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Beale v. Bruce

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

September 7, 2017

LINDA D. BEALE, an individual, o/b/o herself and all others similarly situated Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHEN L. BRUCE, P.C., an Oklahoma professional corporation, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James H. Payane United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim for Relief Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Doc. No. 17). Plaintiff opposes the Motion (Doc. No. 20). After consideration of the briefs, and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Linda D. Beale (“Plaintiff”) initiated this purported class action to recover against Defendant Stephen L. Bruce, P.C. (“Defendant”) for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff opened a credit card account with Discover Bank “[s]ometime prior” to initiating this lawsuit. (Doc. No. 15, ¶ 6). Discover Bank retained Defendant to collect amounts purportedly owed on Plaintiff's credit card account. (Id. ¶ 7). In furtherance of its collection activities, Defendant sent or caused to be sent to Plaintiff a “dunning letter, ” which Plaintiff attaches to her Amended Complaint as Exhibit “A.” (Id. ¶¶ 8-9 & Ex. A).

         Plaintiff alleges she was a “consumer” and Defendant was a “debt collector” for FDCPA purposes. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 22).

         Plaintiff claims Defendant violated the disclosure provisions of 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a) by inserting a sentence in the dunning letter sent to Plaintiff:

If there is a valid reason for your failure to pay the sum, please contact my office within the thirty (30) day period.

         (the “Valid Reason Provision”). (Id. ¶¶ 24-25 & Ex. A). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges “the least sophisticated consumer might believe that the debt collector's obligation to obtain verification of the debt or to provide the name and address of the original creditor would only arise if the consumer presented a valid reason for non-payment.” (Id. ¶ 25). Plaintiff also refers to § 1692g(b), which prohibits collection of a disputed debt or any disputed portion thereof until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or copy of any judgment, among other information, and mails the information to the consumer. (Id. ¶ 26). Plaintiff seeks statutory damages, costs, and attorney's fees on her own behalf and on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, who received similar letters. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 28-29).

         Defendant now moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for relief (Doc. No. 17). Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition (Doc. No. 20), and Defendant filed a Reply (Doc. No. 21). Defendant's motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.

         DISCUSSION

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, and must construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Anderson v. Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith, Inc., 521 F.3d 1278, 1284 (10th Cir. 2008). To withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Tenth Circuit has stated that “plausibility” in this context refers “to the scope of the allegations in the complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs ‘have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plaintiff bears the burden to frame “a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” that he or she is entitled to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

         I. Violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)

         Here, Plaintiff alleges Defendant violated 15 U.S.C. §1692g(a) by including the Valid Reason Provision in the dunning ...


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