United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DAYNE GARDNER, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
WELTMAN, WEINBERG & REIS CO., LPA, et al., Defendants.
F. KENNEY, JUDGE.
Dayne Gardner, defaulted on a loan from Synchrony Bank.
See ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 15, 23. Synchrony
eventually charged off the debt and it was no longer accruing
interest. Id. ¶ 27. After the charge-off,
Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC purchased Plaintiffs debt
and referred it to Defendant for collection purposes.
Id. ¶¶ 22, 24.
Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA, then sent Plaintiff a
collection letter that contained the balance due.
Id. ¶¶ 32, 33. The top of the letter
stated, "Balance Due as of 02/12/19: $3, 250.13."
Id. The letter's detachable payment slip stated,
"Balance Due as of February 12, 2019: $3, 250.13."
filed a Complaint individually and on behalf of others
similarly situated alleging that Defendant violated the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act (the "FDCPA"), 15
U.S.C. § 1692(e), by misrepresenting "that the
balance would increase after the date of the letter."
Id. ¶ 54. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant's letter "falsely stated or implied that
the balance was subject to increase" because it
contained the phrase "balance due as of and listed the
balance twice. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 36, 55; ECF No. 16 at
1-2. In addition, Plaintiff alleges the letter violates the
FDCPA because it can be reasonably read to have two meanings.
See ECF No. 16 at 7.
moved for Judgment on the Pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 13. Defendant
argues that the letter's "as of language and listing
of the balance twice do not misrepresent Plaintiffs debt
because neither implies that the debt would increase.
Id. Further, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs
interpretation that the debt would increase is "bizarre
and idiosyncratic." Id. at 6. For the following
reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion.
Standard of Review
on the pleadings is appropriate when "the movant clearly
establishes that no material issue of fact remains . . . and
that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir.
2008) (quoting Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways,
Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 290 (3d Cir. 1988). Further, the
Court must view the facts and draw inferences "in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
motion for judgment on the pleadings uses the same legal
standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See
Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 n.2 (3d Cir. 2004).
Accordingly, a complaint must include more than "labels
and conclusions;" it must state "enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570
is plausible when the pleading provides enough facts to
"allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Ethypharm S.A. France v. Abbott Labs., 101 F.3d 223,
231 n.14 (3d Cir. 2013).
FDCPA seeks to "eliminate abusive debt collection
practices." Wilson v. Quadramed Corp., 225 F.3d
350, 354 (3d Cir. 2000), as amended (Sept. 7, 2000).
Specifically, § 1692(e) prohibits a debt collector from
using "any false, deceptive, or misleading
representation" to collect a debt. 15 U.S.C. §
under the FDCPA are evaluated using the "least
sophisticated debtor" standard. McLaughlin v. Phelan
Hallinan & Schmieg, LLP,756 F.3d 240, 246 (3d Cir.
2014). The least sophisticated debtor standard is lower than
the reasonable debtor standard in order to protect all
consumers, even the "gullible as ...