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Dokes v. Ltd Financial Services, L.P.

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

September 13, 2018

TERRI DOKES, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
LTD FINANCIAL SERVICES, L.P., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil action filed by Plaintiff Terri Dokes, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, against Defendants LTD Financial Services, L.P., (“LTD”) and JH Portfolio Debt Equities, LLC (“JH Portfolio”). (See doc. 1). The Complaint (doc. 1) sets out one count for violation of Section 1692g(a)(2) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the “FDCPA”) for failure to clearly disclose “the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed.” (Id. at 4-5) (quoting 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(2)). This count arises out of Defendants' attempt to collect an alleged debt from Plaintiff through a debt collection letter. (Id. at 1-3).

         Before the Court is Defendants' joint Motion To Dismiss (the “Motion”) the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 14). Defendants filed their Motion on July 5, 2018, and Plaintiff filed her opposition (doc. 19) to the Motion on August 9, 2018.[1] Thus, the Motion is ripe for review. For the reasons stated in this opinion, the Motion is due to be GRANTED.

         I. STANDARD

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss 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[.]”). “[W]hen ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff . . . .” Am. United Life Ins. Co. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1057 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing St. Joseph's Hosp., Inc. v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 795 F.2d 948, 954 (11th Cir. 1986)). This requires that a court “accept all of the plaintiff's well-pleaded facts [and reasonable inferences drawn from those facts] as true.” Id. (emphasis added) (citing St. Joseph's Hosp., Inc., 795 F.2d at 954). Mere conclusory statements and legal conclusions, however, do not need to be accepted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007))). Similarly, even though a court “must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, [a court] ‘[is] not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted)).

         Thus, “a court considering a motion to dismiss can . . . begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. After separating out these legal conclusions, a court can identify if there are any well-pleaded factual allegations. See Id. “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether [the complaint survives the motion to dismiss].” Id.

         “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.'” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). 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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the plaintiff must show “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (stating that the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level”). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (second alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         II. BACKGROUND

         At issue in this case is a debt collection letter (the “Letter”) that is attached to Plaintiff's Complaint as Exhibit B. (Doc. 1-2). The Letter was sent by LTD to Plaintiff. (See Id. at 1). The right side of the Letter's heading contains LTD's name and contact information and the date. (See id.) The left side of the Letter's heading contains Plaintiff's name and address and two boxes. (See id.) The bottom box contains an LTD reference number and the amount of the debt. (See id.) The top box contains the following information:

CURRENT CREDITOR:
JH PORTFOLIO DEBT EQUITIES, LLC.
ORIGINAL CREDITOR: COMENITY BANK
CREDITOR ACCOUNT #:
[redacted in Complaint]

(See id.) The body of the Letter contains the following text:

Dear Terri E Dokes,
Your account with the above named creditor has been placed with LTD Financial Services, L.P., a debt collector. This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.
Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of the debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment, if any, and mail you a copy of such verification or judgment. If you request this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
You may call this office to discuss this debt at 1-800-741-2100, ask for [name]. Please refer to the reference number above.

(See id.) (emphasis added).

         Plaintiff's Complaint contains the following well-pleaded factual allegations:

8. Ms. Dokes fell behind on paying her bills, including a debt she allegedly owed for a Comenity Bank account. Defendant LTD sent Ms. Dokes an initial form collection letter, dated December 8, 2017, demanding ...

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