United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Paradise Baxter United States District Judge
civil action was filed on December 17, 2018 by Plaintiff Elen
Bower (“Plaintiff”) against Defendants NRA GROUP,
LLC (“NRA Group”) and five “John Doe”
Defendants. Plaintiff claims that the Defendants violated her
rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§1692 et seq., in
connection with their attempts to communicate with her about
an alleged debt. Plaintiff filed a proof of service
indicating that the complaint was served upon Defendant NRA
Group on December 19, 2018, ECF No. 5; however, NRA Group has
not answered the complaint. The Clerk subsequently entered
default against NRA Group, pursuant to Plaintiff's
request, on January 14, 2019. ECF No. 8.
pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for
default judgment against NRA Group. ECF No. 9. Appended to
Plaintiff's motion is a memorandum as well as the
following exhibits: a proof of service of the complaint
(Exhibit A, ECF No. 9-1); a certificate of service for
Plaintiff's Request for Entry of Default (Exhibit B, ECF
No. 9-2); a “United States Consumer Law Attorney Fee
Survey Report” for 2015-2016 (Exhibit C, ECF No. 9-3);
the “Declaration of Robert Amador [Plaintiff's
attorney] in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Default
Judgment and Attorney's Fees” (Exhibit D, ECF No.
9-4); an itemized bill showing counsel's billing rate and
time expended in the prosecution of this matter (Exhibit E,
ECF No. 9-5); and a proposed order that would award Plaintiff
$1, 000.00 in statutory damages, $465.00 in costs, and $2,
976.50 in attorney's fees.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§1331. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's
motion will be granted to the extent that Plaintiff will be
awarded $750.00 in statutory damages, $465.00 in costs, and
$2, 971.50 in attorney's fees. Accordingly, judgment will
be entered in Plaintiff's favor in the amount of $4,
to the complaint, Plaintiff is a resident of Guys Mills,
Pennsylvania, and NRA Group is a limited liability company
with its primary place of business in Harrisburg. Compl.
¶3, ECF No. 1. During times relevant to this litigation,
Defendants regularly operate as third-party debt collectors.
about August 13, 2018, Defendants began calling Plaintiff in
an attempt to collect a consumer debt that Plaintiff
allegedly owed. Compl. ¶7. On that date, a collector
from NRA Group called Plaintiff's number and asked if she
was speaking with Elen Bower. Id. ¶8. After
Plaintiff responded in the affirmative, the caller asked
Plaintiff to “verify” her address. Id.
Plaintiff refused, telling the caller, “I don't
know who you are.” Id. The caller then
identified herself as being with the “NRA Group.”
Id. Plaintiff indicated that the name did “not
mean anything” and inquired what “NRA
Group” is, to which the caller replied, “We
handle personal matters.” Id. Plaintiff
refused to provide any personal information because she had
no idea what NRA Group was or what the call was about.
Id. When the caller asked Plaintiff to verify her
birthday rather than her address, Plaintiff refused, stating,
“No, I'm not telling you my birthday. I don't
know who you are.” Id. The caller then
replied, “Well, we only have to tell you who we
are.” Id. Not knowing what the call was about
and perceiving that the collector was becoming argumentative,
Plaintiff ended the call. Id. Thereafter, Defendants
continued to call Plaintiff, but Plaintiff did not engage in
any further communications. Id. ¶9.
eventually contacted an attorney, who confirmed that NRA
Group was attempting to collect a $57.80 balance allegedly
owed to a medical services provider. Compl.
¶¶10-11. Plaintiff avers that she had been working
with her insurance company to identify any bills or
co-payments for which she may be responsible. Id.
upon the foregoing events, Plaintiff contends that the
Defendants violated three separate provisions of the FDCPA.
First, she claims that Defendants violated 15 U.S.C.
§1692d(6) by failing to provide meaningful disclosure of
their identity - specifically, that the August 13, 2018
communication was from a debt collector and that such
communication was being made in an attempt to collect a debt.
See Compl. ¶12 (Count I). Second, Plaintiff
claims that Defendants violated 15 U.S.C. §1692e(11) by
failing to disclose not only that the communication was from
a debt collector in an attempt to collect a debt, but also
that any information obtained could be used for that purpose.
Id. ¶13 (Count II). Finally, Plaintiff claims
that Defendants violated 15 U.S.C. §1692e(10) by making
the misleading statement, “[W]e only have to tell you
who we are.” Id. ¶14 (Count III).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
entry of a default judgment is left primarily to the
discretion of the district court.” Hritz v. Woma
Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180 (3d Cir. 1984). Upon the
Clerk's entry of default, “the factual allegations
of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of
damages, will be taken as true.” Comdyne I, Inc. v.
Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting 10
C. Wright, A. Miller & M. Kane, Federal Practice and
Procedure, § 2688 at 444 (2d ed.1983)). However,
“the Court need not accept the moving party's legal
conclusions[.]” Chanel, Inc. v. Gordashevsky,
558 F.Supp.2d 532, 535 (D.N.J. 2008) (citations omitted).
Thus, “before entering a default judgment the Court
must decide whether ‘the unchallenged facts constitute
a legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does
not admit mere conclusions of law.'” Ford v.
Consigned Debts & Collections, Inc., No. 09-3102,
2010 WL 5392643, at *2 (D.N.J. Dec. 21, 2010) (quoting
Chanel, 558 F.Supp.2d at 535). Once a valid claim
has been asserted, “[t]hree factors control whether a
default judgment should be granted: (1) prejudice to the
plaintiff if default is denied, (2) whether the defendant
appears to have a litigable defense, and (3) whether
defendant's delay is due to culpable conduct.”
Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 164 (3d Cir.
2000) (citing United States v. $55, 518.85 in U.S.
Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 195 (3d Cir. 1984)).
NRA Group's Potential Liability
FDCPA “prohibits ‘debt collector[s]' from
making false or misleading representations and from engaging
in various abusive and unfair practices.” Heintz v.
Jenkins, 514 U.S. 291, 292 (1995) (alteration in the
original). Because the statute is remedial in nature, courts
construe its language broadly, so as to effectuate its
purpose. Levins v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Grp.
LLC, 902 F.3d 274, 280 (3d Cir. 2018).
order to establish an FDCPA claim, a plaintiff must show that
(1) she is a “consumer, ” (2) the defendant is a
“debt collector, ” (3) the defendant's
challenged practice involves an attempt to collect a
“debt” as defined by the Act,  and (4) the
defendant has violated a provision of the FDCPA in attempting
to collect the debt. Jensen v. Pressler &
Pressler, 791 F.3d 413, 417 (3d Cir. 2015). In
evaluating whether a particular debt-collection practice
violates the Act, courts employ a “least sophisticated
debtor” standard. Fleming v. Associated Credit
Servs., Inc., 342 F.Supp.3d 563, 579 (D.N.J. 2018).
“The standard is objective, meaning that the specific