Echlin v. PeaceHealth, No. 15-35324 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Echlin received treatment at PeaceHealth but ignored multiple requests for payment. PeaceHealth referred her accounts to CCI, a purported collection agency. Under a 2004 agreement, for a fixed fee, CCI performed services related to debt-collection and PeaceHealth would suspend its in-house collection efforts. CCI independently screened each account for potential collection problems. Although PeaceHealth was generally aware of the standard format of CCI’s letters, CCI alone controlled their content without PeaceHealth’s approval. The letters were written on CCI letterhead, mailed from CCI’s in-house mailing center, and listed CCI’s contact information (PeaceHealth’s information was labeled “Creditor Detail”). The letters directed debtors to a CCI website. CCI handled correspondence from PeaceHealth debtors.CCI had no ability to process or negotiate payments but forwarded to PeaceHealth any payments it received. After two letters, accounts were returned to PeaceHealth. CCI did not participate in subsequent collection steps. Echlin filed a putative class action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e, 1692j. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. CCI did not engage in “flat-rating,” in which a third party sends a delinquency letter to a debtor, portraying itself as a debt collector, when it actually has no real involvement in the debt collection effort. CCI meaningfully participated in PeaceHealth’s debt-collection efforts, screening the accounts, independently composing and mailing letters, responding to customer questions, and maintaining a website that allowed customers to access individualized information.