United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
MARY R. REYNOLDS, Plaintiff,
MEDICREDIT, INC., Defendant,
RODRIGUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
date, the Court considered Defendant's Motion for
Attorney's Fees (docket no. 36), Plaintiff's response
(docket no. 41), and Defendant's reply (docket no. 42).
After careful consideration, the Court DENIES Defendant's
case resulted from Defendant Medicredit's attempt to
collect two debts owed by Plaintiff Mary Reynolds for
healthcare services rendered in 2017 by Methodist Specialty
& Transport Hospital (“Methodist”). Methodist
turned over collection of these debts to Defendant.
Defendant's subsequent collection efforts led to
Plaintiff's filing of this suit on January 31, 2018.
Docket no. 1.
causes of action and theories of recovery changed over the
course of the suit. In her original complaint, Plaintiff
brought claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act,
and the Texas Debt Collection Act based on allegedly
excessive and harassing phone calls. Id. Plaintiff
was later granted leave to amend the complaint, and the
Amended Complaint omits claims related to Defendant's
phone calls and focuses on Defendant's allegedly illegal
debt collection letters, leaving only FDCPA claims. Docket
claims were based on two debt collection letters. She alleged
that “Defendant misleadingly assigned two completely
different obligations with the same self-generated account
number” and that this “conduct had the natural
consequence of confusing Plaintiff as to the true character
and amount of the purported obligations.” Docket no. 19
at 4. Thus, the gist of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was
that Defendant unlawfully confused Plaintiff by including the
same internal account number on both letters even though the
letters pertain to separate debts.
Court granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on
the basis that no reasonable factfinder could find the
correspondence at issue misleading. In that order, the Court
The Court agrees that the letters deceive or mislead only
under a “bizarre or idiosyncratic” reading. Even
the unsophisticated consumer-when reading the letters as a
whole, with some care-would note the differing client account
numbers, the dates of service that differ by more than four
months, and the large gap between the two balances of $600
and $75. That unsophisticated consumer would see that these
differences show that the letters refer to separate debts.
No. reasonable factfinder could find otherwise.
no. 32. at 8-9.
largely on this language in the summary judgment order,
Defendant moves for attorney's fees pursuant to 15 U.S.C.
FDCPA provides for an award of reasonable attorney's fees
to the a prevailing defendant on “a finding . . . that
[this] action . . . was brought in bad faith and for the
purpose of harassment.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3).
The Fifth Circuit has held that “[t]o recover
attorney's fees under the FDCPA, the prevailing defendant
must show affirmatively that the plaintiff brought the FDCPA
claim in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment.”
Perry v. Stewart Title Co., 756 F.2d 1197, 1211 (5th
Cir. 1985). “The terms ‘bad faith' and
‘harassment' indicate ‘more than simply bad
judgment or negligence' and imply ‘the conscious
doing of a wrong because of a dishonest purpose or moral
obliquity.'” Tejero v. Portfolio Recovery
Assocs. LLC, 2018 WL 1612856, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 2,
2018) (quoting Rodriguez v. IC Sys., 2017 WL
2105679, at *2 (W.D. Tex. May 12, 2017)). “A bad-faith
lawsuit is one ‘where the suit is so completely without
hope of succeeding that the court can infer that the
plaintiff brought the suit to harass . . . rather than to
obtain a favorable judgment.'” Cunningham v.
Credit Management, L.P., 2010 WL 3791049, at *2 (N.D.
Tex. Sept. 27, 2010) (citing Grant v. Barro, 2007 WL
3244986, at *1 (M.D. La. Nov. 1, 2007)). This provision,
however, “should be construed narrowly as not to
discourage private litigation under the FDCPA.”
Wattie-Bey v. Modern Recovery Solutions, 2016 WL
822911, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 30, 2016).