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Werner Harrer v. Rjm Acquisitions

January 19, 2012

WERNER HARRER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RJM ACQUISITIONS, LLC,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant RJM Acquisitions, LLC's motion to dismiss [19] Plaintiff Werner Harrer's amended complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendant's motion [19].

I. Background*fn1

On a date unknown to Plaintiff, an individual named Wener Harrer, who lives at 414 Oneida St. in Joliet, Illinois, incurred a $91.09 debt to Doubleday Book Club. At some point, Doubleday assigned or sold Wener Harrer's debt to Defendant RJM Acquisitions, LLC, and forwarded to Defendant information about Wener Harrer -- including his name, address, telephone number, and birth date -- so that Defendant could collect the debt.

Instead of sending a collection letter to Wener Harrer, Defendant, acting as a "debt collector" as defined in 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6), sent a collection letter to Plaintiff Werner Harrer. Defendant did so despite the fact that Plaintiff's first name is spelled "Werner," not "Wener," Plaintiff has never lived at 414 Oneida St. in Joliet IL, and Plaintiff has never had a Doubleday Book Club account. Further, Plaintiff's current and former telephone number and his birth date do not match the information that Doubleday provided to Defendant about the debtor.

The collection letter that Plaintiff received was addressed to "Wener Harrer," and stated that Defendant had purchased "Wener Harrer's" Doubleday Book Club account. The letter sought payment on an outstanding account balance of $91.09, and it indicated that one of "Wener Harrer's" previous addresses was "414 Oneida St. Apt.1, Joliet IL, 60435-7477." Among other things, the collection letter stated clearly that it was "an attempt to collect a debt," and that it was "from a debt collector." (Am. Compl., Ex. A.) The letter also included the following statement, written in bold and located under the heading "Important Information":

Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. If you request of this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor. (Amend. Compl., Ex. A.)

Plaintiff alleges that at the time Defendant sent Plaintiff the collection letter, Defendant knew that Plaintiff was not the person who owed the Doubleday debt. Despite that fact, Defendant intentionally attempted to collect the debt from Plaintiff. Defendant never attempted to collect the debt from the actual debtor by sending a collection letter to the address for Wener Herrer that Doubleday had provided to Defendant.

Believing that Defendant's actions violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. ("FDCPA"), Plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking statutory damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys fees [16]. Plaintiff alleges that by attempting to collect from him a debt that he did not owe, Defendant violated §§ 1692d, 1692e, and 1692f of the FDCPA. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that: (1) Defendant engaged in conduct, the natural consequence of which is to oppress, harass, and abuse the Plaintiff, in violation of § 1692d; (2) Defendant falsely represented that he owed a debt that he did not owe, in violation of §§ 1692e, 1692e(2)(A), and 1692e(10); and (3) Defendant unfairly sent Plaintiff a letter seeking to collect a debt that Defendant knew he did not owe, in violation of §§ 1692f and 1692f(1). Plaintiff's allegations are based solely on the collection letter that he received from Defendant on September 10, 2010.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint, and requests that sanctions be awarded in its favor. In support of its motion, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims under §§ 1692e and 1692f fail for two reasons. First, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the Seventh Circuit's decision in Jang v. A.M. Miller and Associates, 122 F.3d 480 (7th Cir. 1997). Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's attempt to plead around Jang by including allegations of intent was not successful because Plaintiff's allegations of intent are "conclusory" and lack "'further factual enhancement.'" (Def. Mot. at 2.) Finally, as to Plaintiff's claim under § 1692d, Defendant argues that the receipt of one collection letter does not have as its natural consequence oppression, harassment, or abuse.

II. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case.See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563. The Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005).

III. Analysis

The FDCPA prohibits "debt collectors" from engaging in abusive, deceptive, or unfair debt-collection practices. 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Plaintiff alleges that by sending him a single collection letter seeking to collect on a debt that he did not owe, Defendant has violated §§ 1692e, 1692f, and 1692d of the FDCPA. In response, Defendant argues that each of Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because they fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Court agrees that ...


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