United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS, ECF NO.
F. Leeson, Jr. United States District Judge
an action brought under the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.
(“FDCPA”), in which Plaintiff William Cartmell
contends that Defendant Credit Control, LLC's attempt to
collect a debt violated several provisions of that statute.
As with many FDCPA cases, this case rests on the content of
Credit Control's collection letter (“the
Letter”), which offered Cartmell three “payment
options” for repayment of the debt. Significantly, the
Letter failed to notify Cartmell that repayment of any part
of the debt-which at the time the Letter was sent was beyond
the statute of limitations and therefore not judicially
recoverable-could revive the debt and subject him to
liability. Cartmell contends this omission constituted a
violation of the FDCPA's prohibition on unfair and
deceptive debt-collection practices.
are currently four motions pending before the Court, each
with opposition: Credit Control's motion to dismiss the
Amended Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
based on Cartmell's failure to establish standing,
Cartmell's motion for class certification, and both
parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Because
“[t]he requirement that jurisdiction be established
[is] a threshold matter” that “‘spring[s]
from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the
United States' and is ‘inflexible and without
exception, '” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a
Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998) (quoting
Mansfield, C. & L.M.R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S.
379, 382 (1884)), Credit Control's motion to dismiss for
lack of jurisdiction must be resolved before the motions for
either class certification or summary judgment can be
reviewed both parties' arguments, the Court concludes
that Cartmell has established standing sufficient to invoke
the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Consequently,
for the reasons set forth below, Credit Control's motion
to dismiss is denied.
Facts alleged in the Amended Complaint
following are the relevant facts asserted in the Amended
Complaint. Significantly, these facts-namely, the existence,
date, and content of the Letter, as well as the nature and
timeliness of the debt-are not in dispute.
to April 23, 2018, Cartmell incurred a credit card debt to
Credit One Bank, which was subsequently sold or transferred
to LVNV Funding, LLC. Amended Complaint (“Am.
Compl.”), ECF No. 14, ¶¶ 14-15, 17. On or
about April 23, 2018, Credit Control, LLC, a debt collector,
caused to be delivered to Cartmell a collection letter in an
attempt to collect on the debt. Id. ¶ 20. As of
April 23, 2018, more than six years had elapsed since the
last payment or activity on the LVNH Funding debt.
Id. ¶ 24. The Letter offered Cartmell three
“options” to pay the time-barred debt, while also
stating, “[t]he law limits how long you can be sued on
a debt. Because of the age of your debt, we will not sue you
for it.” Id. ¶¶ 23, 25. However-and
at the heart of the dispute in this case-the Letter failed to
inform Cartmell that should he choose one of the payment
options and make a payment, such action might revive the
statute of limitations for debt-collection purposes, which
could expose him to future liability on the debt.
Id. ¶ 26. Based on this omission, Cartmell
asserts causes of action for violations of (1) 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692e, which prohibits the use of false, deceptive, or
misleading representations or means in connection with the
collection of any debt,  as well as (2) 15 U.S.C. §1692f,
which prohibits the use of any unfair or unconscionable means
to collect any debt. See Id. ¶¶ 35-45.
initial Complaint in this action was filed on or about April
15, 2019. See ECF No. 1. Counsel appeared before the
Court for a Rule 16 initial conference on August 6, 2019, at
which time a discovery schedule was put in place.
See ECF Nos. 7, 9. On August 13, 2019, the parties
filed a stipulation allowing Cartmell to file an Amended
Complaint, see ECF Nos. 13-14, which was accepted
for filing and remains the operative pleading in the
October 2019, the Court received correspondence from counsel
indicating the existence of a potential discovery dispute.
After receipt of this correspondence, on October 31, 2019,
the Court extended the expert discovery deadline and
scheduled a telephone conference, which was held on November
4, 2019. See ECF No. 18. At the conference, the
Court issued several directives intended to resolve the
dispute. See ECF No. 21.
December 4, 2019, the previously-set deadline for the filing
of dispositive motions, the parties filed cross-motions for
summary judgment, see ECF Nos. 27, 30, in addition
to a motion for class certification filed by Cartmell,
see ECF No. 29, and the instant motion to dismiss
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction by Credit Control,
see ECF No. 28.
Legal Standard and Applicable Law
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), “a court must
grant a motion to dismiss if it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction to hear a claim.” In re Schering
Plough Corp. Intron/Temodar Consumer Class Action, 678
F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012); Lenell v. Advanced Min.
Tech., Inc., No. 14-CV-01924, 2014 WL 7008609, at *1
(E.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2014) (“At issue in a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion is the court's ‘very power to hear the
case.'” (quoting Petruska v. Gannon Univ.,
462 F.3d 294, 302 (3d Cir. 2006))). “A challenge to
subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may be either
a facial or a factual attack. The former challenges subject
matter jurisdiction without disputing the facts alleged in
the complaint, and it requires the court to ‘consider
the allegations of the complaint as true.'”
Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 346 (3d Cir.
2016) (quoting Petruska v. Gannon Univ., 462 F.3d
294, 302 n.3 (3d Cir. 2006)). “The latter, a factual
challenge, attacks the factual allegations underlying the
complaint's assertion of jurisdiction, either through the
filing of an answer or ‘otherwise present[ing]
competing facts.'” Davis, 824 F.3d at 346
(quoting Constitution Party of Pa. v. Aichele, 757
F.3d 347, 358 (3d Cir. 2014)). When a movant presents a
factual challenge to jurisdiction, the burden is on the
plaintiff to show the presence of jurisdiction, and the trial
court “may independently evaluate the evidence
regarding disputes over jurisdictional facts, rather than
assuming that the plaintiff's allegations are
true.” Lenell, 2014 WL 7008609, at *2 (quoting
CNA v. United States, 535 F.3d 132, 140 (3d Cir.
2008), as amended (Sept. 29, 2008)).
initial question, then, is whether Credit Control's
challenge to jurisdiction is facial or factual, the answer to
which will in turn dictate the scope of what the Court may
consider in resolving the challenge-the allegations alone if
the challenge is facial, or evidence beyond the pleadings if
the challenge is factual. See In re Schering Plough
Corp., 678 F.3d at 243. Credit Control contends that
evidence outside the pleadings negates subject matter
jurisdiction. According to Credit Control, Cartmell's
deposition testimony establishes that he “understood
that the debt was too old for him to be sued on it and he
never intended to make a payment in response to Credit
Control's letter. Therefore, Cartmell suffered no injury
and was not at risk of suffering any
harm.” Credit Control's Moving Memorandum
(“Credit Control Mem.”), ECF No. 28, at 5.
Cartmell responds by arguing, in essence, that because Credit
Control violated a substantive right conveyed by the
FDCPA-the right to be free from false, deceptive, or
misleading representations in debt collection-as opposed to a
mere procedural right, the violation in and of itself is
sufficient to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement of
Article III. See, e.g., Cartmell's Opposition
Memorandum (“Cartmell Opp'n.”), ECF No. 34,
the key facts alleged in the operative pleading are not
contested-Credit Control does not dispute the nature of the
debt or the content of the Letter, or that the Letter was
sent to Cartmell by Credit Control in an attempt to collect
on the debt-because Credit Control asserts facts beyond the
pleadings are dispositive as to jurisdiction, Credit
Control's motion is properly considered a factual attack
on subject matter jurisdiction. As a result, the Court is
free to weigh evidence beyond the pleadings in its
analysis. See CNA, 535 F.3d at 140, 145.
understanding of the nature and contours of Credit
Control's challenge to jurisdiction, the Court briefly
reviews principles of Article III standing generally before
turning to a review of standing principles in the context of
the FDCPA specifically.
Article III standing generally
III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution limits the
jurisdiction of federal courts to actual “Cases”
and “Controversies.” U.S. Const. art. III, §
2. As the Supreme Court has stated, “the core component
of standing is an essential and unchanging part of the
case-or-controversy requirement of Article III.”
Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992)
(citing Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984));
Davis, 824 F.3d at 346 (“Standing is a
jurisdictional matter. ‘Absent Article III standing, a
federal court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to
address a plaintiff's claims, and they must be
dismissed.'” (quoting Taliaferro v. Darby Twp.
Zoning Bd., 458 F.3d 181, 188 (3d Cir. 2006))). Over the
years, federal jurisprudence has
established that the irreducible constitutional minimum of
standing contains three elements. First, the plaintiff must
have suffered an “injury in fact”-an invasion of
a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and
particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural
or hypothetical. Second, there must be a causal connection
between the injury and the conduct complained of-the injury
has to be fairly . . . trace[able] to the challenged action
of the defendant, and not . . . th[e] result [of] the
independent action of some third party not before the court.
Third, it must be “likely, ” as opposed to merely
“speculative, ” that the injury will be redressed
by a favorable decision.
Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61 (internal quotations and
citations omitted). Since these elements are not mere
pleading requirements but rather jurisdictional
prerequisites, “each element must be supported in the
same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the
burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of
evidence required at the successive stages of the
litigation.” Id. at 561.
Supreme Court's 2016 decision in Spokeo, Inc. v.
Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540 (2016), asrevised (May 24, 2016), a case brought under the
Fair Credit Reporting Act, bears heavily on the instant
analysis for what the Court said regarding the ability to
claim an intangible injury as the basis for
standing-the very issue at the heart of Credit Control's
motion. As the Third Circuit recently observed, the Supreme
Court in Spokeo “highlighted that there are
two elements that must be established to prove an injury in
fact-concreteness and particularization, ” however, the
Court “rejected the argument that an injury must be
‘tangible' in order to be
‘concrete.'” In reHorizon
Healthcare Servs. Inc. Data Breach Litig., 846 F.3d 625,
637 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at
1545, 1549). The Court in Spokeo “explained
that ‘both history and the judgment of Congress play
important roles' in determining whether ‘an
intangible injury constitutes injury in fact.'”
In re Horizon, 846 F.3d at 637 (quoting
Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1549). Thus, Spokeo
indicates that an intangible harm can satisfy the
injury-in-fact requirement of Article III if (1)
“‘an alleged intangible harm' is closely
related ‘to a harm that has traditionally been regarded