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Anatoly Yelin v. Louis B. Swartz

March 23, 2011


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


Currently pending before the Court is Defendants Louis B. Swartz and Swartz, Lovejoy & Associates, LLP's (collectively "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Anatoly Yelin's ("Plaintiff") Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.


In December 2009, Plaintiff rented a car from Econo Car Rental, Inc. ("ECRI") for personal use while he and his family vacationed in Aruba. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) On December 30, 2009, Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident, which caused damage to the rental car. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) ECRI demanded that Plaintiff pay for the repairs to the vehicle, but Plaintiff refused, claiming that the other driver was at fault. (Id. ¶¶ 16-23.)

When Plaintiff returned home, he received a letter from ECRI demanding payment for the damage. (Id. ¶ 25.) In early March 2010, Plaintiff's attorney negotiated with ECRI in an attempt to resolve the dispute, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement. (Id. ¶¶ 26-30.) On May 7, 2010, Plaintiff's attorney received a letter from Defendants, stating that they represented ECRI in connection with a claim for $3,595.28 against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 31.) On May 18, 2010, Defendants sent a similar letter directly to Plaintiff, stating that litigation would commence against him if he did not arrange to pay his debt of $3,595.28 within seven days. (Id. ¶¶ 32-34.) Plaintiff never paid any money in conjunction with the December 30, 2009 automobile accident, but no lawsuit was ever filed against him. (Id. ¶¶ 37-39.)

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on January 6, 2011, claiming that the means used by Defendants to collect the money allegedly owed to ECRI violated various provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq., the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act ("FCEUA"), 73 Pa. C.S. §§ 2270 et seq., and the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL"), 73 Pa. C.S. §§ 201.1 et seq. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 56-74.) Defendants filed the current Motion to Dismiss on January 20, 2011, and Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition on January 30, 2011.


Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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. It 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 Supreme 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. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in Twombly or Iqbal has altered some of the fundamental underpinnings of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review. Arner v. PGT Trucking, Inc., No. CIV.A.09-0565, 2010 WL 1052953, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2010); Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. CIV.A.08-0626, 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. Cnty. 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).


Defendants move to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims arising under the FDCPA, FCEUA, and UTPCPL. The Court considers Defendants' arguments in the context of each of these three statutes.


The FDCPA was enacted "'to protect consumers from a host of unfair, harassing, and deceptive collection practices without imposing unnecessary restrictions on ethical debt collectors.'" FTC v. Check Investors, Inc., 502 F.3d 159, 165 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Staub v. Harris, 626 F.2d 275, 276-77 (3d Cir. 1980) (internal quotations omitted)). Under the FDCPA, "debt" is defined as "any obligation or alleged obligation of a consumer to pay money arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction ...

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