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Caldwell v. Redstone Federal Credit Union

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

January 2, 2018

DEMETRIUS D. CALDWELL, et al., Plaintiffs,



         On June 28, 2017, Defendants Redstone Federal Credit Union (“Redstone”) and the Law Office of C. Howard Grisham (“Grisham”) moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Class Action Complaint, (doc. 48), under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). (Docs. 51 & 53). Plaintiffs filed a response opposing both motions, (doc. 61), and both Defendants replied, (docs. 62 & 63). The motions are fully briefed and ripe for review. For the reasons stated more fully below, the motions to dismiss are DENIED and the alternative motions for a more definite statement are GRANTED

          I. Standard of Review

          Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955). Additionally, “[i]n alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

         The court accepts all factual allegations as true on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000). However, legal conclusions unsupported by factual allegations are not entitled to that assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

         II. Background[2]

         On October 29, 2015, Plaintiffs Demetrius and Sabrina Caldwell (the “Caldwells”) initiated this action on behalf of themselves and a purported class against Redstone and Grisham, alleging five counts including a bankruptcy count of contempt for violating discharge injunctions[3] and a count for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). (Doc. 1). Defendants moved to dismiss the Caldwells' claims, (docs 7 & 10), and the undersigned granted those motions in part and denied them in part on October 17, 2016, dismissing all but the two claims identified above. (Doc. 30).

         On June 14, 2017, Plaintiffs amended their complaint. (Doc. 48). In addition to the Caldwells, the amended complaint added named Plaintiffs Jane B. Locklin, Bart Reeves, Mitchell A. Davis, Jeremy D. Holland, Jessalyn Hooper, and Lorondo Brazelton (the “New Plaintiffs”). (Id. at ¶¶ 5-10). Each Plaintiff filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in the Northern District of Alabama. (Id. at ¶ 13). Each owed money to Redstone and/or Grisham. (Id. at ¶ 14). Each Plaintiff received a discharge from the Bankruptcy Court. (Id. at 17). Nevertheless, Redstone- which had been mailed a copy of the discharge orders in each case-used Grisham to attempt to collect the discharged debt. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19).

         Specifically with respect to the Caldwells, Redstone obtained a judgment against Sabrina Caldwell for a debt on September 16, 2003. (Id. at ¶ 20). The Caldwells jointly filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on October 16, 2005, and received a discharge of Redstone's debt on January 25, 2006. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22). See also In re Caldwell, No. 05-13100-TBB7. Despite the discharge, Redstone and Caldwell revived the judgment and recorded it with the Madison County Probate Office on June 20, 2013; afterwards, they attempted to collect the debt. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24).

         Redstone obtained judgments against each of the other named Plaintiffs as well, the dates of which are identified in the amended complaint. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 29, 33, 37, 41, & 45). The amended complaint also notes the dates on which each Plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, (id. at ¶¶ 26, 30, 34, 38, 42, & 46), and the dates on which each Plaintiff received a discharge of Redstone's debt, (id. at ¶¶ 27, 31, 35, 39, 43, & 47). The amended complaint alleges as to each of the New Plaintiffs that “[subsequent to the discharge, Defendants have attempted and/or continue to attempt to collect the discharged debt from Plaintiff.” (Id. at ¶¶ 28, 32, 36, 40, 44, & 48).

         III. Analysis

         Both Defendants seek dismissal (or, alternatively, a more definite statement) of the claims asserted by the New Plaintiffs. (Doc. 51 at 4; doc. 53 at 6-7). Defendants argue the complaint lacks factual allegations to support that they violated the discharge order as to any of these plaintiffs, instead simply repeating the same conclusory allegation as to each. (Doc. 51 at 2-3; doc. 53 at 5). Plaintiffs contend the allegations, which they say are similar to those pled (and unchallenged) in their original complaint, are sufficient to raise the reasonable inference that Defendants are liable; therefore, their burden under Iqbal and Twombly is met. (Doc. 61 at 7-8). Plaintiffs also contend the motions to dismiss should be stricken for failure to comply with the undersigned's initial order, (doc. 16). (Doc. 61 at 3-4).

         A. Compliance ...

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