Miller v. McCalla, No. 99-3263

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore Posner, Chief Judge, and Ripple and Rovner, Circuit Judges. Posner
Citation214 F.3d 872
Parties(7th Cir. 2000) Kevin Miller, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols, and Clark, L.L.C., and Echevarria, McCalla, Raymer, Barrett, and Frappier, Defendants-Appellees
Docket NumberNo. 99-3263
Decision Date26 July 2000

Page 872

214 F.3d 872 (7th Cir. 2000)
Kevin Miller, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols, and Clark, L.L.C., and Echevarria, McCalla, Raymer, Barrett, and Frappier, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 99-3263
In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Argued March 31, 2000
Decided June 5, 2000
Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied July 26, 2000.*

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 98 C 5563--Elaine E. Bucklo, Judge.

Page 873

Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Before Posner, Chief Judge, and Ripple and Rovner, Circuit Judges. Posner, Chief Judge.

This is a suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. sec.sec. 1692 et seq., against two related law firms engaged in debt collection. The plaintiff (the debtor) claims that the defendants violated the Act by failing to state "the amount of the debt" in the dunning letter of which he complains. See sec. 1692g(a)(1). They reply that they did state the amount and that anyway the letter is outside the scope of the Act because they were trying to collect a business debt rather than a consumer debt, and the Act is limited to the collection of consumer debts. sec. 1692a(5); First Gibraltar Bank, FSB v. Smith, 62 F.3d 133 (5th Cir. 1995). The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on the latter ground, and let us start there.

The plaintiff bought a house in Atlanta in 1992, and took out a mortgage. He lived in the house until 1995, when he accepted a job in Chicago; from then on, he rented the house. He received the dunning letter from one of the defendant law firms on behalf of the mortgagee in 1997. By this time, renting the property to strangers, the plaintiff was making a business use of the property and so the mortgage loan was financing a business rather than a consumer debt. But the plaintiff argues that the relevant time for determining the nature of the debt is when the debt first arises, not when collection efforts begin. The defendants riposte that since the Act under which the plaintiff is suing, unlike the Truth in Lending Act, governs debt collection, the relevant time is when the attempt at collection is made. Oddly, there are no reported appellate decisions on the issue, though it was assumed in Bloom v. I.C. System, Inc., 972 F.2d 1067, 1068-69 (9th Cir. 1992), that the relevant time is when the loan is made, not when collection is attempted.

The language of the statute favors this interpretation. "Debt" is defined as "any obligation or alleged obligation of a consumer to pay money arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes." sec. 1692a(5). The defendants don't deny that the plaintiff is a "consumer," even though he is in the "business" of renting his house (they can't deny this, because "the term 'consumer' means any natural person obligated or allegedly obligated to pay any debt," sec. 1692a(3)), and the antecedent of the first "which" in the clause "in which the money, property, insurance,

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or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes" is, as a matter of grammar anyway, the transaction out of which the obligation to repay arose, not the obligation itself; and that transaction was the purchase of a house for a personal use, namely living in it. Grammar needn't trump sense; the purpose of statutory interpretation is to make sense out of statutes not written by grammarians. But we cannot say that it is senseless to base the debt collector's obligation on the character of the debt when it arose rather than when it is to be collected. The original creditor is more likely to know whether the debt was personal or commercial at its incipience than either the creditor or the debt collector is to know what current use the debtor is making of the loan (in this case, the plaintiff is using the loan, in effect, to generate income from the house that secures the loan).

Against this the defendants argue that...

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251 practice notes
  • McDermott v. Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C., CIVIL ACTION NO. 09-10159-MBB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • November 20, 2012
    ...the obligation to pay arose as opposed to the "obligation" itself. Miller v. McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols, and Clark, L.L.C., 214 F.3d 872, 875 (7th Cir. 2000) (antecedent of this clause "as a matter of grammar" is "the transaction out of which the obligation to repay arose, not ......
  • Sandpiper Village v. Louisiana-Pacific., No. 03-35058.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 24, 2005
    ...however, L-P will have the opportunity in the Minnesota appellate courts to seek correction of any errors in the verdict. See Ramsden, 214 F.3d at 872(noting that defendants "would still have an opportunity to appeal the state trial court's decision up through the state appeals process"). H......
  • Alaska Tr., LLC v. Ambridge, No. S–14915.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • March 4, 2016
    ...or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing ... the amount of the debt....”); see Miller v. McCalla, 214 F.3d 872, 875–76 (7th Cir.2000) (“What [the defendants] certainly could do was to state the total amount due—interest and other charges as well as pr......
  • McDermott v. Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C., Civil Action No. 09–10159–MBB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • November 20, 2012
    ...the obligation to pay arose as opposed to the “obligation” itself. Miller v. McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols, and Clark, L.L.C., 214 F.3d 872, 875 (7th Cir.2000) (antecedent of this clause “as a matter of grammar” is “the transaction out of which the obligation to repay arose, not t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
250 cases
  • McDermott v. Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C., CIVIL ACTION NO. 09-10159-MBB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • November 20, 2012
    ...the obligation to pay arose as opposed to the "obligation" itself. Miller v. McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols, and Clark, L.L.C., 214 F.3d 872, 875 (7th Cir. 2000) (antecedent of this clause "as a matter of grammar" is "the transaction out of which the obligation to repay arose, not ......
  • Sandpiper Village v. Louisiana-Pacific., No. 03-35058.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 24, 2005
    ...however, L-P will have the opportunity in the Minnesota appellate courts to seek correction of any errors in the verdict. See Ramsden, 214 F.3d at 872(noting that defendants "would still have an opportunity to appeal the state trial court's decision up through the state appeals process"). H......
  • Alaska Tr., LLC v. Ambridge, No. S–14915.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • March 4, 2016
    ...or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing ... the amount of the debt....”); see Miller v. McCalla, 214 F.3d 872, 875–76 (7th Cir.2000) (“What [the defendants] certainly could do was to state the total amount due—interest and other charges as well as pr......
  • McDermott v. Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C., Civil Action No. 09–10159–MBB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • November 20, 2012
    ...the obligation to pay arose as opposed to the “obligation” itself. Miller v. McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols, and Clark, L.L.C., 214 F.3d 872, 875 (7th Cir.2000) (antecedent of this clause “as a matter of grammar” is “the transaction out of which the obligation to repay arose, not t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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