In Allen v. Credit Collection Servs., No. 2:18-cv-00929-MCE-KJN, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27363 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 18, 2020), Judge Englund dismissed an FDCPA claim on the basis that the call number and pattern did not constitute harassment under the FDCPA.
Plaintiff maintains that, despite CCS’ call logs and telephone recordings of the two actual conversations its representatives had with Plaintiff concerning the underlying debt, CCS is not entitled to summary judgment because it violated the FDCPA by repeatedly calling his cellular telephone number after he verbally requested the calls to stop. The Court disagrees. It should initially be noted that Plaintiff makes no claim that he notified CCS in writing to cease any further communications. Had such written request been made, there is no question that additional calls would have triggered FDCPA liability under 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(c), which prohibits further communication “[i]f a consumer notifies [the] debt collector in writing . . . that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer.” Consequently, the viability of Plaintiff’s FDCPA claims necessarily rests upon whether Plaintiff has shown that verbal request was made and that the collection calls continued unabated. The Ninth Circuit has recognized under the appropriate circumstances even an oral demand to stop calling can trigger liability under the FDCPA for harassing, abusive, and/or oppressive activities by a debt collector thereafter. Fox v. Citicorp Credit Services, 15 F.3d 1507, 1517 (9th Cir. 1994). Plaintiff has nonetheless failed to adequately rebut the evidence submitted by CCS that no verbal request was made. As set forth above, Plaintiff offers only his vague and unsubstantiated deposition testimony to counter the solid evidence of calls made offered by CCS, and this is insufficient. See Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that a plaintiff’s uncorroborated testimony is insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment). Plaintiff’s self-serving testimony is not enough to create a triable issue of material fact. Plaintiff cannot say who at CCS he spoke with or on how many occasions such conversations occurred. He offers no notes of any conversations he purports to have had and cannot even say when the conversations took place any more definitely that that they occurred over a period of some three months. Moreover, Plaintiff’s screenshot of a mobile application of blocked calls also does not demonstrate that he told CCS to stop calling him, since no link between any of the purportedly blocked calls and CCS has been established. Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. (“MSJ”), ECF No. 9-2 at 5:18-19. What the evidence does show is that out of the fifteen calls placed, CCS’ only two calls were answered have no record of Plaintiff asking that the calls cease, only that Plaintiff planned to dispute the charges with Comcast. SUF ¶ 4. Additionally, fifteen calls in the span of seven months does not evidence any intent by CCS to annoy, harass, or abuse Plaintiff. See, e.g., Muzyka v. Rash Curtis & Assocs., No. 2:18-CV-01097 WBS, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111795, 2019 WL 2869114 at *6 (E.D. Cal. July 3, 2019) (determining if there is actionable harassment or annoyance turns not only on the volume of calls made, but also on the context and pattern of the calls). Additionally, in the case at bar there is no evidence that CCS called Plaintiff multiple times in a single day, called Plaintiff at odd hours, or called Plaintiff immediately after he had just hung up following an earlier call. While those circumstances can trigger FDCPA liability, they are simply not present here. Indeed, this court’s decision in Arteaga v. Asset Acceptance, LLC, 733 F. Supp. 2d 1218, 1229 (E.D. Cal. 2010) is more analogous here. In Arteaga, the collector called eighteen times in approximately five months. Id. at 1235. As here, there was no evidence that calls were made immediately after the Plaintiff hung up, no evidence that multiple calls were made in a single day, and no evidence that calls were made at odd times or to Plaintiff’s employer family or friends. Id. at 1229. On those facts the Arteaga court granted summary judgment in the defendant’s favor. Id. at 1233.4 While Plaintiff asserts that the determination of whether conduct in collecting a debt amounts to harassment should typically be a question of fact left to a jury (see Pl.’s Opp’n to MSJ, at 8:24-9:1-2), under the circumstances of the present matter that argument is unavailing. It bears noting that several courts have found insufficient evidence that a debt collector placed calls with the intent to harass or annoy for purposes of FDCPA liability, even where the volume of calls placed were far greater than that alleged here. See, e.g., Jiminez v. Accounts Receivable Mgmt., No. 09-CV-09070-GW(AJWx), 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141780, 2010 WL 5829206, at *6 (C.D. Cal. June 24, 2010) (summary judgment granted on § 1692d claim where the defendant placed 69 calls over a 115-day period and placed more than 2 calls in one day). Tucker v. The CBE Group Inc., 710 F. Supp. 2d 1301, 1305-1306 (M.D. Fla. 2010) (57 calls placed to the plaintiff, including 7 calls in one day, did not constitute actionable harassment). Def.’s Reply to Opp’n, ECF No. 13 at 3:3-9. Accordingly, and for all the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff has failed to rebut Defendant’s showing that it lacked any intent to harass, abuse, or annoy for purposes of incurring FDCPA liability. Therefore, summary judgment in favor of CCS on Plaintiff’s FDCPA claims is proper.