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Love Beal & Nixon P.C. v. Best Buy Co., Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 11, 2017

LOVE, BEAL & NIXON, P.C., Plaintiff,
BEST BUY CO., INC., and ADP, LLC, Defendants.


          Vicky Miles-LaGrange UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is scheduled for trial on the Court's May 2017 trial docket.

         Before the Court are plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, both filed January 3, 2017. These motions have been fully briefed. Based upon the parties' submissions, the Court makes its determination.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Love, Beal & Nixon, P.C. (“LBN”) is a law firm that offers debt collection services. Defendant Best Buy Co., Inc. (“Best Buy”) is a consumer electronics company that operates retail stores in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Defendant ADP, LLC (“ADP”) is a business services company which performs wage garnishment processing services for Best Buy.

         On behalf of its clients, LBN obtained judgments in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, District Court, for cases filed in 2008 and 2011, against Melissa D. Estes of Coweta, Oklahoma, whose social security number ends in 8735 (“Judgment Debtor”). On August 29, 2013, Rebecca Miramontes (“Miramontes”), an LBN account manager, researched and found a “Melissa Estes” employed by Best Buy in Tulsa, Oklahoma and a “Melissa Estes” employed as a teacher in Edmond, Oklahoma. No middle name or initial was provided for either “Melissa Estes.” Based upon her research, Miramontes believed that one of these “Melissa Estes” was the Judgment Debtor.

         As a result of this information, LBN filed a Continuing Post-Judgment Earnings Garnishment Summons and Affidavit to Edmond Public Schools. Edmond Public Schools filed its Garnishee's Answer, stating that Melissa Estes was not employed by the Edmond Public Schools. Within the week, LBN issued two garnishments to Best Buy in each of the collection actions, directing Best Buy to withhold wages of Melissa Estes XXXXX8735.[1], [2] The Judgment Debtor was not and has never been employed by Best Buy. Instead, Melissa A. Estes (“Estes”), a similarly-named individual with a different Social Security number, was employed by Best Buy. As with all garnishments served on Best Buy, the Garnishment Summonses and Affidavits served by LBN were forwarded to ADP for processing.

         ADP prepared Best Buy's Garnishee Answer in the collections actions with employee data supplied by Best Buy's database. ADP filed Best Buy's Garnishee Answer in the 2008 case on behalf of Best Buy as follows: (1) on January 6, 2014 - Not Employed/Unable to Locate, and (2) on January 10, 2014 - Not Employed. ADP filed Best Buy's Garnishee Answer in the 2011 case on behalf of Best Buy as follows: (1) on December 23, 2013 - Unable to Locate; (2) on January 6, 2014 - Active, and (3) on January 30, 2014 - Active.

         After receiving notice of the Garnishment Summons, on January 3, 2014, Estes called LBN and informed Miramontes that she was not the Judgment Debtor. Miramontes advised Estes that Best Buy had informed LBN that Estes was not the Judgment Debtor and that the matter had been cleared up by her employer. On January 9, 2014, Estes against called LBN and informed another representative, Melissa Longpine (“Longpine”), that her wages were being garnished for somebody else. Longpine stated that Best Buy had responded that the Judgment Debtor was not employed by Best Buy and that she did not know why her wages were being garnished. Longpine contacted ADP on January 9, 2014, and advised ADP that it was garnishing the wrong person and confirmed that the Judgment Debtor information on the Garnishment Summons was correct.

         Best Buy withheld approximately $500 from Estes' paycheck on January 10, 2014, even though she was not the Judgment Debtor identified in the garnishment documents. On January 12, 2014, Estes contacted Best Buy HR Support to inquire about her wages being garnished. Also on January 13, 2014, Estes contacted Miramontes and explained that her wages had been garnished. Miramontes then contacted ADP and asked ADP to correct the withholding of Estes' wages. Miramontes then contacted Estes and informed her that ADP had promised to investigate and, if appropriate, to issue a refund. On January 13, 2014, ADP reversed funds to Best Buy so that Best Buy could issue a refund to Estes of the wages incorrectly withheld. On the afternoon of January 13, 2014, Best Buy HR Support sent Estes an email informing her that they had processed a refund and that the funds would be in her bank account on January 15, 2014.

         On February 13, 2014, Estes filed a lawsuit against LBN, asserting a claim for violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and a claim for malicious use of civil process against LBN in relation to the garnishment summons issued to Best Buy. LBN denied Estes' allegations. Shortly after LBN's motion for summary judgment was denied, Estes and LBN settled the lawsuit.

         On January 16, 2016, LBN commenced the instant action asserting a negligence claim against both defendants. LBN and defendants have now moved for summary judgment.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         “Summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The moving party is entitled to summary judgment where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. When applying this standard, [the Court] examines the record and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” 19 ...

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