Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Vullings v. Arcadia Recovery Bureau, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 27, 2018

MICHELLE W. VULLINGS, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
ARCADIA RECOVERY BUREAU, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          EDWARD G. SMITH, JUDGE

         The plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when it sent her a letter seeking to collect a debt owed by her deceased mother's estate. The defendant now moves for summary judgment on all of the plaintiff's claims.

         Because the motion was filed prior to the close of discovery, the plaintiff contends that the court should decline to address it. The plaintiff's concerns are misplaced because the record presented is sufficient to resolve the legal issues presented in the motion. Turning then to the substance of the motion, four of the five claims asserted in the plaintiff's amended complaint lack a sufficient basis to proceed. Consequently, the court will grant the motion for summary judgment as to those four claims, but deny the motion as to the remaining claim.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 29, 2017, the plaintiff, Michelle Vullings (“Vullings”) filed a complaint individually and on behalf of others similarly situated against the defendant, Arcadia Recovery Bureau, LLC (“Arcadia”). See Compl. at 1, Doc. No. 1. The purported class action complaint sought relief due to various alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). See Id. at 6. Shortly thereafter, Arcadia filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. See Mot. to Dismiss for Lack of J. or Alternatively Failure to State a Claim, Doc. No. 3. The motion asserted that Vullings lacked standing to sue on her own behalf because the alleged debt was in the name of an estate for which she was a personal representative and that even if she did have standing, her complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See Def.'s Br. in Supp. of its Mot. to Dismiss Class Action Compl. at 3-4, Doc. No. 3-1. On December 1, 2017, the court granted the motion to dismiss on both grounds, but granted Vullings leave to file an amended complaint. See Dec. 1, 2017 Order, Doc. No. 7.

         The parties then filed cross-motions for reconsideration. See Def.'s Mot. for Recons. and Relief from Order Granting Pl. Leave to Amend Compl. (“Def.'s Mot. for Recons.”), Doc. No. 8; Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. and Relief from Order Granting Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and Failure to State a Claim Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (“Pl.'s Mot. for Recons.”), Doc. No. 11. In general terms, Arcadia believed that the court should not have granted Vullings leave to file an amended complaint, and Vullings believed the court should not have granted the motion to dismiss in the first instance. See generally Def.'s Mot. for Recons.; Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. The court discussed the motions for reconsideration with counsel in the Rule 16 scheduling conference on January 10, 2018.

         During the Rule 16 conference, the court was able to resolve the issues raised in the motions. One of these issues was whether Vullings needed to pursue the lawsuit in her individual capacity and/or in her capacity as the administrator of Gertrude Birtwistle's estate.[1]She filed her original complaint solely in her individual capacity. See Compl. at 1. At the Rule 16 conference, the court informed Vullings of the need to also sue in her capacity as administrator to have any chance of recovery on two of her five claims. After hearing the court's views on the matter, Vullings agreed to file an amended complaint and pursue relief both in her individual capacity and in her capacity as administrator of the Birtwistle's Estate.

         Accordingly, the court entered a scheduling order on January 10, 2018, which, inter alia, ordered Vullings to file an amended complaint by January 17, 2018. See Scheduling Order, Doc. No. 19. Vullings timely filed an amended complaint on January 16, 2018. Doc. No. 21. In the amended complaint, Vullings claimed violations of the FDCPA in her individual capacity and as administrator of the estate. See generally Am. Compl. Arcadia then filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint insofar as Vullings was asserting claims against it as the administrator of Birtwistle's Estate. See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Michelle W. Vullings, as Adm'r of the Estate of Gertrude E. Birtwistle, Am. Class Action Compl. at 1, Doc. No. 24. Shortly thereafter, the court held a telephone conference with counsel for the parties during which Vullings's counsel informed the court that Vullings agreed to dismiss herself as a named plaintiff insofar as she was the administrator of Birtwistle's Estate. As such, the court entered an order on February 21, 2018, which (1) dismissed by agreement “Michelle W. Vullings as administrator of the estate of Gertrude Elizabeth B[i]rtwistle . . ., ” and (2) denied the motion to dismiss as moot. See Feb. 21, 2018 Order, Doc. No. 29.

         Notably, Vullings did not agree to dismiss the claims that the court believed she could only pursue in her capacity as administrator of Birtwistle's Estate. Cf. Id. (dismissing, by agreement, Michelle W. Vullings as administrator of the estate, but not dismissing any related claims). Those claims are still in the case.

         On May 7, 2018, Arcadia filed the instant motion for summary judgment. Doc. No. 39. Arcadia raises numerous arguments in the motion, but one of them is that Vullings does not have standing to pursue two of the five claims in her individual capacity (i.e., she could only have succeeded on those claims if she was suing in her capacity as administrator of the estate). See Def.'s Br. in Supp. of its Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Br.”) at 5-6, Doc. No. 39-1. Vullings filed a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment on May 21, 2018. Doc. No. 42. Arcadia filed a reply in support of the motion for summary judgment on May 29, 2018. Doc. No. 46. The motion is now ripe for adjudication.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The undisputed material facts are as follows: Vullings received a letter sent by Arcadia through its vendor, Forte, Inc., d/b/a Probate Finder. See Def.'s Br. at 4; Pl.'s Br. in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 8 (“Pl.'s Br.”), Doc. No. 42-1. The letter indicated that Arcadia was attempting to collect a debt owed by Birtwistle's Estate. See Am. Compl., Ex. B at ECF pp. 12- 13 (“Letter”). Vullings and her brother, Michael Wynn, are “Co-Personal Representatives” of Birtwistle's Estate. See Def.'s Br. at 4; Pl.'s Br. at 7. The letter identifies Birtwistle's Estate as the debtor. Def.'s Br. at 4; Pl.'s Br. at 7. The letter also provides the total unpaid balance of the debt, the “PF Reference No[.], ” the “Probate Case No[.], ” and the “Date of Death.” Def.'s Br. at 4; Pl.'s Br. at 7.

         After listing this information regarding the underlying debt, the letter states as follows:

Dear Sir or Madam:
Enclosed herewith is a copy of the Creditor's Claim for the above referenced estate.
If you have any questions or if this is a duplicate claim, please call our company at: 1-(800) 220-1622 [sic]
Cordially, Arcadia Recovery Bureau, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.