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Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC v. Bickford

Supreme Court of Maine

June 29, 2017

PORTFOLIO RECOVERY ASSOCIATES, LLC
v.
MAX A. BICKFORD

          Argued: April 12, 2017

         Reporter of Decisions

          Erica Veazey, Esq. (orally), Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Bangor, for appellant Max A. Bickford

          Katherine Audet, Esq., Law Offices Howard Lee Schiff, PC, Portland, and David P. Florio, Esq. (orally), Law Offices Howard Lee Schiff, PC, Auburn, Massachusetts, for appellee Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC.

          Linda Conti, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for amicus curiae Attorney General Janet T. Mills

          Thomas A. Cox, Esq., National Consumer Law Center, Portland, and Jeffrey Gentes, Esq., Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, New Haven, Connecticut, for amici curiae The National Consumer Law Center and The Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Max A. Bickford appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Hancock County, R. Murray, J.) affirming a District Court (Ellsworth, Mallonee, J.) judgment in a small claims proceeding in favor of Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC (PRA), finding Bickford liable on debt that PRA had purchased from a prior creditor. Bickford raises two issues on appeal. He contends that the District Court erred by finding that PRA had met its burden of proof and by admitting PRA's exhibits into evidence. We disagree and affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] PRA filed two small claims complaints against Bickford: one on April 23, 2015, and the second on May 11, 2015. The first claim alleged that Bickford had been indebted to Capital One Bank (USA), N.A. in the amount of $1, 102.20 and that PRA had purchased the debt. The second alleged that Bickford had been indebted to HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A. in the amount of $885.08 and that PRA had purchased the debt. In each complaint, PRA requested a judgment against Bickford for the amount of the alleged debt plus costs.

         [¶3] The District Court [Mallonee, J.) heard the cases together on October 5, 2015. For each claim, PRA offered in evidence an affidavit suggesting that PRA had received proper assignment of Bickford's debt and that the purported amount of the debt was an accurate statement of the amount of money owed. PRA also offered in evidence for each claim bills of sale purportedly proving the sale of Bickford's two accounts from the prior creditors to PRA. Additionally, as to its first claim, PRA offered in evidence several credit card statements and a 2012 Maine tax lien certificate offered to show that the address where the statements were mailed was Bickford's residence. As to its second claim, in addition to the affidavit and bill of sale, PRA offered in evidence a single credit card statement.

         [¶4] Bickford objected to the admission of the affidavits in each claim on the basis that there was no witness to verify their relevance, accuracy, or credibility, and that they did not comply with the requirements for actions brought on itemized annexed accounts pursuant to 16 M.R.S. § 355 (2016). Bickford also argued that all of PRA's exhibits should be excluded pursuant to M.R.S.C.P. 6(b) and 15, and M.R. Civ. P. 43(a). Further, he argued at the hearing that PRA had offered no evidence of a contract and therefore could not prove its claims for breach of contract.

         [¶5] The court reserved ruling on the evidentiary offerings in both claims and provided additional time for each party to submit written arguments. After review of the written submissions, in two decisions- without making factual findings or explicitly ruling on the admissibility of the evidence-the court found that 16 M.R.S. § 355 did not apply and concluded that PRA had met its burden of proof as to both claims.[1] Bickford appealed both decisions to the Superior Court pursuant to M.R.S.C.P. 11(d), and the Superior ...


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