Linehan v. AllianceOne Receivables Management, Inc.

Filing 291

ORDER by U.S. District Judge John C Coughenour granting Defendant Kimberlee Walker Olsen's 282 Motion to compel discovery from Plaintiffs Jones, Root, and Anderson. Olsen's request for fees is denied. (PM)

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THE HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 10 TIMOTHY LINEHAN, on behalf of Plaintiff and a class, Plaintiff, 11 12 13 14 15 16 CASE NO. C15-1012-JCC ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO COMPEL v. ALLIANCEONE RECEIVABLES MANAGEMENT, INC., Defendant. This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Kimberlee Walker Olsen’s motion to 17 compel discovery from Plaintiffs Jones, Root, and Anderson (Dkt. No. 282). Olsen seeks 18 discovery on two topics: (1) whether Plaintiffs dispute the validity or amounts of their underlying 19 debts and (2) whether Plaintiffs filed any pleadings in the underlying debt collection actions. (Id. 20 at 1-2.) According to Olsen, this information is relevant to the causation element of Plaintiffs’ 21 Washington Consumer Protection Act (WCPA) claims. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiffs dispute the relevance 22 of these requests, arguing that they are not required to establish causation because a violation of 23 the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a per se violation of the WCPA. (Id. at 8.) 24 In multiple previous orders, this Court quoted the Washington Supreme Court’s opinion 25 in Panag v. Farmers Insurance Company of Washington, 204 P.3d 885, 897 (Wash. 2009), 26 which states: “When a violation of debt collection regulations occurs, it constitutes a per se ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO COMPEL PAGE - 1 1 violation of the CPA.” (See, e.g., Dkt. No. 26 at 4; Dkt. No. 44 at 4.) The Court applied this 2 language to conclude that, by pleading a sufficient FDCPA claim, Plaintiffs had likewise pleaded 3 a sufficient WCPA claim. (See id.) 4 In her discovery motion, Olsen cites authority that calls into question this application of 5 Panag. (See Dkt. No. 282 at 6.) Specifically, the Panag court relied on a Court of Appeals case, 6 Evergreen Collectors v. Holt, 803 P.2d 10 (Wash. Ct. App. 1991), in concluding that an FDCPA 7 violation is a per se WCPA violation. The Evergreen court clarifies that a “claimant asserting a 8 per se violation [of the WCPA] must establish that a statute has been violated, that the violation 9 was the proximate cause of the damages, and that the plaintiff is within the class of persons the 10 statute is intended to protect.” 803 P.2d at 12 (emphasis added). In other words, a violation of the 11 FDCPA constitutes a violation of the WCPA, but a properly pleaded WCPA claim still requires 12 causation. Merely showing that the statute was violated is not enough to recover damages. 13 This reading makes sense when one considers the damages available under each statutory 14 scheme. The FDCPA provides for limited statutory damages. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(2) 15 (individual plaintiffs may recover up to $1,000). By contrast, the WCPA provides for actual 16 damages, meaning the violation itself is not the actionable harm. Wash. Rev. Code § 19.86.090. 17 Without the causation requirement, plaintiffs would be entitled to recoup damages not 18 contemplated by either statute. 19 No Defendant previously cited Evergreen or made this argument. Nonetheless, in the 20 interest of accuracy and precision, the Court finds it appropriate to apply Panag and Evergreen 21 in this manner. Thus, the Court’s earlier application of Panag was erroneous and must be 22 corrected. See City of Los Angeles v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 885 (9th Cir. 2001) 23 (“As long as a district court has jurisdiction over the case, then it possesses the inherent 24 procedural power to reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order for cause seen by it to 25 be sufficient.”); United States v. Lummi Indian Tribe, 235 F.3d 443, 452-53 (9th Cir. 2000) (law 26 of the case doctrine inapplicable if “the first decision was clearly erroneous”). ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO COMPEL PAGE - 2 1 Accordingly, the Court now holds that alleging a valid FDCPA claim does not satisfy a 2 plaintiff’s burden to demonstrate causation under the WCPA. Rather, a valid FDCPA claim 3 establishes the first three prongs of a WCPA claim: (1) an unfair or deceptive act or practice 4 (2) occurred in trade or commerce and (3) affects the public interest. See Panag, 204 P.3d at 889 5 (describing conduct prohibited by WCPA and the five-prong test for WCPA claims). To the 6 extent that the Court’s previous holdings are in conflict, they are superseded. 7 In light of this holding, Olsen has shown that her discovery requests will produce 8 evidence that is relevant and proportional to the needs of this case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). 9 Olsen’s motion to compel (Dkt. No. 282) is GRANTED. Plaintiffs must produce responsive 10 discovery and be prepared to testify on these topics at their February depositions.1 11 Olsen asks the Court to award her reasonable fees and costs for bringing this motion. 12 (Dkt. No. 282 at 17.) If the Court grants a Rule 37 motion, the Court must award fees unless “the 13 opposing party’s nondisclosure, response, or objection was substantially justified.” Fed. R. Civ. 14 P. 37(a)(5)(A). Here, given the Court’s previous orders, there was reasonable dispute as to the 15 relevance of the documents. Olsen’s request for fees is DENIED. 16 DATED this 27th day of January 2017. 17 18 19 A 20 21 22 John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 23 24 1 Anderson has a pending motion to dismiss her WCPA claim (Dkt. No. 284). Until that motion is resolved, Anderson is under no obligation to provide the requested discovery. 26 However, should Anderson’s WCPA claim remain after the motion’s resolution, this order shall apply equally to her. 25 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO COMPEL PAGE - 3

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