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Smith v. University Community Hospital, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

September 4, 2019

BEN SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, INC. d/b/a FLORIDA HOSPITAL CARROLLWOOD, Defendant.

          ORDER

          AMANDA ARNOLD SANSONE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Community Hospital moves for partial summary judgment on the sole issue of whether it, as a creditor, is subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). (Doc. 37). Mr. Smith opposes the motion. (Doc. 38). Mr. Smith moves more broadly for summary judgment on all of his claims. (Doc. 39). Community Hospital opposes the motion. (Doc. 40). Because issues of material fact remain in dispute, the cross-motions for summary judgment are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Smith sues Community Hospital alleging violations of the FDCPA and the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act (FCCPA). (Doc. 1). Mr. Smith's causes of action arise out of medical treatment he received from Community Hospital (doing business as Florida Hospital Carrollwood). (Id. at 2). According to Mr. Smith, Community Hospital violated the FDCPA and the FCCPA when Community Hospital (1) filed and posted a lien of Mr. Smith's outstanding medical bill in Hillsborough County's public records and (2) sent a notification letter and copy of the hospital lien to Mr. Smith. (Doc. 1). Mr. Smith alleges Community Hospital violated Sections 1692c(b), 1692d, 1692e, and 1692f of the FDCPA and Sections 559.72(3), 559.72(5), 559.72(6), 559.72(7), 559.72(9), 559.72(14), and 559.72(18) of the FCCPA. (Id.). Community Hospital denies it violated the FDCPA and the FCCPA. (Doc. 10).

         Community Hospital moved for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. 23, 24). Mr. Smith opposed the motion. (Doc. 25). In a detailed order, the court held Mr. Smith could submit an amended complaint on the following (1) Section 1692c(b) of the FDCPA and (2) Section 559.72(14) of the FCCPA.[1] (Doc. 30 at 21-22). The court granted Community Hospital's motion for judgment on the pleadings for all other sections of the FDCPA and the FCCPA alleged by Mr. Smith. (Id.)

         Mr. Smith filed an amended complaint on January 23, 2019. (Doc. 31). Mr. Smith continues to alleges Community Hospital is subject to the FDCPA because Community Hospital meets the false name exemption, 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6). (Doc. 31, ¶ 17-19). Mr. Smith also alleges Community Hospital violated Sections 1692c(b) and 1692c(a)(2) of the FDCPA and Sections 559.72(9), 559.72(14), and 559.72(18) of the FCCPA. (Id. at ¶20-21).

         Community Hospital answered and asserted affirmative defenses. (Doc. 32). Community Hospital moves for summary judgment on whether Community Hospital meets the false name exception. (Doc. 37). Mr. Smith opposes Community Hospital's motion and files a cross-motion for summary judgment on all of his claims. (Doc. 38, 39). Community Hospital opposes Mr. Smith's motion. (Doc. 40).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         An order granting summary judgment is appropriate if no genuine dispute of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         A moving party is entitled to summary judgment when the nonmoving party fails “to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 316, 323 (1986). The nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings and her own affidavits, ” and she must point to evidence in the record that demonstrates the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Id.

         “It is the function of the jury to observe demeanor and listen to testimony in order to determine the credibility of witness.” United States v. Davis, 809 F.2d 1509, 1512-13 (11th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). If evidence requires credibility determinations or deciding factual inferences in the moving party's favor, summary judgment is inappropriate because the duty to weigh credibility and evidence belongs to the jury when the judge is not the factfinder. Cleveland v. Home Shopping Network, Inc., 369 F.3d 1189, 1193 (11th Cir. 2004) (quotation and citation omitted). The court reviews all record evidence with inferences construed in the nonmoving party's favor. Id. at 1192-93 (citation omitted).

         Summary judgment need not be granted simply because the parties submit cross-motions for summary judgment. United States v. Oakley, 744 F.2d 1553, 1555 (11th Cir. 1984) (quotation and citation omitted). Cross-motions for summary judgment might establish “the non-existence of a factual dispute when . . . they demonstrate a basic agreement concerning what legal theories and material facts are dispositive.” Bricklayers, Masons and Plasterers Int'l Union of Am. v. Stuart Plastering Co., Inc., 512 F.2d 1017, 1023 (5th Cir. 1975).[2]

         The standard for summary judgment under Rule 56 remains unaffected when the parties submit cross-motions for summary judgment. Am. Bankers Ins. Grp. v. United States, 408 F.3d 1328, 1331 (11th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). The court considers each motion on its own merits and resolves reasonable inferences “against the party whose motion is under consideration.” Torres v. Rock & River Food, Inc., 244 F.Supp.3d 1320, 1327-28 (S.D. Fla. 2016) (citing American Bankers, 408 F.3d at 1331).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Community Hospital seeks summary judgment on whether Community Hospital meets the false name exemption. (Doc. 37). Mr. Smith seeks summary judgment on whether Community Hospital (1) meets the false name exception of the FDCPA; (2) violated Section 1692c(a)(2) of the FDCPA; (3) violated Section 1692c(b) of the FDCPA; (4) violated Section 1692d(3) of the FDCPA (even though this claim was not alleged in his amended complaint); (5) violated Section 599.72(7) of the FCCPA (even though this claim was not alleged in his amended complaint); (6) violated Section 599.72(9) of the FCCPA (even though judgment on the pleadings already granted on this claim); (7) violated Section 599.72(14) of the FCCPA; and (8) violated section 599.72(18) of the FCCPA (even though judgment on the pleadings already granted on this claim). (Doc. 39).

         A. The FDCPA Claims

         To obtain summary judgment on an FDCPA claim, the plaintiff must prove (1) he was an object of collection activity arising from consumer debt; (2) the defendant is a debt collector under the FDCPA; and (3) the defendant engaged in activity the FDCPA prohibits. Goodin v. Bank of ...


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