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Baranski v. NCO Financial Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 21, 2014

BARANSKI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
NCO FINANCIAL SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. LEO GLASSER, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiffs John Baranski ("Baranski") and James LaCourte ("LaCourte" and together with Baranski, "Plaintiffs"), on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, bring this action against defendant NCO Financial Systems, Inc. ("NCO"), alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227, et seq. ("TCPA"), New York General Business Law § 339-p ("GBL"), and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act § 42-110a, et seq. ("CUPTA"). Currently before the court are two motions: NCO's motion to sever, dismiss, and/or transfer venue and NCO's motion to strike Plaintiffs' amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, NCO's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims is GRANTED and the remaining relief sought by NCO is DENIED as moot.

BACKGROUND

I. Facts & Procedural History

The following facts are taken from Plaintiffs' complaint, Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl."), and other documents the Court may consider, and are accepted as true for purposes of deciding this motion. NCO is a Pennsylvania corporation headquartered in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶ 12. NCO is a debt collection agency. Id . Plaintiffs allege that, as part of its debt collection activities, NCO uses an automatic telephone dialing system ("ATDS"), as defined in the TCPA and the GBL. Id.¶¶ 13-16.

LaCourte, a resident of Huntington, New York, was previously the holder of an American Express credit card. Id . ¶¶ 10, 22. In an effort to collect a debt on this American Express account, NCO called LaCourte at his residence and left prerecorded voice messages on October 20, 2010, October 27, 2010, November 4, 2010, November 12, 2010, November 17, 2010, and November 24, 2010. Id . ¶ 29. In addition, NCO called LaCourt on his cellular telephone on November 11, 2010 and December 7, 2010. Id . ¶¶ 27-28. LaCourte believes that all of these calls were made using an ATDS. Id . ¶¶ 27-29. At the time of these calls, LaCourte had settled and paid his debt on the American Express account. Id . ¶ 22.

Baranski, a resident of North Grosvenordale, Connecticut, was the co-holder of a Capital One credit card with his wife. Id . ¶¶ 11, 32. Baranski received phone calls on his cellular telephone on several occasions, including on June 13, 2013, from NCO related to a debt on his Capital One account. Id . ¶ 35. Baranski believes that one or more of these calls was made using an ATDS. Id.

Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of a nationwide class of individuals who received calls on their cellular telephones from NCO in violation of the TCPA. Id . ¶ 36. In addition, LaCourte purports to represent a sub-class of New York residents who received calls from NCO in violation of the GBL. Id . ¶ 37. Baranski, in turn, purports to represent a sub-class of Connecticut residents who received prerecorded telephone messages from NCO in violation of the CUTPA. Id . ¶ 38. Plaintiffs do not know the exact size of the proposed class or sub-classes, or the identities of the members thereof, but they estimate that the class may encompass "hundreds to thousands of individuals." Id . ¶ 39.

Prior to commencing this action, on December 28, 2012 LaCourte filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against NCO and other defendants. LaCourte v. JP Morgan Chase & Co., No. 12-cv-9453(JSR) (the "SDNY Action") [Dkt. No. 1]. The SDNY Action was based on the same debt collection activities underlying LaCourte's claims in this case. Id . LaCourte asserted claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, New York State statutory law, and common-law civil conspiracy. Id . Following motions to dismiss from several of the defendants, LaCourte's claims against certain of the defendants-though not NCO-were dismissed by order dated April 25, 2013. See SDNY Action, Dkt. No. 80 (the "SDNY M&O") at 1-2. LaCourte's civil conspiracy claims were dismissed in their entirety. Id . His Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claims were dismissed to the extent that they were based on calls the occurred outside of the statute of limitations. Id.

After the close of discovery, LaCourte sought to amend his complaint in the SDNY Action to add claims under the TCPA and the GBL and file a motion for class certification. SDNY Action, Dkt. No. 90. His request to amend the complaint was denied as untimely. Id . Following a motion for summary judgment, all of LaCourte's remaining claims were dismissed by order dated February 21, 2014, and judgment was entered on February 24, 2014. SDNY Action, Dkt. Nos. 103, 104. On March 4, 2014, LaCourte filed a notice of appeal. SDNY Action, Dkt. No. 106.

Plaintiffs commenced this action on November 15, 2013 by filing a complaint in this Court. Dkt. No. 1. On December 11, 2013, NCO filed a motion seeking to sever the claims of the two Plaintiffs pursuant to Rule 21, to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), or in the alternative to transfer their claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Dkt. No. 6-1 ("NCO's Mem."). On January 17, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their opposition, arguing that Plaintiffs' claims should not be severed or transferred. Dkt. No. 22 ("Pls.' Opp'n"). Rather than addressing NCO's motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint along with their Opposition. Dkt. No. 21 ("FAC"). On February 3, 2014, NCO filed its reply. Dkt. No. 23 ("NCO's Reply"). That same day, NCO filed a motion to strike the FAC pursuant to Rule 12(f), arguing that the Amended Complaint was not timely filed under Rule 15(a)(1)(B). Dkt. No. 24 ("NCO's Mot. to Strike"). On February 20, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the motion to strike. Dkt. No. 25 ("Pls.' Strike Opp'n"). On February 22, 2014, NCO filed its reply. Dkt. No. 26 ("NCO's Strike Reply").

Since NCO's motions have been fully briefed, the procedural posture of this case has continued to develop. On February 25, 2014, NCO provided the Court with notice that LaCourte's SDNY Action had been dismissed. See Dkt. No. 27. NCO argues that this decision has preclusive effect on LaCourte's claims and concedes that its motion to transfer LaCourte's claims is therefore moot. Id . On February 27, 2014, Plaintiffs informed the Court that they had petitioned the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ("JPML") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 to centralize this action with two class actions pending against NCO in the Central District of California. See Dkt. No. 28. Indeed, the JPML is currently considering Plaintiffs' petition. In re NCO Fin. Sys., Inc. Protection Act (TCPA) Litig., MDL No. 2533. This Court retains jurisdiction over NCO's pending motions until the JPML enters an order transferring the action. See, e.g., In re Plumbing Fixture Cases, 298 F.Supp. 484, 495-96 (J.P.M.L. 1968).

II. Legal Standard

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff's pleading must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility "when the plaintiff pleads factual content ...


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