United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
OPINION AND ORDER
KRISTINE G. BAKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
the Court is defendant Credit Control Company, Inc.'s
(“Credit Control”) motion for summary judgment
(Dkt. No. 11). Credit Control seeks summary judgment on
plaintiff Ryan Wesley Wilder's claims pursuant to the
federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), Pub. L. 95-109; 91 Stat. 974, codified
as 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p, and the Arkansas Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act (“AFDCPA”),
Arkansas Code Annotated §§ 17-24-501, et
seq. Mr. Wilder filed a response in opposition to the
motion (Dkt. No. 16). For the following reasons, the Court
grants Credit Control's motion for summary judgment and
dismisses Mr. Wilder's claims (Dkt. No. 11).
Factual And Procedural Background
Control filed a statement of material facts not in dispute,
and Mr. Wilder responded (Dkt. Nos. 13, 15). The following
facts are taken from Mr. Wilder's response to Credit
Control's statement of material facts not in dispute
(Dkt. No. 15), unless otherwise specified by notation.
Wilder is an adult resident of the State of Arkansas and is a
consumer within the meaning of the FDCPA (Id., at
1). Credit Control is a debt collection agency within the
meaning of the FDCPA and the AFDCPA (Id., at 1-2).
Little Rock Ambulance Authority, doing business as MEMS
(“MEMS”), is a municipal ambulance and emergency
medical services organization operating in the Central
Arkansas area including but not limited to Pulaski County,
Arkansas, pursuant to state and local authority
(Id., at 2). MEMS engages Credit Control to collect
delinquent accounts for ambulance and emergency medical
September 17, 2015, Mr. Wilder received ambulance and
emergency medical services from MEMS (Dkt. No. 15, at 2).
MEMS sent a final invoice to Mr. Wilder on October 30, 2015
(Id.; Dkt. No. 13-1, at 1). No. insurance payment
was received for this run, and no other payment was made by
Mr. Wilder (Dkt. Nos. 13-1, at 1; 15, at 2). The September
17, 2015, services were assigned a “run number”
of 68, 475 (Dkt. No. 13-1, at 1).
April 3, 2016, MEMS electronically forwarded the unpaid
balance for the September 17, 2015, services to Credit
Control to initiate collection efforts (Dkt. Nos. 13-2, at 1;
15, at 2). The client reference number for this incident is
15-68475 (Dkt. No. 15, at 2). The client reference number is
the last two digits of the year of service followed by the
MEMS run number for that service (Id.). Credit
Control assigned an internal account number of 70983 to this
December 19, 2016, Mr. Wilder received ambulance and
emergency medical services from MEMS (Id.). Mr.
Wilder signed an authorization guaranteeing payment for these
services (Dkt. No. 17-1, at 6). A final invoice for the
December 19, 2016, services was sent to Mr. Wilder by MEMS on
February 10, 2017 (Dkt. Nos. 13-3, at 1; 15, at 3). This
invoice was assigned a run number of 93, 778 (Dkt. No. 13-3,
at 1). This invoice includes “trip notes” that
indicate “Qualchoice paid $479.74 6/16/17.”
December 20, 2016, Mr. Wilder again received ambulance and
emergency services from MEMS (Dkt. No. 15, at 3). Mr. Wilder
signed an authorization guaranteeing payment for these
services (Dkt. No. 17-2, at 7). The invoice for these
services was assigned a run number of 94, 095 (Dkt. No. 13-4,
at 1). On January 24, 2017, MEMS received an insurance
payment that paid part of the cost of the December 20, 2016,
services (Dkt. Nos. 13-4, at 1; 15, at 3).
about May 21, 2017, MEMS electronically forwarded the unpaid
balances for the December 2016 services to Credit Control to
initiate collection and copied the electronic transmission of
the 2015 services originally forwarded April 3, 2016 (Dkt.
No. 15, at 3). This included the $888.75 amount for run
16-93778 (Id., at 3). The December 19, 2016,
services with MEMS client reference number 16-93778 were
assigned as Credit Control file 8001750 by Credit Control
(Id.). The December 20, 2016, services with
MEMS-client reference number 16-94095-was assigned Credit
Control account file 8001798 (Id.).
information communicated by MEMS contained an erroneous
Social Security Number (“SSN”) beginning 151 as
opposed to Mr. Wilder's correct SSN beginning 589
(Id.). As a result, Credit Control did not associate
the December 20, 2016, claim for services with the two other
claims (Dkt. No. 15, at 4). Debt information is
electronically forwarded by MEMS to Credit Control where
Credit Control's system electronically enters it into its
collection database (Id.). There is no human
activity in this process (Id.). Thus, Credit Control
was not involved in entering an incorrect SSN for the
December 20, 2016, services (Id.).
Control uses the Collector System from Columbia Ultimate
Business Systems (“CUBS”) to receive and store
all the information for its collection accounts (Dkt. No. 15,
at 4). All information is entered into this system including
the contemporaneous notes of conversations with debtors,
information received, and actions taken (Id.).
24, 2017, Credit Control's collector “Carol,
” listed as CLZ on its internal note system, contacted
Mr. Wilder telephonically regarding MEMS account 8001750
(Id.). The conversation was cordial (Id.).
Carol properly identified herself, and, during the
conversation, Mr. Wilder informed her that he had health
insurance but that he did not know his membership number
(Dkt. No. 15, at 4). He later called back and gave her his
membership information, which Carol forwarded to MEMS on May
25, 2017 (Id.).
Hanson also testified that Credit Control, on May 24, 2017,
did not know whether a claim had been submitted to Mr.
Wilder's insurance (Dkt. No. 13-12, at 13). Mr. Hanson
further testified that Credit Control relies on MEMS to
submit medical bills to insurance companies (Id.).
Mr. Hanson also stated that Credit Control will acquire
insurance information and pass it along to MEMS for MEMS to
file a claim and that MEMS keeps Credit Control apprised of
the status of such claims (Id.). Mr. Hanson
explained that, “if [MEMS] acquire[s] insurance
information, either from me or from-if the individual calls
them up and gives them that insurance information, they will
call and advise me: We are filing insurance on this. Will you
please put a hold on the account until we see what
happens.” (Id.). On May 25, 2017, Credit
Control's records indicate that MEMS requested a 45-day
hold on Mr. Wilder's account (Dkt. No. 13-6, at 2).
Hanson further testified that, “if a lawsuit is being
filed, it is filed in MEMS name, ” not “under
[Credit Control's] name.” (Dkt. No. 13-12, at 14).
Mr. Hanson explained that Credit Control will evaluate
whether to file suit, “[a]nd at that point, we will
prepare an affidavit of the account and send it to our client
for them to make the final approval.” (Id.).
He further elaborated that “whether we file that suit
or not is entirely up to my client. They get to make that
decision . . . .” (Id.).
25, 2017, a validation letter was sent to Mr. Wilder by
Credit Control stating: “RE: MEMS AMBULANCE
16-93778;” a principal due of $888.75; that Credit
Control was a debt collector and this was an effort to
collect a debt; and setting forth Mr. Wilder's rights as
required by the FDCPA (Dkt. No. 15, at 5). The May 25, 2017,
letter from Credit Control to Mr. Wilder included the
We have been authorized by our client to demand payment in
Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving
this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any
portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the
debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of
such judgment or verification. If you request this office in
writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this
office will provide you the name and address of the original
creditor, if different from the current creditor.
Controls records indicate that, on June 1, 2017, Carol spoke
with Mr. Wilder and recommended that he “get a debit
card to cover both accounts in case ins[urance] does not pay
. . . .” (Dkt. No. 13-6, at 2). Payment of $479.74 was
received by MEMS from Mr. Wilder's health insurer on or
about June 16, 2017 (Id.).
Control's records also show that, on June 26, 2017, Carol
spoke with Mr. Wilder and that Mr. Wilder indicated that he
could not get a credit card and that he offered to pay $40.00
a week (Dkt. No. 13-6, at 3). Carol told Mr. Wilder that she
would call back next week (Id.). Also, on June 26,
2017, Credit Control sent to Mr. Wilder a letter updating the
amount owed to reflect the June 16 insurance payment
(Id.). This letter states that the “Balance
Due” is $409.01 (Dkt. No. 13-9). This letter included
the statement: “May we suggest you have your attorney
determine your liability towards this obligation.”
Hanson testified that, on July 5, 2017, Credit Control's
records indicate that Carol attempted to call Mr. Wilder and
that nobody answered (Dkt. No. 13-12, at 18).
21, 2017, Carol called Mr. Wilder at 10:00 a.m. and asked to
speak to “Ryan.” (Dkt. No. 15, at 5) Mr. Wilder
acknowledges that he had been waiting for her to call, but he
disputes that he was waiting for her to call on that specific
day and time (Id.). Mr. Wilder's version of this
call is that he had been working until 2:00 a.m. and was
awakened by Carol's call (Id.). He states that
he answered the call but was silent other than possibly
grunting (Id.). When he said nothing, the caller
said words to the effect of, “That's ok. We'll
be seeing you soon, ” and hung up (Dkt. No. 15, at 5).
Mr. Wilder characterizes this language as a threat
(Id.). In his deposition, Mr. Wilder described his
reaction to Carol's statement:
Q: The only thing you said was huh?
A: Practically, yes. Like I don't-I believe that was the
only thing that was said. There was-nothing else was said. If
anything, I might have also made a noise when I answered the
phone, but I don't even think I did that. I think I just
answered the phone and they knew I answered the phone because
the ringing stopped. And then she asked to speak to me, and I
mumbled a word. And then she said, “That's okay.
We'll be seeing you soon, ” and she hung up the
. . .
Q: And you interpreted that as a threat?
Q: A threat to do what?
A: I don't know. A threat to sue me. A threat
to-“we'll be seeing you soon, ” like
what-like I've heard people say that in the past, like
it's never been a good thing, never been a good thing. I
don't understand an instance where that would be a good
thing for someone to say that to you in a way that,
like-okay, maybe a family member will say, okay, yeah,
we'll be ...