Williams v. Osi Educational Services, Inc, No. 07-1143.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtRipple
Citation505 F.3d 675
Docket NumberNo. 07-1143.
Decision Date10 October 2007
PartiesSandra D. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. OSI EDUCATIONAL SERVICES, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee.
505 F.3d 675
Sandra D. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
OSI EDUCATIONAL SERVICES, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 07-1143.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Argued September 11, 2007.
Decided October 10, 2007.

[505 F.3d 676]

Robert K. O'Reilly (argued), Ademi & O'Reilly, Cudahy, WI, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Ross A. Anderson (argued), Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, Milwaukee, WI, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before RIPPLE, MANION and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.


Sandra Williams filed this action in the district court on behalf of herself and a putative class. She sought relief under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692k (2000).1

505 F.3d 677

The district court granted the defendant, OSI Educational Services, Inc., ("OSI"), summary judgment. Ms. Williams then filed a timely appeal to this court.2 For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I
BACKGROUND
A.

Ms. Williams is a consumer whose debt was incurred for personal, family or household purposes. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(5). OSI is a debt collection agency, as defined in 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6); it was hired by Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corp. ("Great Lakes") to collect its debts. OSI sent Ms. Williams a letter and a debt validation notice, dated March 28, 2005. The letter sought to collect a sum of $807.89 labeled as "Total Due," which was the outstanding balance owed to Great Lakes. The letter breaks down the amount owed as follows:

 DATE: 03/28/05
                 PRINCIPAL: $683.56
                 INTEREST: $ 16.46
                 FEES: $107.87
                 TOTAL DUE: $807.89
                

The letter further states:

The balance may not reflect the exact amount of interest which is accruing daily per your original agreement with your creditor. Contact us to find out your exact payout balance.

R.17, Ex. A.

B.

The district court granted OSI's motion for summary judgment. It determined that the letter apprised Ms. Williams of the total amount due, including the amount of the principal, interest and fees due. The district court stated that, "[a]lthough the language in the letter does not exactly track the `safe harbor' wording in Miller [v. McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols, & Clark, L.L.C., 214 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir.2000)], the letter clearly advises that additional interest is accruing on a daily basis and that, therefore, additional interest may be added." R.28 at 6. Comparing this case to Taylor v. Cavalry Investment, L.L.C., 365 F.3d 572 (7th Cir. 2004), the district court took the view that the letter complied with the statute because OSI's "letter states the amount of the debt clearly enough so that an unsophisticated recipient would not misunderstand it." R.28 at 6-7.

II
DISCUSSION

Ms. Williams submits that there is an issue of material fact as to whether OSI's letter clearly states the amount of the debt, as required by the FDCPA. In examining that contention, we begin with the wording of the statute. The FDCPA requires that debt collectors state "the amount of the debt" that they are seeking to collect from the consumer. 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(1). The debt collector's letter must state the amount of the debt "clearly enough that the recipient is likely to understand it." Chuway v. Nat'l Action Fin. Servs. Inc., 362 F.3d 944, 948 (7th Cir. 2004); see also Taylor, 365 F.3d at 574. To ensure that this statutory command is implemented properly, we must evaluate the letter to determine whether it causes any "confusion" or "misunderstand[ing]" as to the amount due. Taylor, 365 F.3d at 575-76. Our test is an objective one. See

505 F.3d 678

Durkin v. Equifax Check Servs., Inc., 406 F.3d 410, 414 (7th Cir.2005). In making this determination, we evaluate the letter from the perspective of an "unsophisticated consumer or debtor." Id. The unsophisticated consumer is "uninformed, naive, [and] trusting," but possesses "rudimentary knowledge about the financial world, is wise enough to read collection notices with added care, possesses `reasonable intelligence,' and is capable of making basic logical deductions and inferences." Pettit v. Retrieval Masters Creditor Bureau, Inc., 211 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2000); see also Veach v. Sheeks, 316 F.3d 690, 693 (7th Cir.2003). Notably, we have rejected explicitly the notion that we should employ the least sophisticated debtor standard, the "very last rung on the sophistication ladder." Pettit, 211 F.3d at 1060 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Gammon v. GC Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 27 F.3d 1254, 1257 (7th Cir.1994). In short, we must determine whether the letter "[c]ould well confuse a substantial number of recipients." Taylor, 365 F.3d at 575.

In undertaking our review, we must keep in mind the procedural framework in which the case comes to us. The general principles that guide our review of a case coming to us on summary judgment are well-established. We review de novo a district court's decision on a motion for summary judgment and construe all facts in favor of the non-moving party, here Ms. Williams. See Durkin, 406 F.3d at 414. "[S]ummary judgment is appropriate if, on the record as a whole, a rational trier of fact could not find for the non-moving party." Turner v. J.V.D.B. & Assocs., Inc., 330 F.3d 991, 995 (7th Cir.2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In an FDCPA case, "a mere claim of confusion is not enough" to prevail on summary judgment. Rather, the "plaintiff must show that the challenged language of the letters unacceptably increases the level of confusion." Durkin, 406 F.3d at 415 (internal quotation marks omitted). Our past cases indicate that summary judgment may be avoided by showing that the letter, on its face, will "confuse a substantial number of recipients." Taylor, 365 F.3d at 575. We also have said that, absent a showing that the face of the letter will precipitate such a level of...

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68 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Bolds, No. 07-5062.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • December 20, 2007
    ...1161; Cotton, 399 F.3d at 916, and the two circuits which have found a difference have failed to convincingly explain it. See Kizeart, 505 F.3d at 675 ("[W]hile appellate courts understand and can implement the difference between deferential and nondeferential review, the making of finer gr......
  • McMahon v. LVNV Funding, LLC, No. 12 C 1410
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • March 14, 2018
    ...assert for the time being, rather than a claim it had run out of time to assert. Id. at 686 (quoting Williams v. OSI Educ. Servs., Inc. , 505 F.3d 675, 678 (7th Cir. 2007) ). The defendant argued that judgment as a matter of law was nevertheless inappropriate because, while perhaps the lett......
  • Haddad v. Midland Funding, LLC, 16 C 3942.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • May 1, 2017
    ...cited by Midland, Taylor v. Cavalry Investments, L.L.C. , 365 F.3d 572 (7th Cir. 2004), and Williams v. OSI Education Services, Inc. , 505 F.3d 675 (7th Cir. 2007), are distinguishable. In Taylor , the Seventh Circuit affirmed a defense summary judgment where the debt collector told the pla......
  • Ruth v. Triumph Partnerships, No. 08-3458.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • August 17, 2009
    ...violated. For that, evidence is required, the most useful sort being the ... consumer survey...."); Williams v. OSI Educ. Servs., Inc., 505 F.3d 675, 678 (7th Cir.2007).4 The district court in this case thought that the notice fell into this category. In the absence of any extrinsic evidenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
68 cases
  • U.S. v. Bolds, No. 07-5062.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • December 20, 2007
    ...1161; Cotton, 399 F.3d at 916, and the two circuits which have found a difference have failed to convincingly explain it. See Kizeart, 505 F.3d at 675 ("[W]hile appellate courts understand and can implement the difference between deferential and nondeferential review, the making of finer gr......
  • McMahon v. LVNV Funding, LLC, No. 12 C 1410
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • March 14, 2018
    ...assert for the time being, rather than a claim it had run out of time to assert. Id. at 686 (quoting Williams v. OSI Educ. Servs., Inc. , 505 F.3d 675, 678 (7th Cir. 2007) ). The defendant argued that judgment as a matter of law was nevertheless inappropriate because, while perhaps the lett......
  • Haddad v. Midland Funding, LLC, 16 C 3942.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • May 1, 2017
    ...cited by Midland, Taylor v. Cavalry Investments, L.L.C. , 365 F.3d 572 (7th Cir. 2004), and Williams v. OSI Education Services, Inc. , 505 F.3d 675 (7th Cir. 2007), are distinguishable. In Taylor , the Seventh Circuit affirmed a defense summary judgment where the debt collector told the pla......
  • Ruth v. Triumph Partnerships, No. 08-3458.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • August 17, 2009
    ...violated. For that, evidence is required, the most useful sort being the ... consumer survey...."); Williams v. OSI Educ. Servs., Inc., 505 F.3d 675, 678 (7th Cir.2007).4 The district court in this case thought that the notice fell into this category. In the absence of any extrinsic evidenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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