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Tariq S. Hammett v. Allianceone Receivables

August 30, 2011

TARIQ S. HAMMETT,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLIANCEONE RECEIVABLES
MANAGEMENT, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is Defendant AllianceOne Receivables Management, Inc.'s ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Tariq S. Hammett's ("Plaintiff") Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

According to the facts set forth in the Complaint, Defendant sent Plaintiff a letter ("the Letter") dated October 29, 2010 which sought payment for a consumer debt in the amount of $200.98. (Compl. ¶¶ 15-18.) Plaintiff alleges that the Letter violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq. ("FDCPA") by: (1) failing to identify the original creditor to whom the debt was owed; (2) requiring Plaintiff to either consent to the withdrawal of funds from his bank account or purchase a money order; (3) failing to provide space on the payment slip where Plaintiff could set forth the amounts he would allow Defendant to withdraw, as well as the dates upon which he was allowing Defendant to withdraw them; and (4) listing multiple addresses that misled Plaintiff as to Defendant's location and identity. (Id. ¶¶ 19-30.)

Plaintiff alleges that these actions violated the FDCPA generally, and §§ 1692d, 1692e, 1692e(10), and 1692f specifically. (Id. ¶ 34.)

Defendant filed the present Motion to Dismiss on July 22, 2011. Plaintiff filed his Response in Opposition on August 4, 2011, and Defendant filed a Reply Brief on August 8, 2011. Finally, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply on August 22, 2011. Defendant's Motion is now ripe for the Court's consideration.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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).

III. DISCUSSION

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)). Because "'the FDCPA protects all consumers, the gullible as well as the shrewd,'" FDCPA claims "should be analyzed from the perspective of the least sophisticated debtor." Brown v. Card Serv. Ctr., 464 F.3d 450, 453-54 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Clomon v. Jackson, 988 F.2d 1314, 1318 (2d Cir. 1993)). This standard helps protect "naive consumers," but "'it also prevents liability for bizarre or idiosyncratic interpretations of collection notices by preserving a quotient of reasonableness and presuming a basic level of understanding and willingness to read with care.'" Id. at 454 (quoting Wilson v. Quadramed Corp., 225 F.3d 350, 354-55 (3d Cir. 2000)). Whether a communication "meets the 'least sophisticated debtor' standard is a question of law." Jarzyna v. Home Props., L.P., 763 F. Supp. 2d 742, 748 (E.D. Pa. 2011) (citing Quadramed, 225 F.3d at 353 n.2). With these guidelines in mind, the Court addresses the issues raised in Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

A. Whether the Inclusion of Multiple Business Addresses was Misleading Under the FDCPA

The Complaint alleges that Defendant listed three separate business addresses on the Letter with the intent "to mislead Plaintiff as to its location as well as to the identity of the entity with whom Plaintiff was corresponding." (Compl. ¶ 24.) The Complaint does not specify which section of the FDCPA was violated by the inclusion of these addresses,*fn1 but Plaintiff's allegation that he was misled suggests that he is asserting a claim under ยง 1692e. This section prohibits a debt collector from making ...


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