Security Finance v. Kirsch

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Justia Opinion Summary

The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's order granting Security Finance's (Security) motion to dismiss Brian Kirsch's (Kirsch) counterclaims against Security under Wis. Stat. Chapters 425 and 427, holding that Kirsch's counterclaims were properly dismissed.

Security and Kirsch entered into a loan agreement. Kirsch later defaulted on the payment obligation. Security subsequently filed a small claims lawsuit against Kirsch to enforce the agreement and collect the alleged debt. Kirsch counterclaimed for damages under chapter 427, the Wisconsin Consumer Act, on the grounds that Security filed this action before serving Kirsch with a notice of right to cure default satisfying the requirements set forth in chapter 425. The circuit court dismissed the counterclaim relating to the notice of right to cure default. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a creditor's failure to provide a notice of right to cure default does not constitute a sufficient basis for relief under chapter 427.

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2019 WI 42 SUPREME COURT CASE NO.: COMPLETE TITLE: OF WISCONSIN 2017AP1408 Security Finance, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Brian Kirsch, Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner. REVIEW OF DECISION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS Reported at 382 Wis. 2d 271,915 N.W.2d 730 (2018 – unpublished) OPINION FILED: SUBMITTED ON BRIEFS: ORAL ARGUMENT: February 1, 2019 SOURCE OF APPEAL: COURT: COUNTY: JUDGE: Circuit Washington Todd K. Martens April 19, 2019 JUSTICES: CONCURRED: KELLY, J. concurs, joined by R.G. BRADLEY, J. (opinion filed). A.W. BRADLEY, J. dissents, joined by ABRAHAMSON, J. (opinion filed). DALLET, J. did not participate. DISSENTED: NOT PARTICIPATING: ATTORNEYS: For the defendant-appellant-petitioner, there were briefs filed by Briane F. Pagel, and Lawton & Cates, S.C., Madison. There was an oral argument by Briane F. Pagel. For the plaintiff-respondent, there was a brief filed by Lisa M. Lawless, Marci V. Kawski, Edward J. Heiser, Jr., and Husch Blackwell LLP, Milwaukee. There was an oral argument by Lisa M. Lawless. An amicus curiae brief was filed on behalf of Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc., by Jessica Roulette, Gregory Myszkowski, Elizabeth Stinebaugh, Nicole Zimmer, and Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc, Milwaukee. An amicus curiae brief was filed on behalf of Credit Union National Association and Wisconsin Credit Union League, by John W. Raihala and Clifford & Raihala, S.C., Madison. An amicus curiae brief was filed on behalf of Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Inc., by Karen M. Bauer, Dana M. Roth, and Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Inc., Milwaukee. 2 2019 WI 42 NOTICE This opinion is subject to further editing and modification. The final version will appear in the bound volume of the official reports. No. 2017AP1408 (L.C. No. 2017SC271) STATE OF WISCONSIN : IN SUPREME COURT Security Finance, FILED Plaintiff-Respondent, v. APR 19, 2019 Brian Kirsch, Sheila T. Reiff Clerk of Supreme Court Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner. REVIEW of a decision of the Court of Appeals. ¶1 ANNETTE KINGSLAND ZIEGLER, J. Affirmed. This is a review of an unpublished decision of the court of appeals, Security Finance v. Kirsch, No. 2017AP1408, unpublished slip op. (Wis. Ct. App. Apr. 11, 2018), affirming the Washington County circuit court's order.1 to The order granted Security Finance's ("Security") motion dismiss Brian Kirsch's ("Kirsch") counterclaims against Security arising under Wis. Stat. chs. 425 and 427 (2015-16).2 1 2 The Honorable Todd K. Martens presided. All subsequent references to the Wisconsin Statutes are to the 2015-16 version unless otherwise indicated. No. 2017AP1408 The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court, concluding that Kirsch's counterclaims were properly dismissed. ¶2 This court must consider whether a debtor who has been sued on a consumer credit transaction without first receiving a notice of right to cure default under ch. 425 may sue the creditor for damages under ch. 427, the Wisconsin Consumer Act ("WCA"). We conclude that a creditor's failure to provide such notice does not constitute a sufficient basis for relief under ch. 427. As a result, Kirsch's counterclaims were properly dismissed, and we affirm the court of appeals. I. ¶3 FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE Security and Kirsch entered into a loan agreement, whereby Security loaned Kirsch $1,000 and Kirsch agreed to pay it back with interest in 12 equal payments from July 1, 2016, to June 1, 2017. Kirsch defaulted on the payment obligation. On February 6, 2017, Security filed a small claims lawsuit against Kirsch to enforce the loan agreement and collect the alleged debt. Kirsch answered and counterclaimed, alleging that Security filed this action "seeking to collect money without, upon information and belief, serving defendant with a notice of right to cure default which satisfies the requirements laid out in [Wis. allowed Stat. under §§] 425.104 Wis. Stat. and [425.]105," § 427.104. seeking damages Specifically, Kirsch alleged that Security "has no right to file an action without first serving a sufficient notice of right to cure default," and that this failure [§] 427.104(1)(g) . . . and "constitutes a violation 2 a violation of [Wis. of Stat. No. §] 425.302." Thereafter, Security sought to voluntarily dismiss the complaint, without prejudice and Kirsch objected. was 2017AP1408 reopened, counterclaims and which Kirsch added filed a an claim amended that The case answer Security and violated § 427.104(1)(j). ¶4 Security moved to dismiss Kirsch's counterclaims. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, stating that Kirsch "baldly asserts that failure to provide proper notice of the right to cure default can constitute threatening or harassing behavior." the The circuit court further stated that "[i]n general, remedy for prejudice." showing the violation alleged is dismissal without The circuit court concluded that Kirsch made "no [he] would be entitled to any other remedy." The circuit court explained: In terms of the dismissal without prejudice, the defendant's counterclaim is moot, and the argument that the defendant is entitled to these additional remedies requires a . . . tortured interpretation of the statute and the facts, and that's not an interpretation that I am required to accept. As a result, the circuit court dismissed the counterclaim relating to the notice of right to cure default. ¶5 The dismissal. court of appeals affirmed the circuit court's Kirsch, No. 2017AP1408, unpublished slip op., ¶¶1, 26. ¶6 The petition for review presented one issue: Whether a customer [who has been] sued on a consumer credit transaction without first receiving a notice of right to cure default may sue the merchant 3 No. for damages under Consumer Act? ¶7 This court's chapter order 427 granting of the 2017AP1408 Wisconsin Kirsch's petition for review provides that "pursuant to Wis. Stat. § (Rule) 809.62(6), [Kirsch] may not raise or argue issues not set forth in the petition for review unless otherwise ordered by the court." II. ¶8 STANDARD OF REVIEW Whether a complaint or a counterclaim "states a claim upon which relief can be granted is a question of law for our independent review; however, we benefit from discussions of the court of Permira appeals and circuit Advisers LLC, 2014 court." WI 86, Data ¶17, 356 Key Partners v. Wis. 2d 665, 849 N.W.2d 693 (citing DeBruin v. St. Patrick Congregation, 2012 WI 94, ¶10, 343 Wis. 2d 83, 816 N.W.2d 878). ¶9 In reviewing a motion to dismiss, this court accepts factual allegations in the complaint or counterclaim as true. Id., ¶18 (citing Strid v. Converse, 111 Wis. 2d 418, 422–23, 331 N.W.2d 350 (1983)). However, this court does not accept legal conclusions asserted in a complaint or counterclaim, "and legal conclusions are insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss." Id. (citing John Doe 67C v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 2005 WI 123, ¶19, 284 Wis. 2d 307, 700 N.W.2d 180; Mitchell v. Lawson Milk Co., 532 N.E.2d 753, 756 (Ohio 1988)). ¶10 of Wis. This case requires the interpretation and application Stat. § 427.104 to determine if Kirsch's claim that Security violated § 427.104 by commencing an action against him before providing a notice of default and right to cure survives 4 No. Security's motion application of to dismiss. a statute "The present 2017AP1408 interpretation questions of law that and this court reviews de novo while benefitting from the analyses of the court of appeals and circuit court." State v. Alger, 2015 WI 3, ¶21, 360 Wis. 2d 193, 858 N.W.2d 346 (citing State v. Ziegler, 2012 WI 73, ¶37, 342 Wis. 2d 256, 816 N.W.2d 238). III. ¶11 Kirsch sufficient argues notice of ANALYSIS that right Security's to cure failure required by to provide Wis. Stat. §§ 425.104 and 425.105 constitutes a violation of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(g) and (1)(j). concerns only the ch. 427 Because the petition for review claim, we cabin our analysis to whether the ch. 425 failure to send sufficient notice of right to cure default can form the basis for a violation of ch. 427 of the WCA.3 ¶12 Kirsch argues that he is entitled to relief under Wis. Stat. § 427.104 because Security filed the lawsuit against him 3 We will not reach this new argument regarding liability for an independent Wis. Stat. ch. 425 claim because it was not raised in the petition for review, it was not raised in the counterclaim, and it was not argued to the circuit court. We do however consider the issue raised in Kirsch's petition for review regarding ch. 427, but decline to consider any issues presented outside the petition for review. We therefore need not consider any arguments regarding Kirsch's counterclaims arising under ch. 425 and decline to do so. See, e.g., State v. Sholar, 2018 WI 53, ¶49, 381 Wis. 2d 560, 912 N.W.2d 89 (citing State v. Sulla, 2016 WI 46, ¶7 n.5, 369 Wis. 2d 225, 880 N.W.2d 659) ("A petitioner's arguments are limited to the issues on which we granted review, unless this court orders otherwise."). 5 No. 2017AP1408 without first sending a notice of right to cure under ch. 425. He argues that that dismissal is not the sole consequence for failing to provide notice because § 427.104 independently creates a cause of action for which § 427.105 provides a remedy. Kirsch's notice argument, failure however, transforms fails into a to connect prohibited how a ch. practice 425 under § 427.104(1)(g) or (1)(j). ¶13 We begin with the language of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1). See State ex rel. Kalal v. Cir. Ct. for Dane Cty., 2004 WI 58, ¶45, 271 interpretation Wis. 2d 633, begins with 681 the N.W.2d 110 language of ("[S]tatutory the statute."). Section 427.104 states, in relevant part as follows: In attempting to collect an alleged debt arising from a consumer credit transaction or other consumer transaction, including a transaction primarily for an agricultural purpose, where there is an agreement to defer payment, a debt collector may not: (a) Use or threaten force or violence to cause physical harm to the customer or the customer's dependents or property; (b) Threaten criminal prosecution; (c) Disclose or threaten to disclose information adversely affecting the customer's reputation for credit worthiness with knowledge or reason to know that the information is false; (d) Initiate or threaten to initiate communication with the customer's employer prior to obtaining final judgment against the customer, except as permitted by statute including specifically s. 422.404, but this paragraph does not prohibit a debt collector from communicating with the customer's employer solely to verify employment status or earnings or where an employer has an established debt counseling service or procedure; 6 No. 2017AP1408 (e) Disclose or threaten to disclose to a person other than the customer or the customer's spouse information affecting the customer's reputation, whether or not for credit worthiness, with knowledge or reason to know that the other person does not have a legitimate business need for the information, but this paragraph does not prohibit the disclosure to another person of information permitted to be disclosed to that person by statute; (f) Disclose or threaten to disclose information concerning the existence of a debt known to be reasonably disputed by the customer without disclosing the fact that the customer disputes the debt; (g) Communicate with the customer or a person related to the customer with such frequency or at such unusual hours or in such a manner as can reasonably be expected to threaten or harass the customer; (h) Engage in other conduct which can reasonably be expected to threaten or harass the customer or a person related to the customer; (i) Use obscene or threatening language in communicating with the customer or a person related to the customer; (j) Claim, or attempt or threaten to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist; (k) Use a communication which simulates legal or judicial process or which gives the appearance of being authorized, issued or approved by a government, governmental agency or attorney-at-law when it is not; (L) Threaten action against the customer unless like action is taken in regular course or is intended with respect to the particular debt; or (m) Engage in conduct in violation of a rule adopted by the administrator after like conduct has been restrained or enjoined by a court in a civil action by the administrator against any person pursuant to the provisions on injunctions against false, misleading, deceptive or unconscionable agreements or conduct (ss. 426.109 and 426.110). 7 No. § 427.104(1). threatening claims that The statute prohibits conduct towards debtors.4 Security violated specific 2017AP1408 harassing Specifically, § 427.104(1)(g) and Kirsch (1)(j) failing to provide ch. 425 notice of right to cure. or by Section 427.104(1)(g) prohibits a creditor from "[c]ommunicat[ing] with the customer . . . with such frequency or at such unusual hours or in such a manner as can reasonably be expected to threaten or harass the customer." Kirsch alleges that Security's filing suit without first providing a notice of right to cure in and of itself constitutes a prohibited 4 communication under subsec. The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions ("WDFI") has provided commentary on the severity of Wis. Stat. ch. 427 violations. The WDFI cautions creditors, stating that "[w]hile you have a right to attempt to collect a legitimate debt owed you, Wisconsin law provides that there are certain things you cannot do in attempting to collect that debt . . . ." Wisconsin Dep't of Financial Insts., Prohibited Practices, https://www.wdfi.org/wca/business_guidance/creditors/debt_collec tion/prohibited_practices.htm (last visited Feb. 20, 2019). Prior to listing the threatening or harassing conduct prohibited by Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1), the WDFI states, "Though it may be tempting to 'cross the line' in attempting to collect a debt rightfully owed you, be aware that the following actions are illegal and may result in severe penalties." Id. The WDFI further addresses the definition of "harassment" in ch. 427 context, stating that "it usually means that a collector used obscene or threatening language with a consumer." Wisconsin Dep't of Financial Insts., WI Debt Collection Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.wdfi.org/wca/business_guidance/creditors/ debt_collection/faq.htm (last visited Feb. 20, 2019). The WDFI further states that harassment includes "calling the consumer names, demeaning the consumer's occupation, or questioning the decisions that led to the consumer's account being placed with a collection agency," along with calling a debtor before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., or calling a debtor with sufficient frequency. Id. 8 No. (1)(g). any 2017AP1408 Notably, Kirsch's counterclaim is completely devoid of allegation that Security "[c]ommunicate[d] with [Kirsch] . . . with such frequency or at such unusual hours or in such a manner as can reasonably be expected to threaten or harass [Kirsch]." In other filing suit without first words, the procedural defect providing a notice of of default and right to cure as outlined in ch. 425 does not create liability under § 427.104(1)(g) in the absence of "[c]ommunicat[ing] with the customer . . . with such frequency or at such unusual hours or in such a manner as can reasonably be expected to threaten or harass the customer." ¶14 Kirsch makes no such allegation. Kirsch also claims that Security violated Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j), which prohibits a creditor from "[c]laim[ing], or attempt[ing] or threaten[ing] to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist." Kirsch alleges that Security's failure to provide a notice of default and right to cure in and of itself is a violation of § 427.104(1)(j). "[c]laim[ed], The crux of Kirsch's claim is that Security attempt[ed] or threaten[ed] to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist" when it filed a lawsuit against him without providing requisite ch. 425 notice of default and right to cure. doing, enforce Kirsch argues that Security the loan agreement procedural requirements. until could have it complied no with In so right ch. the to 425's However, at the time that Security 9 No. 2017AP1408 filed its complaint, a valid and binding loan agreement had been defaulted upon under Wis. Stat. § 425.103(2)(a),5 and money was due to Security. In other words, it had the "right" to enforce compliance with the agreement. Security, however, improperly failed to give Kirsch the requisite notice and the opportunity to "cure" before it filed suit. It jumped the gun. Kirsch then asserts that this procedural failure relieves him of all loan obligations and also entitles him to ch. 427 penalties. In other words, Kirsch argues that a failure to provide a ch. 425 notice of default and right to cure (1) relieves him of any obligation to pay the unpaid loan; (2) amounts to Security's relinquishment of any "right" to enforce the defaulted loan obligation; and thus, (3) entitles him to relief under ch. 427. Regarding the claim Kirsch makes here, however, the statutes do not state that a creditor relinquishes the "right" to enforce a 5 Wisconsin Stat. § 425.103(2) states in relevant part as follows: (2) "Default", with respect to a consumer credit transaction, means without justification under any law: (a) With respect to a transaction other than one pursuant to an open-end plan and except as provided in par. (am); if the interval between scheduled payments is 2 months or less, to have outstanding an amount exceeding one full payment which has remained unpaid for more than 10 days after the scheduled or deferred due dates, or the failure to pay the first payment or the last payment, within 40 days of its scheduled or deferred due date; . . . . § 425.103(2)(a). 10 No. 2017AP1408 defaulted loan obligation if it does not provide proper ch. 425 notice. ¶15 Stat. Wisconsin Stat. § 421.201(6)(b), consistent with Wis. § 427.104(1)(j), enforce rights provides against the that "[a] customer to merchant may not extent that the the provisions of the agreement violate subsec. IV of ch. 422 or ch. 423." Kirsch does not allege that any provision of the loan agreement violates chs. 422 or 423. the rights, appears as here, undisputed agreement, a contained that "right," in Security to The word "right" refers to enforce the sought the loan agreement. to enforce unpaid loan the It loan obligation after default. ¶16 provide The for notice a provision penalty for statute in noncompliance ch. 425 arising does not under any specific WCA subsection, other than the fact that a complaint is not to be filed before notice is properly given.6 Indeed, ch. 425 does otherwise contain penalty provisions in other sections, but not for failure to comply with such notice requirements. The WCA statutes provide no other provision entitling this debtor to relief, other than that of dismissal of an improperly filed complaint. 6 We note that Wis. Stat. § 425.302 states that it "applies to all violations for which no other remedy is specifically provided." § 425.302(2). However, as will be discussed below, Wis. Stat. § 427.105 provides a specific remedy for a Wis. Stat. § 427.104 violation, and the scope of this appeal is limited to Kirsch's § 427.104 claim. We therefore decline to further address § 425.302. 11 No. ¶17 2017AP1408 Kirsch does not petition this court to review whether other penalties might be available to him. Instead, he claims that a creditor's duty to provide a notice of default and right to cure under ch. 425 entitles him to the significant penalties available for a ch. 427 violation. Wisconsin Stat. §§ 425.104 and 425.105 establish a creditor's requirement to issue a debtor a notice of default and right to cure prior to filing suit against the debtor. Under § 425.104(1), "A merchant who believes that a customer is in default may give the customer written notice of the alleged default and, if applicable, of the customer's right to cure any such default (s. 425.105)." Section 425.105(1) states as follows: A merchant may not accelerate the maturity of a consumer credit transaction, commence any action except as provided in s. 425.205(6), or demand or take possession of collateral or goods subject to a consumer lease other than by accepting a voluntary surrender thereof (s. 425.204), unless the merchant believes the customer to be in default (s. 425.103), and then only upon the expiration of 15 days after a notice is given pursuant to s. 425.104 if the customer has the right to cure under this section. ¶18 provide Since notice it is undisputed before that commencing Security this was action, language specifically of Wis. provide Stat. a §§ 425.104 remedy or and penalty failure to comply with either section. 425.105 for first Kirsch entitled to dismissal of the action without prejudice. the to a was Notably, does not creditor's While other sections of ch. 425 expressly provide for remedies and penalties arising under Wis. Stat. §§ 425.302 through 425.304, Kirsch does not 12 No. 2017AP1408 petition this court for review of relief available due to any such sections of ch. 425.7 Rather, Kirsch seeks relief under ch. 427. ¶19 The parties do not dispute that Security failed to properly comply with the notice of default and right to cure provisions of Security's failure violation in penalties ch. ch. order 427 425. to to Kirsch, comply however, with recover imposes. the The ch. seeks 425 into of shoehorn ch. 427 remedies and threatening and significant sort to a harassing conduct which violates Wis. Stat. § 427.104 entitles one to "actual damages and the penalty provided in s. 425.304," but goes further to provide for "damages caused by emotional distress or mental anguish with or without accompanying physical injury proximately caused by a violation of this chapter." Stat. § 427.105(1). entire WCA where Wis. Section 427.105 is the only section in the damages anguish are mentioned. for emotional distress or mental Given that § 427.104 addresses creditors 7 See Wis. Stat. § 425.107 (providing for remedies and penalties under Wis. Stat. § 425.303 where a consumer credit transaction is unconscionable); Wis. Stat. § 425.108 (regarding extortionate extensions of credit, provides that such extensions are unenforceable and for triple the penalty provided under Wis. Stat. § 425.304(1)). Wisconsin Stat. § 425.304 states that a person who violates the WCA in a manner covered by the section is liable for "the greater of: (1) Twice the amount of the finance charge in connection with the transaction, except that the liability under this subsection shall not be less than $100 nor greater than $1,000; or (2) The actual damages, including any incidental and consequential damages. . . ." 13 No. 2017AP1408 that harass or threaten debtors, it is hardly a surprise that a violation of § 427.104 would allow for emotional distress or mental anguish damages in addition to the remedies and penalties provided by violations Wis. of Stat. § 425.304. § 427.104(1) Indeed, addresses punishment egregious for behavior by creditors directed toward debtors and thus provides debtors with greater remedies and penalties. By stark contrast, procedural errors such as pleading defects are treated much differently, as creditors face significantly less potential exposure under ch. 425 for such miscues.8 While a failure to provide a notice of default cure and statutory right remedy to under the is not WCA, expressly the linked WCA's with a proportionate treatment of differing violations supports a conclusion that the procedural deficiency Kirsch complains of does not fall under § 427.104, and does not lead to the harsh penalties imposed by §§ 427.105 and 425.304. ¶20 Relevant case law further indicates that a failure to comply with ch. 425's procedural requirement to notice and the right to cure does not automatically eliminate a creditor's ability to enforce a loan agreement and does not, in and of itself, constitute a ch. 427 violation. 8 Wisconsin courts and See Wis. Stat. § 425.109(4) (stating that failure to comply with pleading requirements is not a violation of chs. 421 to 427, but providing that attorney fees under Wis. Stat. § 425.308 may be awarded if the debtor "establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the failure to comply was willful or intentional"). 14 No. 2017AP1408 federal courts have recognized the distinction between a failure to comply with the procedural requirements imposed by ch. 425 and conduct which violates ch. 427. ¶21 In Beal v. Wyndham Vacation Resorts, 956 F. Supp. 2d 962 (W.D. Wis. 2013), a debtor purchased "timeshare points," making a down payment and financing the remainder of the purchase price through a credit agreement with a creditor. The debtor stopped making payments shortly thereafter. 966. Id. at The creditor eventually sued the debtor in the Sauk County circuit court, seeking a declaration of interest in real estate and a foreclosure judgment against the debtor. Id. at 967. However, prior to commencing the action, the creditor failed to send the debtor a notice of default and right to cure letter as required by Wis. Stat. §§ 425.104 and 425.105. Id. The debtor filed a motion for summary judgment on those grounds, and the circuit court matter. Id. granted the debtor's motion, dismissing the The debtor then sued the creditor in federal court claiming, among other things, that the debtor was entitled to damages because the creditor violated Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j) by failing to provide the debtor a notice of default and right to cure prior to commencing the action against her. 69. Id. at 968– Both parties moved for summary judgment on the debtor's § 427.104(1)(j) claim and others. ¶22 Id. The district court granted the creditor's motion for summary judgment on the debtor's Wis. Stat. § 427.104 claim. Id. at 970. creditor The court explained that "the requirement that a provide a notice of 15 right to cure default is a No. 2017AP1408 procedural hurdle creditors must clear in order to pursue their remedies." Id. at 969 (emphasis added) (citing Wis. Stat. § 425.105). Quoting the Wisconsin court of appeals' decision in Rosendale State Bank v. Schultz, 123 Wis. 2d 195, 365 N.W.2d 911 (Ct. App. 1985), the district court further stated, "The purpose of the notice of right to cure 'is to give the customer an opportunity, before the merchant accelerates the obligation, to restore his or her loan to a current status and thus preserve the customer-merchant relationship.'" Beal, 956 F. Supp. 2d at 969 (quoting Rosendale, 123 Wis. 2d at 199). Therefore, the district remedy court stated that "the appropriate for a creditor's failure to comply with these procedural requirements is dismissal of the creditor's action, which is what happened to [the creditor's] Court for Sauk action against County." Id. [the debtor] Because the in the Circuit debtor secured dismissal of the creditor's circuit court action, she "received the relief to which she is entitled under these provisions." Id. at 970. the In other words, the district court concluded that creditor regardless of retained the right to whether the creditor payment complied from the with notice of default and right to cure requirements. the debtor WCA's Accordingly, the debtor had no remedy under § 427.104(1)(j). ¶23 The court of appeals recognized a similar distinction between chs. 425 and 427 violations in Credit Acceptance Corp. v. Kong, 2012 WI App 98, 344 Wis. 2d 259, 822 N.W.2d 506. In Kong the defendant purchased a vehicle, making a down payment and borrowing the remainder of the purchase price. 16 Id., ¶2. No. After the defendant had stopped making payments 2017AP1408 but 10 days before the defendant was in default under the WCA, the creditor prematurely sent the defendant a notice of default and right to cure letter. Id., ¶¶4–5, 13. The creditor then repossessed the defendant's vehicle and subsequently commenced an action against the defendant seeking a deficiency judgment for the remainder of the purchase price. Id., ¶5. asserting WCA violations. the creditor included a violated the The circuit court concluded that WCA, and $1,000 statutory penalty Stat. § 427.104. ¶24 Id. The defendant counterclaimed, awarded for a damages violation which of Wis. See id., ¶6. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court, but modified the judgment to remove the $1,000 statutory penalty. Id., ¶18. default The court of appeals concluded that the notice of and right to cure was "invalid" because it was prematurely issued, meaning that the creditor "was not entitled to engage in self-help repossession of the vehicle." 14. The violated court Wis. of appeals Stat. thus § 425.206,9 concluded and that that the Id., ¶¶13– the creditor defendant was entitled to damages under Wis. Stat. §§ 425.305 and 425.308. Id., ¶¶14, 16–17. However, the court of appeals concluded that 9 Wisconsin Stat. § 425.206 is titled, "Nonjudicial enforcement limited," and restricts the circumstances in which a creditor "may take possession of collateral or goods subject to a consumer lease," providing that a violation of the section is subject to remedies and penalties under Wis. Stat. § 425.305. Section 425.206 appears today as it did when Credit Acceptance Corp. v. Kong, 2012 WI App 98, 344 Wis. 2d 259, 822 N.W.2d 506, was decided. 17 No. the creditor § 427.104. claim, the did not Id., court violate any ¶18. Addressing stated that provision the "beyond of 2017AP1408 Wis. defendant's imposing Stat. § 427.104 the statutory penalty, the circuit court's written orders do not specify in what prohibited engaged." Id. debt collection practice [the creditor] The court of appeals further noted that the defendant had "not offered any explanation or defense of the court's $1,000 statutory damages award." Id. Accordingly, the court of appeals concluded that the defendant was not entitled to any relief under Wis. Stat. § 427.105. ¶25 Id. Thus, like the district court in Beal, the court of appeals in Kong concluded that the creditor violated ch. 425 by sending a noncompliant notice of default and right to cure, but similarly declined to impose concurrent ch. 427 liability. Kong, like Beal, thus stands for the proposition that a failure to provide destroy a a notice of creditor's default right to and right enforce a to cure debt does in not default. Therefore, under Beal and Kong, a mere violation of Wis. Stat. §§ 425.104 and 425.105 does not automatically lead to a Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j) violation. ¶26 Community Kirsch Credit relies Plan, on this Inc., court's 228 decision Wis. 2d 1, 596 in Kett v. N.W.2d 786 (1999), which also addresses a replevin action, in his attempt to shoehorn a failure to comply with Wis. Stat. §§ 425.104 and 425.105 into a Wis. Stat. § 427.104 violation. Specifically, he claims that under Kett, courts are to apply a "broad scope to the kinds of claims that can be litigated under chapter 427." 18 No. ¶27 2017AP1408 In Kett a creditor brought replevin actions in the Milwaukee County circuit court against four debtors. Wis. 2d at 4. The circuit court replevin judgments to the creditor. initially Id. Kett, 228 granted default Based on those default judgments, the creditor repossessed the debtors' vehicles. Id. After the creditor took possession of the vehicles, the circuit court vacated the replevin judgments because the actions were commenced in an improper venue. Id. The debtors filed suit against the creditor, asserting (1) that the creditor violated Wis. Stat. § 425.206 by bringing suit in the wrong venue; and (2) that the creditor violated Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(h) and (1)(j) by repossessing vehicles it knew or should have known it had no right to repossess. Id. at 4–5. A violation of § 425.206 could give rise to damages under Wis. Stat. § 425.305, whereas a violation of § 427.104 could lead to damages under Wis. Stat. §§ 427.105 and 425.304. Id. at 5, 23–24. Regarding the § 427.104 claims, the court of appeals concluded that the creditor violated both §§ 425.206 and 427.104 as a matter of law, and this court affirmed. Id. at 6–7, 23–24, 54. Regarding the § 427.104 claim in particular, this court concluded that the creditor should have known that it would have no right to enforce the replevin judgments in Milwaukee County, and thus that it violated § 427.104 in attempting to do so. Id. at 25– 26. ¶28 Kett is uninstructive to our analysis because it is distinguishable from this case for two important reasons. First, in Kett, this court was faced with a venue issue, not 19 No. 2017AP1408 with a claim that the creditor violated Wis. Stat. §§ 425.104 or 425.105 by failing to provide a notice of default and right to cure. A claim of improper venue is not the same as a claim that a creditor failed to provide a notice of default and right to cure. In Kett the debtors in essence claimed that though the creditor may have had the right to sue them on the loans, the creditor did not have the right to do so in Milwaukee County. Therefore, in Kett, the creditor lacked the right to sue in Milwaukee County despite presumably fulfilling the procedural requirements of §§ 425.104 and 425.105.10 for the proposition that a failure Kett does not stand to provide a notice of default and right to cure violates Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). Here, there is no dispute that the action was commenced in the proper venue, and this court's holding in Kett is thus inapposite to this case. ¶29 three Second, replevin Kett is actions distinguishable where the because creditor it involved actually obtained replevin judgments and then physically repossessed the vehicles before the circuit court vacated the judgments. claims in Kett in large part centered around The debtors' the creditor's "nonjudicial enforcement" of the debts, as described in Wis. Stat. § 425.206. that went well While the creditor in Kett engaged in acts beyond the mere 10 filing of an action, here, Our presumption is based on the fact that the debtors in Kett v. Community Credit Plan, Inc., 228 Wis. 2d 1, 596 N.W.2d 786 (1999), never claimed that the creditor failed to provide a notice of default and right to cure. 20 No. 2017AP1408 Security voluntarily dismissed its action on a consumer credit debt prior to obtaining or attempting to enforce any judgment. Unlike the creditor in Kett, Security did not obtain a judgment from the circuit court and could not have taken any steps to repossess any property as the creditor did via replevin in Kett. Kett's holding regarding Wis. Stat. § 427.104 is limited to situations where a replevin judgment is obtained and enforced in an improper venue. This court's decision in Kett is materially distinguishable from this case, and we see no reason to extend Kett's limited holding to this factually and procedurally distinct set of circumstances. ¶30 We therefore rely on the WCA's plain language, along with Beal and Kong, and reject an application of Kett in this case. The parties do not dispute that Kirsch took a loan from Security and agreed to timely pay back the loan with interest according to the loan agreement. Like the debtors in Beal and Kong, Kirsch does not claim that he timely made all required payments, nor does he claim that he cured any default. Rather, Kirsch as asserts the same Wis. Stat. § 427.104 claim debtors in Beal and Kong on the same exact grounds. the Like the courts in Beal and Kong, we conclude that Security's failure to send a notice of default and right to cure letter was merely a failure to comply with a procedural requirement that warranted dismissal of Security's action against Kirsch. Such a failure did not disrupt Security's right to payment from Kirsch as did the creditor's While Kirsch failure was to entitled sue to in the dismissal 21 proper of venue in Security's Kett. action No. 2017AP1408 against him, Kirsch's counterclaims fail to state a claim for additional relief under § 427.104(1)(j). IV. ¶31 CONCLUSION This court must consider whether a debtor who has been sued on a consumer credit transaction without first receiving a notice of right to cure default under Wis. Stats. ch. 425 may sue the creditor for damages under Wis. Stats. ch. 427, the Wisconsin Consumer Act. We conclude that a creditor's failure to provide such notice does not constitute a sufficient basis for relief under ch. 427. As a result, Kirsch's counterclaims were properly dismissed and we affirm the court of appeals. By the Court.—The decision of the court of appeals affirmed. ¶32 REBECCA FRANK DALLET, J., did not participate. 22 is No. ¶33 DANIEL KELLY, J. 2017AP1408.dk Distinguishing (concurring). between cases is about more than interferometry; we don't simply overlay the specifics of one case on another and pronounce them distinguished if they imprecisely map each other. As law school professors are wont to say, all cases are distinguishable, if for no other reason than that they involve different parties. A meaningful distinction, on the other hand, is one in which a logical hitch prevents the lessons of a prior case from applying to the one at bar. Credit Plan, Inc.1 Comparing this case to Kett v. Community reveals no such hitch. So we should be governed by Kett, or we should overrule it to the extent it is inconsistent with our conclusion. Either of those options is better than the one we chose, which was to say that our holding and Kett They can co-exist cannot. Because without I creating believe cognitive Kett wrongly dissonance. decided the application of Wis. Stat. § 427.104, I join all of the court's opinion except the part addressing that case. ¶34 The question both here and in Kett is whether a creditor trying to collect a debt arising from a consumer credit transaction engaged in collection practices prohibited by Wis. Stat. § 427.104. In Kett, the debtor claimed the creditor (Community Credit) filed its claim in a venue other than one authorized by Wis. Stat. § 421.401(1). Credit "[e]ngage[d] in . . . conduct So, it said, Community which can reasonably be expected to threaten or harass the customer or a person related 1 228 Wis. 2d 1, 596 N.W.2d 786 (1999). 1 No. 2017AP1408.dk to the customer . . . ." in violation of § 427.104(1)(h). 228 Wis. 2d 1, 24, 596 N.W.2d 786 (1999) (quoting § 427.104(1)(h)) (internal marks omitted). It also said Community Credit "[c]laim[ed], or attempt[ed] or threaten[ed] to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist." Id. (quoting § 427.104(1)(j)) (internal marks omitted). The court of appeals, we noted, "concluded that Community Credit had a duty to know that Milwaukee County was not the proper venue and that Community Credit's filing of a replevin action in Milwaukee County was an attempt to enforce a right it had reason to know did not exist." Id. at 25. We then said that "Community Credit has set forth no reason that persuades this court that the court of appeals erred in concluding that Community Credit engaged in prohibited debt collection practices as a matter of law by attempting to enforce a right it had reason to know did not exist." Id. at 26. held that violated (j), thereby entitling Kett to damages under Community Credit had Consequently, we §§ 427.104(1)(h) § 427.105. and So Kett's lesson is that a procedural mistake——filing in the wrong venue2——means the creditor had no right that it could enforce against the debtor. That is to say, the right would have existed if the creditor had filed in the correct venue, but filing in the wrong venue eliminated the right. 2 State v. Dombrowski, 44 Wis. 2d 486, 502, 171 N.W.2d 349 (1969) (citing Black's Law Dictionary (4th ed.), 'venue' pp. 1727, 1728 ("[Venue] is a matter of procedure[.]"). 2 No. ¶35 Here, as Kirsch's claim Security Finance in was Kett, the error procedural. filed its giving rise Specifically, collection action 2017AP1408.dk he to Mr. claimed without first giving him written notice of his right to cure the default, as required by Wis. Stat. § 425.104(1). Our statutes provide that, if the creditor doesn't give that notice, it may not file the collection action: "A merchant may not . . . commence any action . . . unless the merchant believes the customer to be in default (s. 425.103), and then only upon the expiration of 15 days after a notice is given pursuant to s. 425.104 . . . ." Wis. Stat. § 425.105(1) As in Kett, Mr. Kirsch claims this failure meant Security Finance lacked a right capable of being enforced by necessarily the complaint. follow that Therefore, Security he Finance argued, it "[c]laim[ed], must or attempt[ed] or threaten[ed] to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist" in violation of § 427.104(1)(j). We disagreed with Mr. Kirsch, and rightly so, because "[t]he word 'right' refers to the rights . . . contained in the loan agreement. It appears undisputed that Security sought to enforce the loan agreement, a 'right,' to enforce the unpaid loan obligation after default." Majority op., ¶15. Consequently, Security Finance undoubtedly had a "right" within the meaning of § 427.104(1)(j) when it filed its complaint, even though the filing was premature. ¶36 So here is the problem. We held in this case that the "right" identified in Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j) is a contract right, and it doesn't go away just because the creditor fails to 3 No. 2017AP1408.dk follow the proper procedure in bringing its enforcement action. Majority op., ¶¶2, 31 ("[A] creditor's failure to provide such notice does not constitute a sufficient basis for relief under ch. 427."). But in Kett we said otherwise. We said that Community Credit's failure to file its action in the correct venue meant it was trying to enforce a right it did not have. That can only be true if: (1) the "right" to which § 427.104(1)(j) refers is the right to file the suit, not a contract right; contract right. or (2) The a procedural first error possibility can extinguish conflicts with a our holding today because we explicitly said that the statutory term "right" refers to a contract right. conflicts with Finance's procedural right. So our holding error The second possibility also because did § 427.104(1)(j) we not either said that Security its contract extinguish penalizes a procedurally flawed complaint (Kett), or it doesn't (Security Finance). Both propositions cannot be true simultaneously. ¶37 But the court tries. In an attempt to distinguish the two cases, it says "[a] claim of improper venue is not the same as a claim that a creditor failed to provide a notice of default and right to cure." Majority op., ¶28. Yes, that is true—— proper venue is not the same thing as proper notice. governs where the suit may be filed. it may be filed at all. Wis. Stat. errors but the The latter governs whether But nothing in the opinion explains why § 427.104(1)(j) not The former other. applies to one And if this of is the a procedural matter of comparative gradation, I should think that filing a premature 4 No. 2017AP1408.dk complaint is a significantly more egregious error than filing a timely complaint in the wrong county. ¶38 The court also believes it can distinguish Kett on the ground that Community Credit used the judgments obtained in the wrong venue to repossess collateral that had secured the loans. It says "[t]he debtors' claims in Kett in large part centered around the creditor's 'nonjudicial enforcement' of the debts, as described in Wis. Stat. § 425.206." Majority op., ¶29. enough——that's where the debtors focused. But the court focused on the improper venue chosen by the creditor. of appeals reached the correct True conclusion We said the court in deciding that "Community Credit had a duty to know that Milwaukee County was not the proper venue and that Community Credit's filing of a replevin action in Milwaukee County was an attempt to enforce a right it had reason Wis. 2d at 25. to know did not exist." Kett, 228 The debtors may have been interested in the collateral, but we were interested in the venue.3 This is not a basis for distinguishing the cases. ¶39 the I think the court's opinion today correctly analyzes relationship § 427.104(1)(j). between procedural errors and Wis. Stat. But I don't think that reasoning can co-exist 3 So was the court of appeals. It said the creditor "had a duty to know that Milwaukee County was not the proper place of trial," and "[a]s the creditor, it is in a much better position than the customer to investigate matters such as appropriate venue." Kett v. Community Credit Plan, Inc., 222 Wis. 2d 117, 135, 586 N.W.2d 68 (Ct. App. 1998). So it concluded the creditor had reason to know that it was enforcing a right it did not have in violation of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). Id. at 134. 5 No. with Kett. 2017AP1408.dk So I would overrule Kett to the extent it holds that a creditor who files an enforcement action in the wrong venue violates § 427.104(1)(j). I join all other aspects of the court's opinion. ¶40 I am authorized to state that Justice REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY joins this concurrence. 6 No. ¶41 ANN WALSH BRADLEY, J. 2017AP1408.awb An (dissenting). imbalance occurs when the middle class, the poor and the powerless are held accountable while the monied and powerful are able to act with impunity. The Wisconsin Legislature tried to address such an imbalance when in 1971 it enacted the Wisconsin Consumer Act (WCA). ¶42 Heralded legislation as [then] "clearly . . . to "the enacted assist most in sweeping any state," customers, consumer its intent is particularly those of limited means, in combating unfair business practices." Community Credit N.W.2d 786 Plan, (1999) Inc., (citations 228 credit Wis. 2d 1, omitted). To Kett v. ¶31 n.15, 596 that end, the legislature mandated that if a debt collector gives the consumer a notice with an opportunity to cure a default, then the notice must fulfill certain criteria lest the debt collector not obtain the right to "go to court." ¶43 from When Security Finance tried to collect a $1000 debt Brian Kirsch, it provision of the WCA.1 did so after violating this notice Specifically, it did not provide Kirsch with a statutorily-compliant notice of right to cure. ¶44 Nevertheless, the majority pardons Security Finance's error and allows it to escape accountability for putting Kirsch 1 For purposes of our review, we accept the allegations of Kirsch's counterclaims as true. See Hausman v. St. Croix Care Center, 214 Wis. 2d 655, ¶10, 571 N.W.2d 393 (1997). Security Finance appears to argue in its brief that if any mistake was made with the notice of right to cure, that it was de minimis. Nevertheless, in response to Kirsch's counterclaims, Security Finance voluntarily dismissed its complaint. 1 No. 2017AP1408.awb through a lawsuit that should never have been filed. In so doing, it arrives at a determination that is irreconcilable with the language of Kirsch's loan agreement and our case law. ¶45 The majority's conclusion also flies in the face of the stated purpose of the WCA, which "was designed to protect consumers from unfair, practices . . . ." deceptive, and unconscionable Credit Acceptance Corp. v. Kong, 2012 WI App 98, ¶8, 344 Wis. 2d 259, 822 N.W.2d 506. creates a merchant perverse incentive for Instead, the majority debt collectors to sue consumers without providing the proper notice and right to cure. Many defendants will not fight back,2 and when they do the suit will be simply dismissed without prejudice and the debt collector allowed to refile with absolutely no consequence.3 ¶46 the Unlike the majority, I would give the WCA the teeth legislature intended it to have. In my view, Security Finance's attempt to enforce a right with reason to know that the right did not exist constitutes a violation of Wis. Stat. 2 See Mary Spector, Debts, Defaults, and Details: Exploring the Impact of Debt Collection Litigation on Consumers and Courts, 6 Va. L. & Bus. Rev. 257, 271-72 (2011) ("While the rules vary by state, and even within states, one thing is clear: the rate of default judgments in consumer debt collection cases is reported to have reached 95% and may be double the default judgment rate in debt cases generally."). 3 As amicus Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee details, even a dismissed lawsuit can have decidedly negative consequences for a consumer. The record of a dismissed suit is still publicly available on CCAP, "an internet accessible case management system provided by Wisconsin Circuit Court Access program." See State v. Wayerski, 2019 WI 11, ¶20 n.10, 385 Wis. 2d 344, 922 N.W.2d 468. Such information is available to potential employers, landlords, and the public at large. 2 No. § 427.104(1)(j).4 2017AP1408.awb Specifically, Security Finance attempted to enforce a right to go to court to obtain a judgment despite reason to know that absent compliance with the notice provisions of the WCA, such a right did not exist. ¶47 The majority errs in determining that Kirsch fails to state a claim against Security Finance for violation of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). This erroneous determination is inconsistent with the parties' loan agreement, our case law and the legislature's stated purposes in enacting the WCA. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent. I ¶48 Kirsch entered into a consumer loan agreement with Security Finance whereby Security Finance loaned Kirsch $1,000. Majority op., ¶3. Subsequently, Security Finance alleged that Kirsch defaulted on the loan and brought a small claims action against him. Id. However, it did so without providing a statutorily compliant notice of right to cure default pursuant to Wis. Stat. §§ 425.1045 and 425.105.6 Id. 4 Wisconsin Stat. § 427.104(1)(j) provides in relevant part: "In attempting to collect an alleged debt arising from a consumer credit transaction or other consumer transaction, . . . a debt collector may not: . . . [c]laim, or attempt or threaten to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist . . . ." 5 Wisconsin Stat. § 425.104 sets forth: (1) A merchant who believes that a customer is in default may give the customer written notice of the alleged default and, if applicable, of the customer's right to cure any such default (s. 425.105). (continued) 3 No. ¶49 2017AP1408.awb Kirsch filed counterclaims against Security Finance, arguing that under the WCA it "has no right to file an action without first default." Id. serving a sufficient of right cure See id. Security Finance voluntarily dismissed its complaint and moved to dismiss Kirsch's counterclaims. The circuit court granted the motion and the court of appeals affirmed. 5. to Accordingly, based on this violation, he sought damages pursuant to the WCA. ¶50 notice Upholding the dismissal of Kirsch's Id., ¶¶4- counterclaims, the majority determines that a debt collector's failure to provide a proper notice of right to cure default "does not constitute a sufficient basis for relief under ch. 427." Id., (2) Any notice given under this section shall contain the name, address and telephone number of the creditor, a brief identification of the consumer credit transaction, a statement of the nature of the alleged default and a clear statement of the total payment, including an itemization of any delinquency charges, or other performance necessary to cure the alleged default, the exact date by which the amount must be paid or performance tendered and the name, address and telephone number of the person to whom any payment must be made, if other than the creditor. 6 Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 425.105(1), A merchant may not accelerate the maturity of a consumer credit transaction, commence any action except as provided in s. 425.205(6), or demand or take possession of collateral or goods subject to a consumer lease other than by accepting a voluntary surrender thereof (s. 425.204), unless the merchant believes the customer to be in default (s. 425.103), and then only upon the expiration of 15 days after a notice is given pursuant to s. 425.104 if the customer has the right to cure under this section. 4 ¶2. No. 2017AP1408.awb Specifically, in the majority's view Security Finance was not attempting to "enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist" within the meaning of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). Id., ¶14. Instead, it opines that the right that Security Finance was enforcing was the right to collect an unpaid balance on a loan. Id. II ¶51 The majority begins its analysis on the wrong foot when it misclassifies the "right" Security Finance is attempting to enforce. This initial misstep creates a skewed focus from which the majority opinion does not recover. ¶52 Wisconsin Stat. § 427.104(1)(j) prohibits debt collectors from "[c]laim[ing], or attempt[ing] or threaten[ing] to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does correctly not exist."7 identify It the is "right" of at critical issue importance because to such identification frames the entirety of the analysis. ¶53 consumer I begin loan with the agreement. plain Under language the of heading, the parties' "RIGHTS UPON DEFAULT," the parties' loan agreement provides as follows: If you default and, after we send you a notice and opportunity to cure if required by § 425.105 Wis. Stats., we shall have the right to go to court and, to 7 Violation of this subsection not only entitles the consumer to the statutory penalties provided by Wis. Stat. § 425.304, but also allows the consumer to recover "damages caused by emotional distress or mental anguish with or without accompanying physical injury proximately caused by" the violation. Wis. Stat. § 427.105(1). 5 No. 2017AP1408.awb the extent permitted by law, obtain a judgment against you for the then unpaid amount of your debt. ¶54 This language is unambiguous. It indicates that the "right" identified is not simply the right to collect the unpaid balance on the loan, as the majority determines, but the specific right "to go to court" to "obtain a judgment against" Kirsch. ¶55 Importantly, the right to go to court is a right that can be relinquished by contract,8 and it is distinct from the underlying right to the unpaid balance of the loan in the event of a default. That is, the right to collect the unpaid loan balance is separate from the right to a particular forum for dispute resolution. ¶56 Security Finance had reason to know that it had no "right to go to court" to "obtain a judgment against" Kirsch because it did not satisfy the notice requirements set forth in Wis. Stat. agreement. existence "obtain §§ 425.104 425.105 and the parties' loan Under the WCA and the parties' loan agreement, the of a and Security judgment Finance's against" "right Kirsch to go depended to upon court" to Security Finance sending statutorily-compliant notice and opportunity to cure default to Kirsch. As the majority acknowledges, Security 8 For example, parties may contract to resolve disputes in arbitration as opposed to a court. See, e.g., J.J. Andrews, Inc. v. Midland, 164 Wis. 2d 215, 223-24, 474 N.W.2d 756 (Ct. App. 1991) ("The purpose of arbitration is to obtain a speedy, inexpensive and final resolution of disputes, and thereby avoid the expense and delay of a protracted court battle.") (citations omitted). 6 No. Finance failed to do so. Finance "jumped the gun." ¶57 Nevertheless, 2017AP1408.awb In the majority's words, Security See majority op., ¶14. Security Finance went to court premature attempt to obtain a judgment against Kirsch. in a This is a quintessential example of attempting to enforce a right that does not exist in violation of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). ¶58 Not only does the majority's conclusion contravene the language of the loan agreement, but it also is inconsistent with our case law, specifically Kett, 228 Wis. 2d 1. In Kett, a creditor filed replevin actions against consumers in Milwaukee County Circuit Court and obtained default judgments. Id., ¶3. However, Milwaukee County was not the proper venue under the WCA. Id. Subsequently, the creditor repossessed the consumers' vehicles by nonjudicial recovery based upon the invalid default replevin judgments. ¶59 and The Walworth Id. consumers brought separate Counties the violations of the WCA. against Id., ¶2. lawsuits creditor for in Waukesha its alleged Each included allegations that the creditor had engaged in prohibited debt collection practices within the meaning of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). ¶60 This court concluded that the consumers had stated a valid claim. file Id., ¶¶4, 7. suit preconditions It reasoned that creditors do not have a right to when set they have forth in not the complied WCA. Id., with necessary ¶¶43-50. More specifically, the creditor in Kett had reason to know that it had no right to pursue a replevin default judgment in Milwaukee County. Id., ¶50. Nevertheless, it obtained default judgments 7 No. 2017AP1408.awb in the wrong venue and enforced them by nonjudicial recovery. Id., ¶16. ¶61 I find the majority's attempt to distinguish Kett unconvincing, and instead conclude that Kett's reasoning applies in this case. it had no Like the creditor in Kett that had reason to know right to venue its actions in Milwaukee County, Security Finance had reason to know it had no "right to go to court" to "obtain a judgment against" Kirsch until it provided notice that agreement. complied with the WCA and the parties' loan By prematurely filing suit without providing that notice, Security Finance attempted to enforce a right it had reason to know did not exist in violation of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j).9 9 This line of analysis was adopted by the federal district court in a case with facts very similar to those we address here. In Satran v. LVNV Funding, LLC, No. 17-cv-896-JDP, 2018 WL 2464486, at *1 (W.D. Wis. June 1, 2018), as in this case, the consumer alleged that the creditor commenced suit against the consumer without first providing the statutory notice of right to cure default, and in so doing, the creditor violated Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). Framing the question as "whether a creditor has the 'right' to sue a debtor when it has not given notice of the right to cure default as required by section 425.105[,]" the district court determined that the consumer stated a claim. Id. at *4, 6. It arrived at its conclusion by applying Kett, explaining that "Kett simply held that creditors do not have a right to file suit when they haven't complied with a provision of the WCA." Id. at *6. (continued) 8 No. ¶62 language 2017AP1408.awb Unlike the majority, I would follow Kett and the plain of the parties' loan agreement. Accordingly, I conclude that Kirsch stated a claim against Security Finance for violation of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). III ¶63 In addition to being inconsistent with Kirsch's loan agreement and our case law, the majority opinion is likewise inconsistent with the purpose of the WCA. ¶64 As amicus Legal Action of Wisconsin correctly emphasizes, the WCA was intended to be a "sea-change" in the law.10 The legislature's expressly stated purposes for enacting the WCA include protecting consumers "against unfair, deceptive, false, misleading and unconscionable practices" and "encourag[ing] the development of fair and economically sound Further, the district court observed that under the same framework espoused by the majority here, "courts would have to determine whether each provision of the WCA affects a creditor's right to file suit or merely provides the debtor with a complete defense once the creditor does file suit." Id. I agree with the district court that the WCA "does not allow for this distinction." Id. 10 See Ch. 239, Laws of 1971. For insightful commentary on the history of consumer protection law in Wisconsin and the drafting of the Wisconsin Consumer Act, see generally James D. Jeffries, Protection for Consumers Against Unfair and Deceptive Businesses, 57 Marq. L. Rev. 559 (1974); Thomas D. Crandall, The Wisconsin Consumer Act: Wisconsin Consumer Credit Laws before and after, 1973 Wis. L. Rev. 334 (1973); Edward J. Heiser Jr., Wisconsin Consumer Act: A Critical Analysis, 57 Marq. L. Rev. 389 (1974); and Jeffrey Davis, Legislative Restriction of Creditor Powers and Remedies: A Case Study of the Negotiation and Drafting of the Wisconsin Consumer Act, 72 Mich. L. Rev. 3 (1973). 9 No. consumer practices in consumer 2017AP1408.awb transactions." Wis. Stat. § 421.102(2)(b)-(c). At the time it was enacted, the WCA went "further consumer to protect legislation sweeping state." ¶65 in the consumer interests country," credit and was legislation than any considered [then] other such "the most enacted in any Kett, 228 Wis. 2d 1, ¶31 n.15 (citations omitted). Accordingly, "liberally purposes the construe[]" and particular, legislature the WCA policies." the to Wis. legislature directed promote Stat. provided courts its to "underlying § 421.102(1). that consumer In remedies should be "liberally administered to the end that the customer as the aggrieved party shall be put in at least as good a position as if the creditor had fully complied with [the WCA]." Wis. Stat. § 425.301(1). ¶66 Further, "[a] basic purpose of the remedies the legislature adopted in the Wisconsin Consumer Act is to induce compliance with the Wisconsin Consumer Act and thereby promote its underlying objects." quotations and citation Kett, 228 Wis. 2d 1, ¶36 (internal omitted). As a corollary to this principle, without the threat of a WCA remedy, a debt collector has no incentive to comply with its provisions. ¶67 Disregarding the legislature's stated purpose, the majority allows Security Finance to escape accountability for its violation of the WCA. With impunity, Security Finance has put Kirsch through a lawsuit that it had no right to bring. By being forced to vigorously defend Security Finance's defective suit, Kirsch is most certainly 10 not "in at least as good a No. 2017AP1408.awb position as if the creditor had fully complied with" the WCA. See Wis. Stat. § 425.301(1). ¶68 Simply dismissing the suit without prejudice provides no inducement to compliance with the WCA. collector's perspective, why not file See id. a lawsuit providing the proper notice and right to cure? will not respond.11 From a debt without Often consumers In the rare instance when a consumer does fight back, the suit will simply be dismissed without prejudice and the debt collector free to refile without suffering any consequence. ¶69 In sum, I conclude that Kirsch stated a claim against Security Finance for engaging in a prohibited debt collection practice in violation of Wis. Stat. § 427.104(1)(j). Specifically, Security Finance attempted to enforce a right it had reason to know did not exist by attempting to exercise its "right to go to court" to "obtain a judgment against" Kirsch before providing proper notice of right to cure default as required by the WCA and the parties' consumer loan agreement. ¶70 For the reasons stated above, I respectfully dissent. ¶71 I am authorized to state ABRAHAMSON joins this dissent. 11 See n.2, supra. 11 that Justice SHIRLEY S.

Primary Holding

The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's order granting Security Finance's (Security) motion to dismiss Brian Kirsch's (Kirsch) counterclaims against Security under Wis. Stat. Chapters 425 and 427, holding that Kirsch's counterclaims were properly dismissed.

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