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McCamey v. Capital Management Services LP

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

August 10, 2018

ROSITA MCCAMEY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, SERVICES, LP, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         In 1977, Congress found that there was “abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors” and that the “[e]xisting laws . . . [were] inadequate to protect consumers.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692(a), (b); see also 104 Am. Jur. Proof of Facts 3d Proof Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act §1. To respond, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act “to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses.” 15 U.S.C. §1692(e). This law is the centerpiece of Plaintiff Rosita McCamey's lawsuit and the focus of today's opinion. (Doc. 1).

         Before the Court is Defendants Capital Management Services, LP's (“CMS”) and Jefferson Capital Systems, LLC's (“JCS”) joint Motion To Dismiss (the “Motion”) under Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(c). (Doc. 32). The parties have completed their briefing, and the Motion is ripe for review. For the reasons stated in this opinion, it is due to be DENIED.

         II. Relevant Background

         “[I]n 2007 Ms. McCamey fell behind in paying some of her debts, including one she allegedly owed for a Fingerhut account.” (Doc. 1 at ¶7). “Sometime after that debt became delinquent, it was allegedly purchased/obtained by [JCS], which tried to collect upon it, by having Defendant CMS demand payment of the debt, via collection letters, dated February 12, 2017[, ] and May 6, 2017.” (Id.). “These letters made ‘settlement' offers of 66% and 61%.” (Id.). They also stated:

As a result of the expiration of the statute of limitations with respect to such debt, legal action may not be brought against the consumer to collect such debt. Any payment by the consumer towards the debt may cause the statute of limitations for such debt to reset.

(Doc. 1-1 at 1-2). Ms. McCamey alleges that her debt was time barred under Alabama law, and that these letters violated the FDCPA. (See Doc. 1 at ¶¶8-9). She filed her federal lawsuit on August 22, 2017, alleging two counts for violations of §1692e and §1692f of the FDCPA. (See Id. at pg. 4-6).

         III. The Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(c) Standard

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (“[A] party may assert the following defenses by motion: (6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]”). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “‘a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) (footnote omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)), abrogated by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (setting forth general pleading requirements for a complaint including providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”).

         While a plaintiff must provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, Rule 8 does not mandate the inclusion of “detailed factual allegations” within a complaint. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.Ct. at 103). However, at the same time, “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, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, 127 S.Ct. at 1969.

         “[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. (emphasis added). “Under Twombly's construction of Rule 8 . . . [a plaintiff's] complaint [must] ‘nudge[] [any] claims' . . . ‘across the line from conceivable to plausible.' Ibid.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680, 129 S.Ct. at 1950-51.

         A claim is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).

         Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed--but early enough not to delay trial--a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). As the Eleventh Circuit has explained the Rule 12(c) standard:

Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when there are no material facts in dispute, and judgment may be rendered by considering the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts. See Bankers Ins. Co. v. Florida Residential Property and Cas. Joint Underwriting Ass'n, 137 F.3d 1293, 1295 (11th Cir. 1998) (citing Hebert Abstract Co. v. Touchstone Properties, Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990)); see also Rule 12(c), [Fed. R. Civ. P.] When we review a judgment on the pleadings, therefore, we accept the facts in the complaint as true and we view them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Ortega, 85 F.3d at 1524 (citing Swerdloff v. Miami Nat'l Bank, 584 F.2d 54, 57 (5th Cir. 1978)). The complaint may not be dismissed “‘unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'” Slagle, 102 F.3d at 497 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-02, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) & citing Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v. California, 509 U.S. 764, 811, 113 S.Ct. 2891, 2916-17, 125 L.Ed.2d 612 (1993)).

Hawthorne v. Mac Adjustment, Inc., 140 F.3d 1367, 1370 (11th Cir. 1998).

         Further, “[w]hether the court examine[s] [a pleading] under Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 12(c), the question [remains] the same: whether the [complaint] stated a claim for relief.” Sampson v. Washington Mut. Bank, 453 Fed.Appx. 863, 865 n.2 (11th Cir. 2011) (first alteration supplied; all other alterations in original) (quoting Strategic Income Fund, L.L.C. v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 n.8 (11th Cir. 2002)); id. (applying Strategic Income and concluding that court's error in granting a dismissal under Rule 12(c) instead of Rule 12(b)(6) was harmless).

         IV. An Overview of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

         “To assert a claim under the FDCPA, a plaintiff must establish the following elements: ‘(1) the plaintiff has been the object of collection activity arising from consumer debt, (2) the defendant is a debt collector as defined by the FDCPA, and (3) the defendant has engaged in an act or omission prohibited by the FDCPA.'” Buckentin v. Sun Trust Mortg. Corp., 928 F.Supp.2d 1273, 1294 (N.D. Ala. 2013) (citing sources).

         The FDCPA prohibits certain conduct. “Section 1692e of the FDCPA provides that ‘[a] debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.'” Crawford v. LVNV Funding, LLC, 758 F.3d 1254, 1258 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting 15 U.S.C. § 1692e). The statute goes on to give examples of specific conduct that violates the act. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692e (1)-(16). “Section 1692f states that ‘[a] debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.'” Crawford, 758 F.3d at 1258 (quoting 15 U.S.C. § 1692f). Similarly, this section also gives specific examples of conduct violating the law. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(1)-(8).[1] “To enforce the FDCPA's prohibitions, Congress equipped consumer debtors with a private right of action, rendering ‘debt collectors who violate the Act liable for actual damages, statutory damages up to $1, 000, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs.'” Crawford, 758 F.3d at 1258 (citing sources).

         To understand actions under the FDCPA requires knowing the “least sophisticated consumer.” See LeBlanc v. Unifund CCR Partners, 601 F.3d 1185, 1193 (11th Cir. 2010). This is because “[t]he inquiry is not whether the particular plaintiff-consumer was deceived or misled; instead, the question is ‘whether the ‘least sophisticated consumer' would have been deceived' by the debt collector's conduct.” Crawford, 758 F.3d at 1258. “The ‘least-sophisticated consumer' standard is consistent with basic consumer-protection principles.” LeBlanc, 601 F.3d at 1194 (citing sources). “‘The least sophisticated consumer' can be presumed to possess a rudimentary amount of information about the world and a willingness to read a collection notice with some care.” Id. (quoting another source) (internal quotation marks omitted). “However, the test has an ...


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