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McDaniel v. Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division

November 15, 2019

WILLIAM MCDANIEL and ALEXIS MCDANIEL, Plaintiffs,
v.
CENTRAL OREGON & PACIFIC RAILROAD, INC., et al., Defendants.

          FRENSLEY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Commercial Services Group, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 24). Plaintiffs filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 35), and Defendant filed a Reply (Doc. No. 37). For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In February of 2015, Plaintiff William McDaniel accepted a job with Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Inc. (Doc. No. 1). In connection with accepting that job, Plaintiff signed a Relocation Repayment Agreement (“the Agreement”) which provided for a forgivable loan in the amount of Plaintiff's relocation expenses. (Id. at ¶ 8; Doc. No. 1-1, PageID #12). The Agreement also provided that if Plaintiff voluntarily terminated his employment for any reason or was dismissed by Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Inc for just cause, that Plaintiff would have to repay all or a portion of the loan based on the repayment schedule. (Doc. No. 1-1, PageID #12; Doc. No. 34 ¶ 3).

         On or about March 30, 2016, Plaintiff submitted a resignation letter to his supervisor at Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Inc. (See Doc. No. 34 ¶ 4; Doc. No. 1 ¶ 9). Following Plaintiff's resignation, Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Inc. demanded repayment of the monies and sued Plaintiff to recover the same. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 10). While that action was pending, Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Inc. engaged Defendant Commercial Services Group Inc. (“CSG”), to collect the disputed debt from Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 11). Plaintiffs allege CSG called Plaintiff William McDaniel on his cellular phone without permission approximately 10 times and called Plaintiff Alexis McDaniel on her cellular phone without permission approximately 15 times. (Id. at ¶¶ 35, 37). Plaintiffs further allege CSG uses an automatic telephone dialing system. (Id. at ¶ 34).

         Plaintiffs filed this action on September 5, 2018, alleging, in pertinent part, that Defendant CSG violated provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) 47 U.S.C. § 227 et seq.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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 party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts. Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595 (6th Cir. 2003). The moving party may satisfy this burden by presenting affirmative evidence that negates an element of the non-moving party's claim or by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Id.

         In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the court views the facts in the light most favorable for the nonmoving party, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Bible Believers v. Wayne Cty., Mich., 805 F.3d 228, 242 (6th Cir. 2015); Wexler v. White's Fine Furniture, Inc., 317 F.3d 564, 570 (6th Cir. 2003). The Court does not weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of the matter. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Rather, the Court determines whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of material fact a proper jury question. Id. The mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position is insufficient to survive summary judgment; instead, there must be evidence of which the jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595 (6th Cir. 2003).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

         Defendant argues it is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs' FDCPA claims because the subject debt is a business debt rather than a consumer debt, and therefore not subject to the FDCPA. (Doc. No. 24 at 1; Doc. No. 25 at 10). The FDCPA defines a “debt” as:

… any obligation or alleged obligation of a consumer to pay money arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, ...

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