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Monroe v. Miramed Medical Group, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 12, 2017

CHARLES MONROE, Plaintiff,
v.
MIRAMED MEDICAL GROUP, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          RICHARD P. CONABOY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff's Renewed Motion to Amend Complaint filed on August 18, 2017, is pending before the Court. (Doc. 40.) Plaintiff files the motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) (2) and asserts that granting the motion is consistent with the requirements of the rule. (Doc. 40 at 1; Doc. 41 at 2.) Defendant opposes the motion on the basis that it is "deficient and futile"--"the entirely new theory of the case [] should be denied as futile since it asserts a claim that has no good faith basis in law or fact." (Doc. 44 at 1, 5.) The Court concludes the motion is properly denied.

         I. Background

         In his original three-page Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et. seq., when it sent him a letter attempting to collect a debt. (Doc. 1 at 7 [Compl. ¶ 1].) Plaintiff pointed to the following language contained in the letter at issue:

Our client has authorized us to report this matter as a collection account to a credit reporting agency. You are hereby notified that this account may be reported [sic] a credit reporting agency on or after fourteen (14) days from the date of this letter. You have the opportunity to prevent this from happening by contacting us within the next thirty (30) days to pay this account in full or agree on acceptable payment terms.

(Doc. 1 at 8 [Compl. ¶ 12].) Plaintiff avers that this language is a "threat to report to credit reporting agencies [which] is false, deceptive, and misleading." (Doc. 1 at 8 [Compl. ¶ 13].) Plaintiff identified the falsehood to be that Defendant "has never reported the Account to any of the three major credit reporting agencies" and this allegation was "likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery." (Doc. 1 at 8 [Compl. ¶ 14].) No further bases for the FDCPA claim were contained in the Complaint.

         Plaintiff initially sought to amend his Complaint "[a]fter a deposition of a third-party credit reporting agency" (Doc. 41 at 6) with a Motion to Amend Complaint (Doc. 25) filed on May 12, 2017. The proposed Amended Complaint based the FDCPA claim on both the falsehood alleged in the Complaint and an additional allegation that Defendant misled the consumer into believing that damage to his credit would have a longer impact than it would. (Doc. 25-1 at ¶¶ 13-21.)

         After the motion was fully briefed (Docs. 26, 32, 35), Plaintiff sought to amend the proposed amended complaint by stipulation on August 2, 2017. (Doc. 36.) Plaintiff sought to eliminate the word "false" from paragraph 12 of the proposed amendment and the entirety of paragraphs 14, 16, and 18. (Doc. 36 at 1.) By Order of August 4, 2017, the Court rejected the attempted amendment by stipulation and directed Plaintiff to file a revised motion to amend. (Doc. 37.) The result is the Renewed Motion to Amend Complaint (Doc. 40) now before the Court.

         The proposed Amended Complaint (Doc. 40-1) contains one count based on the same language in the debt collection letter sent to Plaintiff. (Doc. 1 at 8 [Compl. ¶ 12]; Doc. 40-1 at 3 [Am. Compl. ¶ 12].) Plaintiff continues to assert that the threat to report to credit reporting agencies language is "deceptive and misleading, " but he no longer avers that the language is "false, " an elimination related to the averment that Defendant contends it did in fact report the account to a credit reporting agency (Doc. 1 at 8 [Compl. ¶ 13-14]; Doc. 40-1 at 3 [Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13-15].) Plaintiff now bases his FDCPA claim on the premise that information in the letter regarding the authority and potential of providing a report of the account to a credit reporting agency is "deceptive and misleading information" because Defendant knew that the account would appear on Plaintiff's credit report for a much shorter time than Defendant's letter would lead a consumer to believe. (Doc. 40-1 at 3 [Am Compl. ¶ 16].) Plaintiff states that

[b]y telling the consumer only that the account would be reported, without further advising the consumer that the reporting would be deleted once MiraMed stopped collecting the debt, MiraMed misled the consumer into believing that the damage to the credit report would have a much longer impact than it really would.

(Doc. 40-1 at 4 [Am. Compl. ¶ 18].)

         The briefing of the pending motion is now complete with the filing of Plaintiff's supporting brief (Doc. 41) on August 18, 2017, and Defendant's opposition brief (Doc. 44) on September 11, 2017. The matter became ripe for disposition on September 26, 2017, when Plaintiff failed to file a reply brief by the September 25, 2017, deadline.[1]

         II. Discussion

         Plaintiff asserts that he should be allowed to file an amended complaint because leave to amend should be freely given, no party is prejudiced by the amendment, and the amendment was made in a timely manner. (Doc. 41 at 7.) Defendant responds that it will be unduly prejudiced by amendment "because it demonstrates bad faith litigation by Plaintiff in ignoring the facts that clearly defeated his original complaint and entering to continue the litigation under a proposed alternative claim that has no basis in law or fact." (Doc. 44 at 6.)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that leave to amend should be freely given when justice so ...


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