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Mary Beckworth v. Law Office of Thomas Landis

April 18, 2012

MARY BECKWORTH
v.
LAW OFFICE OF THOMAS LANDIS, LLC, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are Defendant Oxford Law, LLC's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 7) and Defendant Larry Weil's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 8). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motions will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On November 22, 2011, Plaintiff Mary Beckworth filed a Complaint against Defendant Law Office of Thomas Landis, LLC ("Landis Law"), alleging violation of the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act ("PFCEUA") (Count I), violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("PUTPCPL") (Count II), and violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") (Count III). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) On January 24, 2012, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint, in which she added Oxford Law, LLC and Larry Weil as defendants. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 2.) On January 26, 2012, attorney Thomas Landis, acting "pro se," filed on behalf of Landis Law*fn1 an Answer to the original Complaint.*fn2 (Landis Law Answer, ECF No. 3.) In its answer, Landis Law denied all allegations of the original Complaint. (Id.)*fn3 On March 6, 2012, Defendant Oxford Law, LLC ("Oxford Law") and Defendant Larry Weil each filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Oxford Mot., ECF No. 7; Weil Mot., ECF No. 8.) On March 27, 2012, Plaintiff filed Responses opposing each of those Motions. (Pl.'s Resp. to Oxford, ECF No. 9; Pl.'s Resp. to Weil, ECF No. 10.)

B. Plaintiff's Allegations*fn4

Plaintiff is an individual residing in Louisiana. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3.) At all relevant times, Oxford Law was a company that was in the business of collecting debts. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Its principal place of business is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. (Id.) At all relevant times, Weil was President of Oxford Law. (Id. at ¶ 6.) As President, Weil was responsible for the overall success of the company. He exercised control over the affairs of Oxford Law's debt collection business; was "regularly engaged, albeit more often indirectly than directly, in the collection of debts through his involvement in Defendant Oxford'[s] affairs"; and "continued to play a key role in maintaining and expanding Defendant Oxford'[s] debt collection activities." (Id.)

At various times before the filing of the Complaint in this action, Defendants,*fn5 "by use of the mails and telephone," contacted Plaintiff in an attempt to collect an alleged outstanding debt. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5-6, 10.)*fn6 Defendants contacted Plaintiff's mother, Mary Peacock, by telephone in an attempt to collect an alleged debt owed by Plaintiff and "for purposes beyond obtaining location information." (Am. Compl. ¶ 12.) They disclosed to Peacock "the existence of the alleged debt owed by Plaintiff and the true identity of Defendant without being expressly requested." (Id. at ¶ 13.) On several occasions, they threatened that failure to pay the alleged debt would result in the seizure and garnishment of Plaintiff's wages or property. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Based on these facts, Plaintiff asserts (1) violation of the PFCEUA (Count I), (2) violation of the PUTPCPL (Count II), and (3) violation of the FDCPA (Count III). (Id. at ¶¶ 16-30.) Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that Defendants' conduct violated the FDCPA, as well as damages, including actual damages, treble damages and statutory damages, and costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. (Id. at ¶¶ 22, 26, 30.)

Oxford Law seeks to dismiss the First Amended Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). It claims that it is unable to locate a debtor named "Mary Beckworth" in its "system" and "[t]herefore, upon information and belief, the Plaintiff[sic] has had no communications with the Plaintiff, let alone any of the latter that could be considered transgressions resulting in liability." (Oxford Mot. ¶¶ 1-2.) Oxford Law acknowledges that "[t]hrough time-consuming research Defendant Oxford has learned that Plaintiff Mary Beckworth may be an alias or married name of Mary O. Peacock." (Id. at ¶ 3.)*fn7 Nevertheless, Oxford Law argues that "the name of the debtor, and the name listed in payments to Defendant Oxford are ["Mary O. Peacock"]; and distinctly NOT ["Mary Beckworth"]." (Oxford Mot. ¶ 3.) Oxford Law claims that Plaintiff needs to clarify the ambiguity in order for it to be able to answer the First Amended Complaint. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Accordingly, Oxford Law states that Plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Oxford Law's Motion is not accompanied by a brief or a form of Order.*fn8

Weil also seeks to dismiss the First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Weil points out that the First Amended Complaint states that Weil is the "President" of Oxford Law. However, since Weil is not a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, he "CANNOT be the president of any law firm practicing in Pennsylvania." (Weil Mot. ¶¶ 1-2.)

Based on this argument, Weil asserts that "Plaintiff has not made a claim upon which relief can be granted." (Id. at ¶ 4.) Weil's Motion is not accompanied by a brief or a form of Order.*fn9

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "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.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint, and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the complaint are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). In addition, a court need not "assume that [a] . . . plaintiff can prove facts that [the plaintiff] has not alleged." Assoc'd Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, in order to state a valid cause of action, a plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief, which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do." 550 U.S. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

In conducting a review of the adequacy of complaint, district courts must: begin by identifying pleadings that because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. 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.

Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950. Thus, following Twombly and Iqbal,a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a complaint must recite factual allegations sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere ...


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