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Young v. Medicredit Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

April 26, 2019

JENNIFER YOUNG and CHRISTOPHER LUSK, Plaintiffs,
v.
MEDICREDIT INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY F. ATLAS SENIOR UNTCEJZ STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) [Doc. # 23] filed by Defendant Medicredit Inc. (“Medicredit”), seeking summary judgment on claims asserted by Plaintiff Jennifer Young.[1] Plaintiff Young filed a Response [Doc. # 26], and Medicredit filed a Reply [Doc. # 27]. Having carefully reviewed the full record and applicable legal authorities, the Court grants Medicredit's Motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In February 2015, Plaintiff incurred a debt in connection with a visit to Swedish Medical Center (“Swedish”) in Denver, Colorado, for medical treatment (the “February Visit”). During the February Visit, Plaintiff provided Swedish with her cellphone number and signed the “Conditions of Admission and Consent for Outpatient Care” (“February Consent”). In that document, Plaintiff gave consent for Swedish or its collection agents to contact her by telephone, including the use of “prerecorded/artificial voice messages and/or use of an automatic dialing device.” See February Consent, Exh. C to Motion, ¶ 10.

         Plaintiff incurred a second debt in connection with a visit to Swedish for medical treatment in August 2015 (the “August Visit”). During the August Visit, Plaintiff again provided Swedish with the same telephone number and signed the “Conditions of Admission and Consent for Outpatient Care” (“August Consent”). By her signature, Plaintiff again gave consent for Swedish or its collection agents to contact her by telephone, including the use of “pre-recorded/artificial voice messages and/or use of an automatic dialing device.” See August Consent, Exh. D to Motion, ¶ 10.

         Plaintiff failed to pay her debt to Swedish. Plaintiff claims that she disputed the debt as excessive. Swedish placed the delinquent account for the February Visit with Medicredit on December 2, 2015. Medicredit began contacting Plaintiff by telephone on December 7, 2015. Swedish placed the delinquent account for the August Visit with Medicredit on May 10, 2016.

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on December 7, 2017. Plaintiff alleges that Medicredit contacted her by telephone in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).[2]After the close of discovery, Defendant moved for summary judgment on all claims. The Motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for decision.

         II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the entry of summary judgment against a plaintiff who fails to make a sufficient showing of the existence of an element essential to her case and on which she will bear the burden at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Curtis v. Anthony, 710 F.3d 587, 594 (5th Cir. 2013); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). Summary judgment should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and other admissible materials in the record show that there is no genuine, triable issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23, 327; Curtis, 710 F.3d at 594.

         For summary judgment, the initial burden falls on the movant to identify areas essential to the non-movant's claim in which there is an “absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” ACE Am. Ins. Co. v. Freeport Welding & Fabricating, Inc., 699 F.3d 832, 839 (5th Cir. 2012). The moving party, however, “need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's case.” Coastal Agric. Supply, Inc. v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 759 F.3d 498, 505 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005)). The moving party may meet its burden by pointing out “the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.” Malacara v. Garber, 353 F.3d 393, 404 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Stults v. Conoco, Inc., 76 F.3d 651, 656 (5th Cir. 1996)).

         If the moving party meets its initial burden, the non-movant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine, triable issue for trial. See Gen. Universal Sys., Inc. v. Lee, 379 F.3d 131, 141 (5th Cir. 2004); Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001) (internal citation omitted). “An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Spring Street Partners-IV, L.P. v. Lam, 730 F.3d 427, 435 (5th Cir. 2013). “A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” DIRECT TV Inc. v. Robson, 420 F.3d 532, 536 (5th Cir. 2006) (internal citations omitted).

         In deciding whether a genuine and material fact issue has been created, the court reviews the facts and inferences to be drawn from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Reaves Brokerage Co. v. Sunbelt Fruit & Vegetable Co., 336 F.3d 410, 412 (5th Cir. 2003). A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant. Tamez v. Manthey, 589 F.3d 764, 769 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). “‘Conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.'” Pioneer Exploration, L.L.C. v. Steadfast Ins. Co., 767 F.3d 503, 511 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002)); accord Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 399 (5th Cir. 2008). Instead, the nonmoving party must present specific facts which show “the existence of a genuine issue concerning every essential component of its case.” Firman v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 684 F.3d 533, 538 (5th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In the absence of any proof, the court will not assume that the non-movant could or would prove the necessary facts. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (citing Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990)).

         The Court may make no credibility determinations or weigh any evidence. See Chaney v. Dreyfus Serv. Corp., 595 F.3d 219, 229 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing Reaves Brokerage Co., 336 F.3d at 412-13). The Court is not required, however, to accept the nonmovant's conclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions which are either entirely unsupported, or supported by a mere scintilla of evidence. Id. (citing Reaves Brokerage, 336 F.3d at 413); accord, Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         The “substance or content of the evidence submitted to support or dispute a fact on summary judgment must be admissible, ” although the evidence need not be in admissible form at the summary judgment phase. See Lee v. Offshore Logistical & Transp., L.L.C., 859 F.3d 353, 355 (5th Cir. 2017). Affidavits cannot preclude summary judgment unless they contain competent and otherwise admissible ...


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