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Gill v. Convergent Outsourcing, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 15, 2017

SUE E. GILL, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated, Plaintiff,

          Michael H. Watson Judge.



         The matter is before the Court on Defendants', Convergent Outsourcing, Inc. and Midland Funding, LLC (collectively “Defendants”), Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Certification of Nationwide Class (ECF Nos. 29, 30), Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 43), and Defendants' Reply in Support (ECF Nos. 37, 38), as well as Defendants' Motion to stay Class Certification Briefing Deadlines Pending Ruling on Defendants' Motion to Stay Proceedings (ECF Nos. 31, 32) Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 35), and Defendants' Reply in Support. (ECF No. 36.) For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Stay (ECF Nos. 29, 30) and DENIES Defendants' Motion to Stay Class Certification Briefing (ECF Nos. 31, 32) as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Sue E. Gill, brings this putative class action against Defendants on behalf of himself and others similarly situated in Ohio for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq. Plaintiff alleges that, in violation of § 1692e, Defendants wrongly attempted to collect a time-barred debt by using a form collection letter which contained an ineffective disclaimer. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶¶ 20-23, ECF No. 1.)

         Defendants now move to stay this action pending certification of a nationwide class in a similar case pending in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Ross v. Convergent Outsourcing, Inc., et al., No. 1:16-cv-00825-PAB-KLM, that was filed on April 12, 2016, six months before Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court on October, 28, 2017.


         A district court has “the inherent power to stay proceedings based on its authority to manage its docket efficiently.” Ferrell v. Wyeth-Ayerst Labs., Inc., No. 1:01-cv-447, 2005 U.S. 2005 WL 2709623, *1 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 21, 2005) (citing In re Airline Pilots Ass'n. v. Miller, 523 U.S. 866, 879 n.6 (1998)). The district court's broad discretion “includes the power to stay a matter . . . pending resolution of independent proceedings which bear upon the case at hand.” Unroe v. Vilsack, No. 2:11-cv-592, 2012 WL 357219, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 13, 2012) (citing Deluca v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mich., No. 06-12552, 2007 WL 715304, at *1 (E.D. Mich. March 7, 2007) (quoting Mediterranean Enters. v. Ssangyong Corp., 708 F.2d 1458, 1465 (9th Cir. 1983)).

         In determining whether it is appropriate to stay litigation, the Court should consider the following factors: “[1] the potentiality of another case having a dispositive effect on the case to be stayed, [2] the judicial economy to be saved by waiting on a dispositive decision, [3] the public welfare, and [4] the hardship/prejudice to the party opposing the stay, given its duration.” Michael v. Ghee, 325 F.Supp.2d 829, 830 (N.D. Ohio 2004) (citing Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248 (1936)); see also Canter v. Calderhead, Lockenmeyer & Peschke Law Office, No 1:13-cv-514, 2014 WL 64155, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 8, 2014).

         Defendants contend Ross is based on nearly identical facts and legal issues as this case. (Defs.' Mot. Stay at 4.) Defendants therefore assert that if Plaintiff's action in this Court is allowed to proceed concurrently with Ross, Defendants will be prejudiced by having to engage in duplicative litigation and discovery related to overlapping classes, will suffer unnecessary financial expenses, and will be subject to potential inconsistent rulings. (Defs.' Mot. Stay at 4.)

         Plaintiff, in turn, opposes any stay and contends that the collection letters at issue in Ross and in this case are distinct, that Plaintiff will be prejudiced by the settlement in Ross because it is unfair, and that a stay will not promote justice or judicial economy.

         A. Dispositive Effect

         Defendants contend the parties in the Ross have filed a motion for conditional class certification and preliminary approval of class settlement. Defendants, therefore, request a stay of this case to allow the Colorado court to resolve the merits of the proposed settlement. According to Defendants, certification of Ross's nationwide class will have a dispositive effect on Plaintiff's case because the nationwide class definition absorbs all class members within Plaintiff's class definition. (Defs.' Mot. Stay at 4.) Plaintiff brings her Complaint on behalf of a class of Ohio consumers defined as:

[A]ll persons similarly situated in the State of Ohio from whom Defendants attempted to collect a delinquent, time-barred consumer debt, allegedly owed for a First Bank of Delaware credit card account, via the same form collection letter (Exhibit B), that Defendants sent to ...

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