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Johnson v. Midland Funding, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 24, 2015

ALEDIA Q. JOHNSON, etc., Plaintiff,
v.
MIDLAND FUNDING, LLC, Defendant

Decided: March 23, 2015.

Page 463

For Aleida Johnson, f/k/a Aleida Hill, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff: Earl P. Underwood, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Fairhope, AL; Kenneth J. Riemer, Mobile, AL.

For Midland Funding LLC, Defendant: Jason Brent Tompkins, LEAD ATTORNEY, Birmingham, AL; Chase Tristan Espy, Birmingham, AL.

Page 464

ORDER

WILLIAM H. STEELE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on the defendant's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 17). The parties have filed briefs in support of their respective positions, (Docs. 17, 21, 22, 25, 27), and the motion is ripe for resolution. After careful consideration, the Court concludes the motion is due to be granted.

BACKGROUND

According to the complaint, (Doc. 1), the plaintiff filed for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 13. The defendant then filed a proof of claim that disclosed on its face that the claim is barred by the statute of limitations. The complaint alleges that this filing violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (" the Act" ), in that it was deceptive and misleading for purposes of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e and unfair and unconscionable for purposes of 15 U.S.C. § 1692f.

In Crawford v. LVNV Funding, LLC, 758 F.3d 1254 (11th Cir. 2014), the Eleventh Circuit " consider[ed] whether a proof of claim to collect a stale debt in Chapter 13 bankruptcy violates" the Act and " answer[ed] this question affirmatively." Id. at 1256-57. The defendant argues that dismissal nevertheless is required on two grounds: (1) " [a]ny claim Johnson might otherwise assert under the [Act] in this case is precluded by the Bankruptcy Code" ; and (2) " [e]ven if Johnson's claim were not precluded by the Bankruptcy Code, she still fails to state a claim under the [Act]." (Doc. 17 at 5, 16).

DISCUSSION

" There is no burden upon the district court to distill every potential argument that could be made based upon the materials before it on summary judgment." Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995). The Court's review on this motion to dismiss is similarly limited to those arguments the parties have expressly advanced. E.g., Jurich v. Compass Marine, Inc., 906 F.Supp.2d 1225, 1228 (S.D. Ala. 2012).

The defendant's second argument is essentially an extended and futile effort to deny and thereby avoid the ruling in Crawford. The only serious question presented by the defendant's motion is whether tension between the Bankruptcy Code (" the Code" ) and the Act precludes the plaintiff from pursuing her claim under the Act.[1] That issue was not presented in Crawford, and the Eleventh Circuit expressly

Page 465

declined to consider it. 758 F.3d at 1262.

" The courts are not at liberty to pick and choose among congressional enactments, and when two statutes are capable of co-existence, it is the duty of the courts, absent a clearly expressed congressional intention to the contrary, to regard each as effective." Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 551, 94 S.Ct. 2474, 41 L.Ed.2d 290 (1974); accord J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., 534 U.S. 124, 143-44, 122 S.Ct. 593, 151 L.Ed.2d 508 (2001). There are various ways of measuring and resolving the tension between federal statutes, but the parties agree to use the test requiring " irreconcilable conflict" between the provisions. (Doc. 17 at 4-5, 7, 16; Doc. 21 at 3, 7-12, 16, 18, 21; Doc. 22 at 1, 3, 7, 9).

Before deciding whether the Act and the Code are in irreconcilable conflict, the Court must determine what each provides. The Act, as construed by Crawford, provides that it is unlawful for a debt collector to file a proof of claim in a Chapter 13 proceeding knowing the claim to be time-barred.[2] As discussed below, the Code provides that it is permissible for a creditor to file such a proof of claim if ...


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