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Hyppolite v. Long Island University

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2019

FRANTZCEAU HYPPOLITE, Plaintiff,
v.
LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          JOSHUA D. WOLSON, J.

         In this civil case, Plaintiff Frantzceau Hyppolite is representing himself and has filed a civil action against Long Island University (“LIU”). He has filed an application to be excused from paying a filing fee and therefore to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants leave to proceed in forma pauperis. However, after reviewing the Complaint and construing it liberally, the Court concludes that Mr. Hyppolite has not stated a plausible claim, and it will therefore dismiss the Complaint. However, the Court will grant Mr. Hyppolite leave to file an amended complaint, if he elects to do so.

         I. FACTS

         The Court accepts the facts in Mr. Hyppolite's complaint as true and construes them liberally in recognition of his status as a pro se plaintiff. In his Complaint, Mr. Hyppolite alleges that he attended LIU and appears to acknowledge that he owes the school money. He claims that the school has hired a law firm to “freeze” his bank account and that the school will not release his degree to him. Mr. Hyppolite avers that he sent the law firm a “verification letter to validate [his] debt, ” but that he did not receive a response. (Compl. (ECF No. 2) at § III.C.) He alleges that because LIU has frozen his account, he cannot pay his bills, including his student loans. He appears to request both damages and an order directing LIU to release his degree. (Id. at § V.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A plaintiff seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis must establish that he is unable to pay for the costs of his suit. See Walker v. People Express Airlines, Inc., 886 F.2d 598, 601 (3d Cir. 1989). Where, as here, a court grants a plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). That inquiry requires the court to apply the standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under that standard, the court must take all well-pleaded allegations as true, interpret them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and draw all inferences in his favor. See Kokinda v. Pa. Dept. of Corrections, -- Fed. App'x --, 2019 WL 2577750, at * 2 (June 24, 2019). Moreover, because Mr. Hyppolite is proceeding pro se, the Court must construe his pleadings liberally. See Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Leave To Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Mr. Hyppolite has completed the form provided on the Court's website for applications to proceed in forma pauperis and has attested under penalty of perjury that he cannot afford to pay the filing fees. (ECF No. 1.) Moreover, his application to proceed in forma pauperis demonstrates that he lacks the income or assets to pay the required filing fees. Therefore, the Court will grant him leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         B. Plausibility Of Claims In The Complaint

         The Complaint does not articulate a specific cause of action. The Court can discern two possible claims in Mr. Hyppolite's Complaint. First, Mr. Hyppolite might be complaining about the way that LIU has attempted to collect the debt that it is owed, which suggests a claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”). Second, Mr.

         Hyppolite might be complaining that LIU breached a contract by withholding his degree. As explained below, neither claim could survive a motion to dismiss, at least as currently pled.

         1. FDCPA

         Mr. Hyppolite has not stated a viable FDCPA claim because he has not asserted a claim against a debt collector. Instead, he has asserted a claim against a creditor, and the FDCPA does not allow for such a claim. “The FDCPA provides a remedy for consumers who have been subjected to abusive, deceptive or unfair debt collection practices by debt collectors.” Piper v. Portnoff Law Assocs., Ltd., 396 F.3d 227, 232 (3d Cir. 2005); see also 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e, 1692f, 1692k. “To state a claim under the FDCPA, a plaintiff must allege, among other things, that the defendant is a debt ...


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