Portfolio Recovery Assocs. v. Campney

Docket Number6019,Appellate Case 2020-000935
Decision Date23 August 2023
PartiesPortfolio Recovery Associates, LLC Assignee of Synchrony Bank/HH Gregg, Respondent, v. Jennifer Campney, Defendant, and Jennifer Campney, Third-party Plaintiff, v. Cooling & Winter, LLC, Third-party Defendant, of whom Jennifer Campney is the Appellant.
CourtSouth Carolina Court of Appeals

Heard May 1, 2023

Appeal From Dorchester County Diane Schafer Goodstein, Circuit Court Judge

John R. Cantrell, Jr., of Cantrell Legal, PC, of St. Matthews, for Appellant.

Jesse Ronald Jones, Jr., of Smith Debman Narron Drake

Saintsing &Myers LLP, of Charleston; and Caren D. Enloe of Raleigh, North Carolina, both for Respondent.

Carolyn Grube Lybarker and Kelly Hunter Rainsford, both of South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, of Columbia for Amicus Curiae South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.


Jennifer Campney appeals an order from the trial court granting judgment in favor of Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC (PRA) and Cooling &Winter, LLC (Cooling &Winter). On appeal, Campney argues the trial court erred by (1) ruling she was liable to PRA in the amount of $4,236.78, plus costs, under an account stated cause of action; (2) ruling that PRA and was not liable to her on her counterclaims; and (3) denying her motion pursuant to Rules 52 and 59(e), SCRCP. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


In January 2017, PRA filed a complaint against Campney. PRA asserted it was an assignee of "Synchrony Bank/HH Gregg," which extended credit to Campney, and she failed to make the required payments on the credit account. It alleged Campney owed $4,236.78 and she and PRA "either expressly or impliedly agreed that the statement or statements were true and was due to be paid then or at some other specified time." The complaint included an affidavit and itemization of accounts stating Campney owed a principal amount of $4,236.78 and $80 in costs. It also included a credit statement from Synchrony Bank, a charge-off[1] statement, and evidence of assignment. Campney filed a pro se answer, denying the allegations of the complaint and stating she never agreed she owed any amount to PRA. In August 2017, the magistrate court granted PRA's motion for summary judgment. Campney appealed to the circuit court, which reversed the magistrate court's grant of summary judgment and remanded.

After remand, Campney filed her first amended answer and counterclaims. In addition to admissions, denials, and various defenses, she alleged the consumer credit card transaction at issue was a consumer loan and PRA failed to send her the required notice of right to cure. Campney raised four counterclaims against PRA and Cooling &Winter. The case was transferred to the Dorchester County Court of Common Pleas due to the amount in controversy and relief requested in the counterclaim.

On October 23, 2019, a one-day bench trial was held. Larry Andrews, the custodian of records for PRA, testified he had been employed with PRA for seventeen years, having been the custodian of records for eight years, and had previously worked for Synchrony Bank as a collector for four years.[2] He stated that while at Synchrony Bank, he received interdepartmental training and his duties included processing and updating information pertaining to accounts with outstanding credit balances. According to Andrews, his duties as custodian of records at PRA included reviewing complaints, affidavits, and documents in PRA's system to verify information. When PRA inquired if Andrews was familiar with the process PRA implemented to purchase charged-off consumer accounts, Campney objected, stating Andrews lacked the personal knowledge of the sales process. The trial court overruled the objection, allowed PRA to lay an additional foundation, and noted Andrews had been trained in various departments. Andrews testified he received annual training at PRA regarding acquisitions and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Campney again objected, arguing the training Andrew received only provided information as to the functions of various PRA departments and he had no personal knowledge in regards to her alleged consumer account; the trial court overruled the objection.

Andrews testified his job duties required him to become familiar with certain accounts and he was familiar with Campney's account. He stated plaintiff's exhibit one was a bill of sale between PRA and Synchrony Bank and plaintiff's exhibit two was a load data of account in the pool PRA purchased from Synchrony Bank.

Andrews testified that Synchrony Bank produced the bill of sale and provided it to PRA and the load data of account was information regarding Campney's specific charged-off account. When asked if the bill of sale and the load data of account were documents kept in the regular course of business and prepared near the time of the recorded event, by someone with knowledge or information transmitted, Andrews answered affirmatively. The court admitted the bill of sale and the load data of account into evidence over Campney's relevance, hearsay, authentication, incompleteness, and summary requirement objections. Andrews testified plaintiff's exhibit three was credit statements produced by Synchrony Bank, in the regular course of business, and sent to Campney. The trial court admitted the credit card statements over Campney's objections. In regards to the credit statements, Andrews stated they were addressed to "Jennifer M. Campney" and mailed to the address listed, in Summerville, and detailed purchases and payments made and amounts due. According to Andrews, the amount due, based on the billing statement dated April 23, 2015, was $4,236.78.

On cross-examination, Andrews stated the delinquent account with Synchrony Bank was opened sometime in 2012. He acknowledged that at the time the account was opened and subsequently charged off, he was not employed with Synchrony Bank and he would not have had knowledge of Synchrony Bank policies and procedures regarding Campney's account prior to PRA's purchase of accounts. Andrews further admitted that he had no experience in creating (1) bills of sale at PRA or Synchrony Bank; (2) credit statements during his time at Synchrony Bank; or (3) load data of account. When asked if he was familiar as to how Synchrony Bank would have stored the bill of sale or the load data of account in its system, Andrews stated he was not familiar. Andrews testified Synchrony Bank created the codes on the load data of account before PRA acquired the account and he was unable to testify to what the codes represented. According to Andrews, his knowledge regarding the load data of account came from the document being in PRA's system. When asked if he was aware of any additional credit statements after the statement dated April 25, 2015, Andrews testified he could not recall because he did not have the account files "in front of [him]." Additionally, when Campney inquired as to whether he had personal knowledge or was aware if Synchrony Bank mailed the April 25, 2015 credit statement to her, Andrews initially responded that federal regulations required credit statement be mailed to accountholders but subsequently acknowledged he did not have personal knowledge and was not aware if the statement was mailed.

At the close of PRA's evidence, Campney made a motion for an involuntary nonsuit pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. First, she asserted the evidence provided by PRA did not establish Synchrony Bank properly assigned any debt to PRA because the bill of sale was void of any information regarding her account. Second, she argued that under PRA's account stated theory, it was required to present the delinquent account to her, and Andrews could not testify if it was mailed. Third, Campney contended PRA failed to produce any agreement to which she agreed to repay $4,236.78. Fourth, in regards to whether any voluntary payments on the account amounted to acknowledging the amount owed, Campney argued PRA failed to establish she was the individual who made payments on the account prior to the account being charged off.

PRA argued Andrews testified federal regulations required Synchrony Bank to mail account statements to accountholders and he further stated it was Synchrony Bank's standard practice to mail account statements. It contended these provided enough support to show Synchrony Bank mailed the statements to Campney and further noted Campney did not dispute the amounts due when Synchrony Bank had mailed the statements. Next, PRA asserted there was an agreement between Synchrony Bank and Campney and PRA was Synchrony Bank's assignee. The trial court denied Campney's motion for an involuntary nonsuit because it found the evidence supported each element required for an account stated cause of action.

On direct examination, Campney testified (1) she experienced emotional distress as a result of the lawsuit, (2) she had to take time off from work and had to travel for this case, and (3) she hired counsel. On cross-examination, Campney testified she believed she received the credit statements at the address listed on the statements. On redirect, she stated she could not recall if she received the statements that were admitted into evidence.

After the close of evidence, PRA moved for a directed verdict. First, PRA argued it met its burden because (1) Andrews testified that pursuant to Synchrony Bank's procedure credit statements were mailed to Campney and she could not state she did not receive the statements and (2) Andrews testified the amount owed on the account was $4,236.78. Second, PRA maintained it had no obligation to notify Campney regarding the...

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