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Myers v. Midland Credit Management, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 13, 2014

BETSY JO MYERS, Plaintiff
v.
MIDLAND CREDIT MANAGEMENT, INC., and MIDLAND FUNDING, LLC, Defendants

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff in this action, Betsy Jo Myers, has sued Midland Credit Management, Inc., and Midland Funding, LLC (collectively "Midland" or "Defendants"), alleging that Midland violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq. ("FCRA"), and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq., in connection with Midland's collection of a consumer debt.

Myers claims that Midland violated the FCRA by failing to conduct an adequate investigation into a debt that Myers claimed to dispute. In this regard, Myers appears to have demanded in various times in writing that Midland investigate her claims into an account that was appearing on her credit report, and she claims that Midland failed to conduct a reasonable investigation after receiving her demands. (Compl. ¶¶ 12, 18-19.) Myers also claims that she raised her concerns with credit reporting bureaus, and that after she did so Midland "verified" that account. Myers alleges that by verifying the account without conducting a reasonable investigation into her dispute, Midland violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b).

Plaintiff also alleges that Midland "has a duty to comply with all applicable laws governing collection procedures on Plaintiff's consumer accounts" in accordance with 15 U.S.C. § 1692f, which prohibits the use of unfair or unconscionable debt collection practices. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff claims that by allegedly violating § 1681s(2)(b) of the FCRA, Midland also violated § 1692f of the FDCPA. Thus, Myers contends that a violation of the FCRA constitutes a per se violation of the FDCPA.

The Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of York County by filing a complaint on August 12, 2013. Midland was served with the complaint on August 26, 2013, and thereafter on September 25, 2013, removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441 on the basis of federal subject matter jurisdiction. On October 1, 2013, Midland filed its answer to the complaint. On October 24, 2013, the parties submitted a joint case management plan, and on October 25, 2013, the parties consented to have a United States Magistrate Judge preside over this action.

Midland has now moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds that the complaint fails as a legal matter to state a claim. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, we find that Myers has failed to state a claim for relief under the FCRA, since the allegations in the complaint do not support Myers's claim that Midland failed to conduct an appropriate investigation. To the contrary, the allegations indicate that Midland did all that it was required to do after being advised by a credit reporting bureau that Myers disputed a particular consumer debt, and in fact Midland labeled the debt as "disputed" in Myers's report.

Furthermore, because we find no legal authority to support Myers's theory that an FCRA violation constitutes a per se violation of the FDCPA, and because the complaint does not allege an FCRA allegation in the first place, Myers's very basis for claiming an FDCPA violation is itself deficient and Myers has not otherwise alleged facts to state a claim for a violation of the FDCPA. Accordingly, we will grant Midland's motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice to affording Myers one final opportunity to cure the defects we have identified, and to plead sufficient facts to state a claim under either the FCRA or the FDCPA or both.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"After the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). "[A] motion for judgment on the pleadings based on the theory that the plaintiff failed to state a claim is reviewed under the same standards that apply to a motion to dismiss" under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Caprio v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group, LLC , 709 F.3d 142, 146-7 (3d Cir. 2013). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, "construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." McTernan v. City of York , 564 F.3d 636, 646 (3d Cir. 2009).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States , 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir.2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555. This requirement "calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" of necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. at 556. Furthermore, in order to satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, " which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir.2008) (brackets and quotations marks omitted) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick , 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir.2007). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] documents." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus. , 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n , 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir.2002); see also U.S. Express Lines, Ltd. v. Higgins , 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002) (holding that "[a]lthough a district court may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings, a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered without converting the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment."). However, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in determining a motion to dismiss. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir.1994).

III. DISCUSSION

Although it appears undisputed that Midland undertook an investigation into the Plaintiff's disputed debt with her alleged creditor, T-Mobile, following a request from Trans Union, a Credit Reporting Agency, the Plaintiff claims that Midland violated provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to undertake an adequate investigation into a direct request that she made to Midland. The Plaintiff then claims that this alleged FCRA violation constitutes a per se violation of the FDCPA. Plaintiff errs in this claim, however, on several scores. First, as the pleadings indicate, Midland complied with its limited obligations under the FCRA. In addition, Plaintiff errs in suggesting that an alleged violation ...


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