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Reichenbach v. Hayes, Johnson & Conley, PLLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 19, 2019




         Presently before me is the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (See Doc. 7) filed by the Defendants, Hayes, Johnson & Conley, PLLC and Joel D. Johnson (collectively, “the Defendants”). The Plaintiffs, Seth A. Reichenbach and Bryan C. Reichenbach (collectively, “the Plaintiffs”) allege that the Defendants filed an action against them in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (See Doc. 1). Because the Plaintiffs state a claim for relief that the Defendants have violated §§ 1692f(1), 1692e(2)(A), & 1692e(10) by demanding unincurred attorneys’ fees and unauthorized late fees in their debt collection action, but have not sufficiently alleged a claim under § 1692i(a)(2) for improper venue, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         The facts from the Plaintiffs’ Complaint (Doc. 1), taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs are as follows:

         The Plaintiffs are brothers who reside in Florida. (Id. at 1). They own a time-share interval, specifically Interval No. 30 of Unit RV46 of Phase IIIB, Area I, River Village, Stage I of the Shawnee Village Planned Residential Development (“Development”) in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. (Id. at 12). The Defendants consist of a law firm, Hayes, Johnson & Conley and an attorney for the firm, Joel D. Johnson that represent the River Village Phase IIIB Owners Association (“Timeshare Association”). (See Id. at 3).

         On October 9, 2018, the Defendants brought a debt collection action against the Plaintiffs in Monroe County to recover $2,764.97 in connection with a consumer debt owed to the Timeshare Association (“the Underlying Complaint”). (See Id. at 7-10). In the Underlying Action, the Defendants requested $1,764.97 in unpaid association fees and late fees, and $1,000.00 in reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. (Id. at 10). Pursuant to the Declaration of Protective Covenants, Mutual Ownership and Easements, dated March 6, 1980 (“Declaration of Protective Covenants”), each owner of a time-share interval in the Development owes the Timeshare Association fees for his proportionate share of the common expenses estimated for the following fiscal year. (Doc. 7-5 at 27).

         On May 30, 2019, the Plaintiffs commenced this action. (See Doc. 1). The Plaintiffs contend that the Defendants violated several provisions of the FDCPA by filing the Underlying Complaint in Monroe County and demanding payment of unincurred attorneys’ fees and unauthorized late fees. (Id. at 1-5) The Plaintiffs are seeking damages, attorney’s fees and costs, and “[s]uch other and further relief as the Court shall deem just and proper.” (Id. at 5). On August 5, 2019, the Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss (See Doc. 7), arguing that the Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under the FDCPA. (Id. at 1).

         The Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of the grounds for the claim. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam). While detailed factual allegations are not required, conclusory statements that allege the complainant is entitled to relief are inadequate. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Legal conclusions that provide the framework for a complaint must be supported by factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of his or her claims. See Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2000). A court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. Id. The inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage is “normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). If there are well-pleaded factual allegations, then a court must assume their truthfulness in deciding whether they raise an entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 679 (2007). Dismissal is only appropriate when, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff has not plead enough factual allegations to provide a reasonable expectation that discovery will lead to evidence of each necessary element. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court considers the allegations in the complaint and exhibits attached to the complaint. Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010). In addition to the complaint and any exhibits attached, a court may examine “legal arguments presented in memorandums or briefs and arguments of counsel.” Pryor v. NCAA, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted). A court may also consider a “document integral or explicitly relied upon in the complaint.” In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). At bottom, documents may be examined by a court when ruling on a motion to dismiss when the plaintiff had proper notice of the existence of the documents. Id. A court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's “‘bald assertions’” or “‘legal conclusions.’” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429–30 (3d Cir. 1997)).

         III. Discussion

         Along with their briefs, the Plaintiffs have attached to their Complaint, the Underlying Complaint and their Deed to their time-share interval. (See Doc. 1). The Defendants also attached these documents to their Motion to Dismiss, in addition to the Declaration of Protective Covenants. (See Doc. 7-5). As a court deciding a motion to dismiss may consider undisputably authentic documents the parties submit, the aforementioned documents will form part of the record for resolution of the motion to dismiss. The Plaintiffs allege the Defendants breached the FDCPA by (1) filing a lawsuit in a district where the Plaintiffs do not reside in violation of § 1692i(a)(2), (2) misrepresenting the amount of debt owed to the Timeshare Association by including $1,000.00 of unincurred attorney’s fees in violation of §§ 1692e(2)(A) & 1692e(10), (3) demanding $1,000.00 in unincurred attorney’s fees, not authorized by law or the Declaration of Protective Covenants, in violation of § 1692f(1), and (4) demanding a judgment amount that included unauthorized late fees in violation of §§ 1692f(1), 1692e(2)(A), & 1692e(10). (Doc. 1 at 4-5). The Defendants move to dismiss ...

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