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Shenitra Stuart v. Ar Resources

March 15, 2011

SHENITRA STUART,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AR RESOURCES, INC., AND DOES 1-10, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckwalter, S. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion of Defendant AR Resources to Dismiss the Complaint of Plaintiff Shenitra Stuart pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This action concerns Defendants' alleged use of harassment and deception to collect a debt that Plaintiff, a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, purportedly does not owe. According to the facts set forth in the Complaint, a family member of Plaintiff incurred a personal debt at a time not specified in Plaintiff's allegations. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-9.) The debt was then "purchased, assigned, or transferred to AR Resources for collection, or AR Resources was employed by the Creditor to collect the Debt." (Id. ¶ 10.) Since that time, Defendants (including ten unnamed debt collectors employed by AR Resources (the "Collectors")) have called Plaintiff an unspecified number of times seeking to collect the debt. (Id. ¶ 6, 8.) In doing so, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have engaged in "harassment and abusive tactics" by asking Plaintiff for her name (id. ¶12); employing automated telephone recordings (id. ¶ 15); failing to ask Plaintiff for location information (id. ¶ 16); informing Plaintiff she was on a recorded line (id. ¶ 17); using rude and abrasive language (id. ¶18); stating that they did not know of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and would continue calling Plaintiff despite her oral request not to do so (id. ¶¶ 13, 19); and abruptly disconnecting calls Defendants themselves had initiated. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff characterizes the calls as "outrageous in character" such that she "suffers and continues to suffer actual damages." (Id. ¶ 21.)

Plaintiff commenced this action on July 19, 2010. The Complaint alleges (1) violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (Count I); (2) violations of the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act, 73 PA. CONS. STAT. § 2270 et seq. (Count II); (3) violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 et seq. (Count III); (4) invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion (Count IV); and (5) violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 PA. CONS. STAT. § 201-1 et seq. (Count V). Defendant AR Resources moved to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim on September 23, 2010. The Court now turns to a discussion of this Motion.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court recognized that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. The Court emphasized that it would not require a "heightened fact pleading of specifics," but only "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

In the subsequent case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), the Court enunciated two fundamental principles applicable to a court's review of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. First, it noted that "the 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." Id. at 1949. Thus, although "[Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Id. at 1950. Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. The task of determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is "context-specific," and "requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. The Supreme Court explained:

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. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'"

Id. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57); see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (adopting Iqbal's standards).

Notwithstanding the foregoing, many of the fundamental underpinnings of Rule 12(b)(6) still stand. Arner v. PGT Trucking, Inc., No. CIV.A.09-565, 2010 WL 1052953, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2010); Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. CIV.A.08-626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Jul. 15, 2008). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and need not contain detailed factual allegations. FED. R. CIV. P. 8; Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Further, the court must "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, the court must "determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Whether Plaintiff has Stated a Valid Claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") aims to "eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors." 15 U.S.C. ยง 1692(e). Plaintiff alleges violations of sections 1692d(2), (5), and e(10) ...


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