 sanctions is whether the individual's conduct was reasonable under the circumstances.” Tropf v. Fidelity Nat'l Title Ins. Co., 289 F.3d 929, 939 (6th Cir. 2002). Rule 11 “stresses the need for some prefiling inquiry into both the facts and the law to satisfy the affirmative duty imposed by the rule.” Albright v. Upjohn, 788 F.2d 1217, 1221 (6th Cir. 1986). Rule 11 permits sanctions if “a reasonable inquiry discloses the pleading, motion, or paper is (1) not well grounded in fact, (2) not warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law, or (3) interposed for any improper purpose such as harassment or delay.” Merritt v. Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, 613 F.3d 609, 626 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations marks and citation omitted).

         IV. ...


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