On April 26, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted summary judgment in favor of a defendant on a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claim regarding calls in an attempt to collect a delinquent medical debt.   

In Jennifer Young v. Medicredit, Inc., the consumer plaintiff incurred a debt in connection with medical treatment. During her visit at the medical center, she provided her cellphone number and signed a form titled “Conditions of Admission and Consent for Outpatient Care” in which she consented to being contacted by telephone. After Young failed to make payments to the medical center, it placed the delinquent account with Medicredit for collection of the debt. Medicredit subsequently began contacting Young by telephone, and Young filed a lawsuit bringing claims against Medicredit under the FDCPA.

After Young failed to present evidence that Medicredit either used obscene language in violation of 15 U.S.C. 1692d (2) or indicated that non-payment would result in criminal prosecution under 15 U.S.C. 1692b (2), the Court limited Young’s claim to Section 1692d (5) of the FDCPA. This section prohibits a debt collector from “causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.”

Following discovery, Medicredit moved for summary judgment on all claims. The company presented evidence that it contacted Young by telephone 79 times between December 7, 2015, and October 18, 2017, but never contacted her more than once on any given day. Medicredit’s call records reflected that it never called the plaintiff before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. Further, the call records showed that Medicredit telephoned Young two days in a row on 12 occasions over the 681-day period at issue. Young conceded that she did not have any evidence that Medicredit’s call records were incomplete.

The Court found that Medicredit’s call records demonstrated that its calls were not, and were not intended to be, harassing, oppressive or abusive under the FDCPA. Neither the sheer volume nor the frequency of Medicredit’s calls led the Court to believe that it intended to harass Young. To the contrary, the Court found that Fifth Circuit law dictates that circumstances need to be “more egregious” in order to find a defendant liable. As a result, the Court found that Young could not raise a triable issue regarding whether the calls were or were intended to be harassing for purposes of her FDCPA claim, and summary judgment was entered in favor of Medicredit.