United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
SPARKS, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the
above-styled cause, and specifically Defendants Midland
Funding, LLC ("Midland"), and Scott &
Associates, P.C. ("Scott") (collectively,
"Defendants")'s Motion for Summary Judgment
[#24], Plaintiff Prentiss McKay's Response [#28] in
opposition, and Defendants' Reply [#31] in support.
Having considered the case file and the applicable law, the
Court enters the following opinion and order.
case relates to Defendants' debt collection efforts
against McKay. McKay incurred debt on a Best Buy branded
credit card, and the defaulted debt was later transferred to
Midland. See Resp. [#28] at 2-3. The contract
underlying the alleged debt was signed in San Antonio, Texas.
Id. Scott filed a debt collection lawsuit on behalf
of Midland on November 29, 2016, in Travis County Justice of
the Peace Court, Precinct 2. Jt. Stipulation [#23] at ¶
1. McKay lived within Precinct 3 of the Travis County Justice
Court & Constable Precincts when the debt collection
lawsuit was filed. See Id. at ¶¶ 5-6;
Resp. [#28] at 2. McKay moved to transfer the case to
Precinct 3, and Midland dismissed its debt collection
lawsuit. Compl. [#1] at ¶ 29.
filed this lawsuit on April 27, 2017, alleging Defendants
violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by
filing the debt collection lawsuit in the wrong precinct of
the justice court. See Compl. [#1] at 24-30.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment on an issue of
statutory interpretation. See Mot. Summ. J. [#24].
The motion is fully briefed and ripe for consideration.
Legal Standard-Summary Judgment
judgment shall be rendered when the pleadings, the discovery
and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986); Washburn v. Harvey, 504
F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007). A dispute regarding a material
fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the
nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the court is required to view all inferences drawn
from the factual record in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washburn, 504
F.3d at 508. Further, a court "may not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence" in ruling on a
motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000);
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254-55.
the moving party has made an initial showing that there is no
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the party
opposing the motion must come forward with competent summary
judgment evidence of the existence of a genuine fact issue.
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Mere conclusory
allegations are not competent summary judgment evidence, and
thus are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary
judgment. Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476
F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007). Unsubstantiated assertions,
improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation are not
competent summary judgment evidence. Id. The party
opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific
evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner
in which that evidence supports his claim. Adams v.
Travelers Indent. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 164 (5th
Cir. 2006). Rule 56 does not impose a duty on the court to
"sift through the record in search of evidence" to
support the nonmovant's opposition to the motion for
summary judgment. Id.
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing laws will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
Disputed fact issues that are "irrelevant and
unnecessary" will not be considered by a court in ruling
on a summary judgment motion. Id. If the nonmoving
party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to its case and on which it
will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment must
be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.
indicated above, this motion involves an issue of statutory
interpretation. The FDCPA limits where debt collectors may
bring legal actions against consumers. See 15
U.S.C.A. § 1692i. For legal actions not involving real
property interests, a debt collector may "bring such
action only in the judicial district or similar legal entity
(A) in which such consumer signed the contract sued upon; or
(B) in which such consumer resides at the commencement of the
action." Id. The parties dispute "judicial
district or similar legal entity" should be interpreted.
asserts Defendants violated the FDCPA by filing a debt
collection action in the wrong precinct of the justice court.
Compl. [#1] at 24-30. On summary judgment, Defendants argue
the term "judicial district" refers to counties in
Texas. Mot. Summ. J. [#24] at 4. Defendants contend they
complied with § 1692i by filing their debt collection
action in Travis County, the same county where McKay resided
when the suit was filed. Id. at 6.
the FDCPA does not define "judicial district or similar
legal entity, " and the Fifth Circuit has yet to
interpret the statute in this context. In Suesz v. Med-1
Solutions, LLC, the Seventh Circuit held "the
relevant judicial district or similar legal entity is the
smallest geographic area relevant to venue in the court
system in which the case is filed." 757 F.3d 636, 643
(7th Cir. 2014) (en banc), cert denied,757 F.3d 636
(2014). This Court is persuaded by the analysis and reasoning
in Suesz, including that prescribed venue-based
approach (1) furthers the policy objectives of the FDCPA by
discouraging abusive forum-shopping by debt collectors, (2)
creates more predictability and easier application compared
to other alternative approaches, (3) comports with the broad
statutory language in § 1692i, and (4) adapts the venue
provision in § 16921 to the varied court systems among
and within the states. See Id. at ...