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Crumel v. Kross, Lieberman & Stone, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

April 8, 2015

JAMES CRUMEL, Plaintiff,
v.
KROSS, LIEBERMAN & STONE, INC., Defendant.

ORDER

W. EARL BRITT, Senior District Judge.

This matter comes before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. (DE ## 12, 15.)

After plaintiff James Crumel ("plaintiff") filed a motion for partial summary judgment, (DE # 12), defendant Kross, Lieberman & Stone, Inc. ("defendant") filed a consolidated response and cross-motion for summary judgment, (DE # 15). Plaintiff filed a consolidated reply in support of his motion and response in opposition to defendant's motion. (DE # 16.) Defendant replied by objecting to the timing and form of plaintiff's reply and, alternatively, requests the court to supplement the record with an unpublished opinion cited by plaintiff. (DE # 17.)

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit on 12 February 2014 alleging that defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") and the North Carolina Collection Agency Act ("NCCAA"). (Compl., DE # 1, ΒΆ 1.) The relevant facts of this case, which are limited to the content of two letters, are not in dispute. After defendant attempted to collect from plaintiff an alleged debt, plaintiff sent defendant a signed letter dated 16 March 2013 ("16 March letter"), which reads, in relevant part:

I am disputing the above-referenced debt. Please verify this debt as required by the [FDCPA].
....
Aside from verification of the debt, if this is not removed from credit reporting agencies I hereby request the collection agency's license number in the consumer's state of residence, name and address of the original creditor for the debt, proof that the collection agency was hired by the original creditor to collect the debt, an explanation of the amount requested by the collection agency, and do not contact me about this debt. The [FDCPA], 15 USC Section 1692c requires that you honor this request. Your cooperation will be appreciated.

(DE # 13-2, at 1.)[1] In response, defendant sent plaintiff a letter dated 29 March 2013 ("29 March letter") stating, in part:

Please find enclosed the documentation that you requested from this office in reference to the above client's claim.
Hopefully, this document will help resolve this matter and expedite the receipt of full payment on this account. Please forward your check of $41.93 made payable to KROSS, LIEBERMAN & STONE as soon as possible.

(DE # 13-3, at 1.)[2]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper only if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As noted above, the parties do not dispute the relevant facts. As this case turns on purely legal questions, it is properly decided at the summary judgment stage. See OneBeacon Ins. Co v. Metro Ready-Mix, Inc., 242 F.Appx. 936, 939 (4th Cir. 2007) (unpublished) ("Because the facts are undisputed and we are presented with a purely legal question... the case is ripe for summary judgment.").

III. DISCUSSION

A. Defendant's objections to plaintiff's consolidated reply and response brief

Defendant asks the court to reject plaintiff's consolidated reply and response brief, (DE # 16), for failing to comply with the Local Civil Rules of the Eastern District of North Carolina. (DE # 17, at 1.) Specifically, defendant contends that plaintiff's brief exceeded the page limitation, was untimely, and relied on an unpublished case that plaintiff never provided to opposing counsel or the court. (Id.)

Local Civil Rule 7.1(f)(1) requires a party filing a reply brief to do so "within fourteen (14) days after service of the response...." Defendant served a consolidated brief in response to plaintiff's partial summary judgment motion and in support of its own cross-motion for summary judgment on 26 January 2015. (DE # 15.) Plaintiff filed a consolidated reply in support of his motion and response in opposition to defendant's cross-motion on 14 February 2015. (DE # 16.) To the extent the filing served as a reply, it was untimely. However, Local Civil Rule 7.1(e)(1) affords a party twenty-one days to file a response after service of the motion. Thus, to the extent the filing served as a response to defendant's summary judgment motion, it was timely. The court views plaintiff's decision to ...


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