Plaintiff Yvette Palmer filed a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case against defendant debt collector, Enhanced Recovery Company (“ERC”), for ERC’s alleged concealment of its identity as a debt collector while attempting to collect a debt and to obtain information to collect debt. ERC filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Palmer’s claims are precluded by a settlement agreement resolving a prior lawsuit between the parties.
As background, ERC originally sent a letter to Palmer in October 2015 in an attempt to collect the amount that was owed on Palmer’s delinquent account. ERC also allegedly called Palmer in connection with its attempts to collect the debt. Palmer subsequently filed an FDCPA lawsuit against ERC in February 2016, alleging, among other things, that ERC was liable for “unjustified contacts” in violation of the FDCPA. The only contacts that Palmer specifically referenced in the February 2016 complaint were written contacts. That case was voluntarily dismissed pursuant to a settlement agreement between the parties. The settlement agreement released ERC from any and all claims “arising out of the facts set forth in Plaintiff’s complaint.”
Plaintiff then filed her complaint in the present case less than two months later, alleging that ERC “called Plaintiff via telephone . . . to elicit information from the Plaintiff which it would use to collect consumer debt allegedly owed by Plaintiff.” The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted ERC’s motion for summary judgment, holding that “under a plain language reading of the Settlement Agreement, the instant lawsuit is precluded.” The Court found that the language in Plaintiff’s original Complaint was broad, generally discussing ERC’s attempt to collect the debt at issue. “Plaintiff now again attempts to bring a claim based on an attempt (by the same defendant) to collect the same debt, anchored by a phone call that took place within two days of the letter described in the February Complaint.” The Court ultimately concluded, “In short, [Palmer] had a reasonable opportunity to litigate her claims, and in fact, has already recovered on her claims. [ERC] is entitled to Summary Judgment.”