Espinosa v. Metcalf

Decision Date31 October 2022
Docket Number21-cv-10356-DJC
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts



No. 21-cv-10356-DJC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 31, 2022


Denise J. Casper United States District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiffs Sergio Espinosa Sr. and Sergio Espinosa Jr. (collectively, “Espinosas”) have filed this lawsuit against Andrew C. Metcalf (“Metcalf”) d/b/a Judgment Acquisitions Unlimited (“JAU”), Champion Funding, Inc. (“Champion”), Export Enterprises Inc. (“Export”), Massachusetts Constable Inc. d/b/a Massachusetts Constables Office (“MCO”) and Brian Abelli (“Abelli”) (collectively, “Defendants”) alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1692 (Counts I, II, III, IV, VI, VII and VIII), violations of Mass. Gen. L. c. 93 and 93A (Counts V and IX), conversion (Count X) and violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count XI) arising from an attempted debt collection. D. 41. The Espinosas and Export have settled their claims. D. 89. Although Abelli and MCO moved for partial summary judgment on Counts I, II, III, IV, VI, VII and VIII, these Defendants have also settled with the Espinosas,


D. 90, and the Court accordingly denies their motion, D. 67, as moot and denies the Espinosas' motion for partial summary judgment, D. 63, to the extent that it concerned claims against Abelli and MCO. Accordingly, the only part of the motions for summary judgment that remains for the Court's consideration is the Espinosas' motion as to Counts I, IV, V, VI, IX, and X against Champion, Metcalf and JAU.[1] For the reasons stated below, the Court ALLOWS the Espinosas' motion for summary judgment as to these claims against Champion, Metcalf and JAU.

II. Standard of Review

A court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “An issue is genuine if ‘it may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party' at trial, and material if it ‘possess[es] the capacity to sway the outcome of the litigation under the applicable law.' ” Iverson v. City of Boston, 452 F.3d 94, 98 (1st Cir. 2006) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). The movant “bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Rosciti v. Ins. Co. of Pa., 659 F.3d 92, 96 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000)). If the movant meets its burden, the nonmovant “must, with respect to each issue on which she would bear the burden of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier of fact could reasonably resolve that issue in her favor.” Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). “As a general rule, that requires the production of evidence that is ‘significant[ly] probative.' ” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting


Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)).

The Court views the record “in the light most favorable to the non-moving part[y]” and draws all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Pineda v. Toomey, 533 F.3d 50, 53 (1st Cir. 2008). The nonmovant, however, “may not rely on conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, or unsupported speculation” to defeat a motion for summary judgment, “but must, instead, ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' ” Id. at 53-54 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986)). The nonmovant must offer “definite, competent evidence to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Burns v. State Police Ass'n of Mass., 230 F.3d 8, 9 (1st Cir. 2000).

III. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted and are drawn from the Espinosas' statement of material facts, D. 65, Champion, Metcalf and JAU's' statement of material facts, D. 73, and accompanying documents.[2]

On August 21, 2006, a default judgment was entered in the Lowell District Court in favor of CACV of Colorado, LLC against Sergio Espinosa Sr. (“Senior”) based on a credit card debt. D. 65 ¶¶ 13-15; D. 64-11. Senior's son Sergio Espinosa Jr. (“Junior”) was fifteen years old at the time and had no relationship to the debt or the resultant judgment. D. 65 ¶¶ 18-19. On September 13, 2006, the Lowell District Court issued an execution on the judgment. D. 65 ¶ 20; D. 64-11.


Champion purchased this judgment debt from Caddis Funding, LLC on April 15, 2019. D. 65 ¶ 21; D. 64-8 at 35. Champion hired Metcalf and JAU to collect the judgment. D. 65 ¶ 23; D. 64-7 ¶ 39. Champion, Metcalf and JAU then hired MCO and Abelli to execute the judgment. D. 65 ¶ 24; D. 64-7 ¶ 40. Before requesting seizure of the Mini Cooper, JAU conducted an asset search on Lexis Nexis. D. 65 ¶¶ 26-27; D. 73 ¶ 7; D. 64-8 at 56. This asset report listed two Mini Coopers, with one listing the only owner as a “Sergio Espinosa” with a date of birth in 1962 and the other listing the two owners living at the same Dracut address: a “Sergio Espinosa” with a date of birth in 1962 and a “Sergio Espinosa Jr.” with a date of birth in 1991. See D. 65 ¶ 27; D. 73 ¶ 7; D. 64-8 at 47-49. Both Senior and Junior resided at the same Dracut address at this time. D. 65 ¶ 1-2; see D. 73 ¶ 3.

MCO also conducted an asset search to verify ownership of the Mini Cooper using a separate database, LP Police. D. 73 ¶ 8; D. 84 ¶ 8. The LP Police search listed Senior as a registered owner of the Mini Cooper. Id. However, the parties dispute when the LP Police search occurred. According to Champion, Metcalf and JAU, this search occurred prior to the Mini Cooper's seizure. D. 73 ¶ 8. According to the Espinosas, this search occurred five months after the Mini Cooper was seized. D. 84 ¶ 8.

MCO hired and directed Export to seize the Mini Cooper. D. 64-10 at 31; D. 73 ¶ 4. On September 22, 2020, at approximately 3:30 a.m., Senior awoke to the sound of his barking dog. D. 65 ¶ 32. Senior went outside to find Export's employees and a uniformed and armed MCO constable seizing the Mini Cooper outside the Espinosas' Dracut home. Id. ¶¶ 32-33, 57. Senior, who does not speak much English, called Junior to come outside. D. 65 ¶ 34. Realizing that the MCO constable was seizing the Mini Cooper to collect a credit card debt owed by his father, Junior explained that the Mini Cooper belonged to Junior, not Senior. Id. ¶ 38. Junior went into the Mini


Cooper and obtained the registration for the vehicle. Id. ¶ 39; D 64-6 at 21, 85. The registration indicated that Junior is the sole owner of the Mini Cooper. D. 65 ¶ 40; D. 64-12. Junior showed the registration to the MCO constable supervising the seizure, as well as to an Export employee at the scene, explaining that he was the sole owner of the Mini Cooper and that they had no right to take his car. D. 65 ¶ 41; D 64-6 at 21-22. The Mini Cooper was towed from the Espinosas' home to the Export Towing tow yard in Medford. D. 73 ¶ 4; D. 65 ¶ 11, 65.

On September 23, 2020, Junior called JAU and spoke with Metcalf, informing them that they had taken his car and that it did not belong to Senior. D. 65 ¶ 44. On September 24, 2020, Junior emailed Michael Zola, JAU's attorney, informing him that the car belonged to Junior. Id. ¶ 50. The letter included documentation from the credit union Junior had obtained a loan from to purchase the car along with the vehicle's VIN number and instructions that Junior's ownership could be verified on the registration inside the vehicle's glove compartment. Id. ¶¶ 50-51.

On October 5, 2020, Champion, Metcalf and JAU became aware that Senior leased a vehicle from Honda Lease Trust (“Honda”) after pulling a TransUnion credit report. D. 65 ¶ 58; D. 64-8 at 60-61. On October 9, 2020, Export brought the Mini Cooper back to the Espinosas' residence and immediately towed, in the presence of a uniformed and armed MCO constable, a Honda Accord from the private driveway of the property. D. 65 ¶¶ 55, 57. Honda owned the vehicle and was listed as the owner on its Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (“RMV”) Certificate of Registration. D. 65 ¶ 56; D. 64-15.

On October 13, 2020, Honda's attorney advised Metcalf and JAU that this was a leased vehicle which could not be seized to satisfy a judgment. D. 65 ¶ 59; D. 64-8 at 68-69. On October 21, 2020, JAU called Junior to tell him that the Honda Accord was being released. Id. ¶ 60. Abelli instructed Export that Senior was responsible for paying all towing and storage charges associated


with the seizure of the Honda Accord. D. 65 ¶ 61. Senior and Junior drove approximately forty minutes to Export's tow yard to retrieve the vehicle. D. 65 ¶ 65. About five minutes away from the tow yard, Junior called Export to let them know they would be arriving shortly and an Export representative advised the Espinosas that they would first have to pay towing and storage fees for the vehicle. Id. ¶ 67.

According to the Espinosas, Senior wanted to retrieve the Honda Accord, but could not afford to pay the towing and storage fees that Export required, so they returned home before arriving at the tow yard. Id. ¶ 68. Defendants contend instead that Senior abandoned the vehicle upon learning of the towing and storage charges, telling Export to “keep [the Honda Accord], not my problem.” See D. 73 ¶ 17; D. 64-10 at 91.

On December 30, 2020, Export had a Notice of Abandoned Vehicle issued to Senior and Honda, threatening to sell the Honda Accord if $3,253 (and continuing to accrue at $35 per day) was not paid to Export for towing and storage fees. D. 65 ¶ 76; D. 64-24. The Espinosas demanded that Metcalf and JAU return the Honda Accord in a January 5, 2021 Chapter 93A demand letter. D. 64-19 at 5. The Honda Accord remained in Export's tow yard until it was returned to the Espinosas'...

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