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Midland Funding, LLC v. Mitchell-James

Appellate Court of Connecticut

March 15, 2016

MIDLAND FUNDING, LLC
v.
ANTELL MITCHELL-JAMES

         Submitted on briefs October 9, 2015.

Page 2

          Action to collect a debt, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield, where the court, Radcliffe, J., denied the defendant's motions to dismiss and to strike; thereafter, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the defendant appealed to this court.

          SYLLABUS

         The plaintiff sought to recover damages resulting from the defendant's alleged breach of a credit card agreement. The plaintiff alleged that it was the bona fide owner of the credit card debt that the defendant had owed to C Co., the prior owner of the debt, as a result of the plaintiff's having purchased title to the debt from C Co. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment as to liability and damages. The plaintiff appended to the motion an affidavit from S, who was an employee of M Co., which company serviced and maintained the defendant's credit card account on behalf of the plaintiff. S's affidavit was accompanied by certain computer generated documents that allegedly established the plaintiff's ownership and amount of the debt that the defendant owed. The defendant opposed the motion for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to establish that it was the bona fide owner of the credit card account, and that the affidavit from S contained hearsay that did not fall within the statutory ( § 52-180) business record exception to the rule against hearsay. The trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Held that the trial court improperly granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, that court having improperly concluded that the plaintiff met its burden to establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to the factual basis for its claim of ownership of the defendant's debt; although S's affidavit averred that she had personal knowledge of the defendant's account records that M Co. maintained on the plaintiff's behalf, and asserted that she was familiar with and had been trained as to the manner and method by which M Co. had created and maintained those records, the affidavit was not sufficient to admit into evidence as business records under § 52-180 the computer generated documents that were attached to her affidavit, as it failed to establish the reliability of the plaintiff's computer system that generated the documents, and did not suggest that she understood how C Co. had transmitted certain electronically stored business records to the plaintiff or how the plaintiff processed those electronic records to create the computer generated business records that resided with M Co.

         Antell Mitchell-James, self-represented, the appellant (defendant), filed a brief.

         Jeanine M. Dumont filed a brief for the appellee (plaintiff).

         DiPentima, C. J., and Beach and Sheldon, Js. DiPENTIMA, C. J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.

          OPINION

Page 3

          [163 Conn.App. 649] DiPENTIMA, C. J.

          The self-represented defendant, Antell Mitchell-James, appeals from the summary judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff, Midland Funding, LLC. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly concluded that there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding the plaintiff's ownership of the debt that is the subject of the complaint.[1] We agree and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the trial court.

          [163 Conn.App. 650] The record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. On December 10, 2013, the plaintiff commenced this action, alleging in a two count complaint that the defendant (1) defaulted on her credit card account and became indebted to Chase Bank USA, N.A. (Chase), in the sum of $24,086.46, and (2) was liable for the account stated. The plaintiff also alleged that it had " purchased title to this debt on [June 30, 2011] for valuable consideration and as such is the bona fide owner of the debt." The defendant responded by filing a motion to dismiss, which was denied, followed by a motion to strike both counts, which also was denied.

         In March, 2014, the plaintiff served the defendant with requests for admission. The defendant responded to the plaintiff's requests for admission in June, 2014, admitting, in relevant part, to using and making payments on an unspecified Chase credit card account. She did not, however, admit to any information specific to the account in question. Ultimately, on August 4, 2014, the defendant answered the complaint, alleging that she was " without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations . . . ."

         On December 1, 2014, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment as to liability and damages. The plaintiff appended to the motion the sworn affidavit of a " legal specialist," Tamra Stayton, who was employed by another business, Midland Credit Management, Inc., that purportedly was the " servicer of [the defendant's] account on behalf of [the plaintiff]." Stayton averred that the defendant had defaulted on the subject credit card account and that the plaintiff was the current owner of the debt, entitling it to collect the $24,086.46 owed on the account. Accompanying Stayton's affidavit were eighteen copies of monthly credit card statements of the subject account for the period of April, 2008 [163 Conn.App. 651] through October, 2009, a " field data sheet" with information relating to the defendant's alleged debt, e.g., her name and amount owed, and a bill of sale that documented the alleged sale of unpaid credit card accounts from Chase to the plaintiff.

         The defendant filed an opposition to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, arguing that genuine issues of material fact existed. The defendant claimed, inter

Page 4

alia, that the affidavit supporting the plaintiff's motion contained hearsay that did not fall within the business records exception to the rule against hearsay pursuant to General Statutes ยง 52-180. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff, without " establish[ing] that it [was] the bona fide owner of the account in question," could not " step into the shoes of the original creditor, Chase . . . ." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Of note, appended to the defendant's memorandum of law was a letter that purportedly was sent to her by Midland Credit ...


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