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Kryluk v. Northland Group, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 25, 2014

ANDREY KRYLUK, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff(s),
v.
NORTHLAND GROUP, INC., and DOES Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

RONALD L. BUCKWALTER, District Judge.

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint by Defendant Northland Group, Inc. ("Northland") and a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint by Plaintiff Andrey Kryluk. For the following reasons, both Motions are granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

According to the facts set forth in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff is a college student who has maintained the same permanent residence address for more than a decade. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18.) In March 2014, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant regarding Plaintiff's alleged debt of $486.11. (Id. ¶ 19.) Although dated February 28, 2014, the letter was not actually mailed until March 5, 2014. (Id. ¶ 20.) The letter was a pre-printed form, designated by the sequence "F19943497-02/028x1N" that appeared next to Plaintiff's name in the top third of the document, as well as the sequence "M1N-1N P82/0303_3" that appeared in the bottom right corner of the document. (Id. ¶ 21.) The letter identified "CITIBANK, N.A." as the "Creditor" and disclosed that the original account number of the alleged obligation ended with "9700." (Id. ¶ 22.) The body of the letter stated in full:

The above referenced CITIBANK, N.A. account has been assigned to Northland Group, Inc. for collection. As of the date of this letter, you owe $486.11. Because of interest that may vary from day to day, the amount due on the day you pay may be greater. Hence, if you pay the amount shown above, an adjustment may be necessary after we receive your check, in which event we will inform you before depositing the check for collection. For further information, write the undersigned or call 866-578-1748 ext. 3831.
CITIBANK, N.A. is willing to negotiate a settlement for less than the full balance owed. Contact Northland Group, Inc. to discuss a settlement or to make payment arrangements. This offer does not affect your rights set forth below. Make check payable to CITI.
Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of the judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. If you request this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

(Am. Compl., Ex. B.)

In April 2014, Plaintiff received another letter from Defendant regarding the same debt. (Id. ¶ 23.) The letter was also a pre-printed form, designated by the sequence "F199443497-04/0433" that appeared next to Plaintiff's name in the top third of the document, as well as the sequence "M33-33 P7436/0407U4" in the bottom right corner of the document. (Id. ¶ 24.) Like the February letter, the April identified "CITIBANK, N.A." as the creditor and disclosed that the original account number of the alleged obligation ended with "9700." Although dated April 4, 2014, the letter was not actually mailed until April 9, 2014. (Id. ¶ 26.) The letter contained the following text in the body:

IT'S A NEW YEAR WITH NEW OPPORTUNITIES!
Your Settlement Offer $243.06
In view of tax season, our client, CITIBANK, N.A., will allow you to settle your account for $243.06 in 3 payments starting on 04/25/14. We are not obligated to renew this offer. The payments can be no more than 30 days apart. Once all three payments have been paid to our office on time, a letter will be sent confirming the above reference account has been resolved. Please send in the payments along with a payment stub to the address below. Make check payable to Citi.

(Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff asserts that, upon information and belief, the offer was not predicated on "tax season" and that this language was used to create a false sense of urgency that this offer would not be renewed. (Id. ¶ 30.) Moreover, Plaintiff avers that the letter created an additional false sense of urgency by: (1) stating that the first settlement payment must be received by April 2, 2014 for the offer to be accepted (id. ¶ 31); (2) characterizing the offer as time-sensitive in nature (id. ¶ 32); (3) falsely stating that subsequent payments "can be no more than 30 days apart" (id. ¶ 34); (4) stating that the offer was contingent upon the subsequent payments being made within 30 days of the previous payment (id. ¶ 35); and mailing the letter after the date listed on the letter. (Id. ¶¶ 42-43.)

Plaintiff alleges that the deadline for the initial payment, as well as the other requirements, were entirely fictitious and that Defendant had the authority to settle Plaintiff's account even if Plaintiff remitted payment after April 25, 2014, or if Plaintiff's second payment was received thirty-five days after the initial payment. (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff asserts, upon information and belief, that the offer described in the letter of April 4, 2014 is contained in similar letters remitted to consumers throughout the United States and, specifically, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 39.)

Plaintiff initiated the current putative class action on June 5, 2014, and filed an Amended Complaint on August 15, 2014. Plaintiff alleges two counts for relief pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), claiming that Defendant: (a) used false, deceptive, and misleading representations or means in connection with the collection of a debt, 15 U.S.C. § 1692e, and (b) used unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt, 15 U.S.C. § 1692f. On August 29, 2014, Defendant filed the current Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff responded on September 5, 2014, and Defendant filed a Reply Brief on September 19, 2014. In addition, on September 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint, to which Defendant responded on September 19, 2014. Both Motions are now ripe for judicial review.

II. MOTION TO DISMISS

A. 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 Atlantic Corporation 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. Following these basic dictates, the Supreme Court, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), subsequently defined a two-pronged approach to a court's review of a motion to dismiss. "First, 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 678. Thus, although "Rule 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 678-79.

Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 679. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id . A complaint does not show an entitlement to relief when the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Id .; see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232-34 (3d Cir. 2008) (holding that: (1) factual allegations of complaint must provide notice to defendant; (2) complaint must allege facts ...


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