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Judge grants attorney summary judgment in collections suit

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A federal judge ruled in favor of an Indianapolis attorney involved in a class-action suit alleging he violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The judge granted summary judgment to the attorney after finding the class representative fell outside the class definition.

Mark R. Rayl sued Merrill Scooter Moores in May 2009 alleging Moores’ form of initial debt collection communication violated the FDCPA. Moore had been hired to collect past-due homeowner's association fees. The notice of claims filed with the small claims court in each action and served upon the homeowners listed a number to call to reach Moores. Depending on when it was called, it went to one of two voicemail messages regarding the actions. The messages said Moores would only discuss the homeowner’s case at their court date.  

Class certification of the suit was denied in February but was later granted by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana’s Indianapolis Division in June. The class consisted of “All natural persons sued by Merrill Moores in the name of Wildcat Run Homeowner’s Association on a consumer debt who called the contact telephone number referenced on the Small Claims complaint and heard a voice mail message recorded by defendant Merrill Moores within one year prior to May 1, 2009.” Rayl was made class representative after Moores didn’t contest class certification and Rayl argued he could prove his claim that he did hear the voicemail.

Both parties filed motions for summary judgment.

It turns out that based on the evidence in the summary judgment record, none of the class members actually had heard either voicemail, or that if they did, Moores had any written communication with them within five days after they called. Rayl couldn’t establish that the voicemails violated the FDCPA provisions regarding initial communications because he was unable to prove he called the voicemail line.

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson removed Rayl as class representative Oct. 28 and postponed ruling on the merits of the other class members’ claims until a suitable class representative appears in the action. The attorneys for the class have 30 days to locate a new class representative.

Judge Magnus-Stinson denied Rayl’s motion for summary judgment as class representative but didn’t rule at the time as to his individual claim.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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