United States District Court, D. Connecticut
OPINION AND ORDER (DOCS. 26, 35, 44, 68, 96, 108,
114, 116, 118)
Geoffrey W. Crawford, Judge.
an action by a judgment debtor against a debt buyer, its debt
collection company, audits attorney raising claims of
violations of state and federal consumer protection laws and
claims of unjust enrichment and conversion under state law.
The court has subject matter jurisdiction through Plaintiffs
claim under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,
15U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.
basic facts of the case are not in dispute. All facts appear
in court filings, docket statements, demand letters from
collection counsel, and account records. The authenticity of
some records is disputed, but this does not impact resolution
of the pending motions.
1996 Plaintiff Ronnie Brownstein entered into a VISA
revolving credit agreement with Capital One Bank for a credit
card with a $200 limit. (Doc. 68-4 at 8.) She soon maxed out
the credit card. (Doc. 68-6 at 9.) By June 1997 she was
behind in payments with 19% interest and $40 in past-due and
over limit fees accruing monthly. Capital One Bank sent her a
final statement in December 1997, showing a balance of
$504.12. (Doc. 68-6 at 14.)
years later, in June 2000, Capital One sold Plaintiffs
account as part of a block of delinquent accounts to Collins
Financial Services, Inc. ("Collins"). (Doc. 68-6 at
48.) In November 2000, Collins assigned Plaintiffs account to
Equity Recovery Service, LLC ("Equity").
(Id. at 50.) Documents listed the balance due at the
time of both sales as $544.12. (Plaintiff disputes the
admissibility of these documents. (Doc. 76-1 at 2-3.))
Shelton, Equity's attorney, filed a collections action in
Connecticut small claims court in July 2002. (Doc. 68-6 at
2.) Plaintiff filed an answer with the court in which she
stated that she expected the credit protection clause in her
VISA agreement to have covered her missed payments during a
period of unemployment which resulted in the arrears.
statement of account filed by Shelton with the small claims
court sought damages in the amount of the jurisdictional
limit of $3, 500. (Doc. 68-6 at 4-5.) To the original
principal balance of $504.12, Defendants added interest
($726.92), past-due fees ($1, 080), and over limit fees ($1,
080) that had accrued from December 1997 to June 2002, along
with attorney's fees ($508.66). Defendants waived any
claim in excess of $3, 500. (Doc. 68-3 at ¶ 9.)
small claims court issued a default judgment on September 18,
2002 in the amount of $3, 535 (including the filing fee of
$35.00). The judgment includes an order for weekly payments
of $35.00 commencing October 3, 2002. (Doc. 68-6 at 54.)
history of payments by Plaintiff appears in a statement
maintained by Shelton's office. (Doc. 68-6 at 57-58.) It
shows the original judgment amount of $3, 500, plus the
filing fee, for an opening balance of $3, 535. In November
2003, Shelton added service costs ($80.01), which brought the
balance to $3, 946.41.
in December 2003, Plaintiff made monthly payments to Shelton.
These started at $50.00, increased over time to $200, and
included three payments of $250. By October 2012, Plaintiff
had paid a total of $5, 350 which Shelton attributed to costs
($150.01), principal ($3, 145.97), and interest ($2, 054.02).
April 3, 2013, Shelton sent Plaintiff a collection letter
stating: "YOU HAVE VIOLATED A COURT ORDER TO MAKE
PAYMENTS." (Doc. 68-6 at 60.) The letter stated that
Plaintiff owed a balance of $366.97, "including the
remaining judgment principal, court costs, and interest that
is accruing thereon at 8% per year in accordance with
Connecticut General Statute §37-1." (Id.)
filed suit on April 10, 2013.
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docs. 26, 35)
has filed a motion to dismiss the state-law claim that he
violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act
("CUTPA"), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-110a et
seq. He contends that as it applies to attorneys, CUTPA
claims are limited to billing disputes and other disputes
arising from the business end of a law practice, hi contrast
to the FDCPA, CUTPA does not apply to ...