United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
LAWRENCE J. VILARDO, UNITED STATED DISTRICT JUDGE
August 25, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging
violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et
seq. The defendants failed to appear and defend this
action, and the time to do so expired. As a result, the
plaintiffs asked the Clerk of Court to enter a default, which
accordingly was entered on February 25, 2015. Docket Items 5,
7-8. Now before this Court is the plaintiffs' motion for
default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. After hearing oral argument on
January 20, 2017, and considering the plaintiffs'
submissions dated February 24, 2017, this Court GRANTS the
plaintiffs in this case incurred consumer debt that the
defendants, The Law Office of Daniel M. Slane
(“Slane”) and United Recovery Worldwide, LLC,
sought to collect. Slane formerly operated as a collection
agency and was a “debt collector” within the
meaning of the FDCPA. Complaint, Docket Item 1 ¶¶
17-18, 151. The defendants merged on June 2, 2014; Slane no
longer exists and United Recovery Worldwide, the surviving
company, assumed all liability for the conduct committed by
Slane prior to the merger. Docket Item 1-1.
complaint alleges that the defendants violated the FDCPA in
connection with each of the plaintiffs as follows:
Warman. In seeking to collect Warman's debt, Slane
called him and threatened to take legal action if the debt
was not paid immediately. Id. ¶ 26. The
collector also falsely stated that Warman would automatically
owe thousands of dollars if the lawsuit were filed.
Id. ¶ 27. The coercion worked: Warman provided
his bank account information to Slane. Id. ¶
King. Starting in 2011, Slane tried to collect
King's debt by calling her cellphone. Id. ¶
34. In June 2011 and April 2013, King requested that the
calls stop. Docket Item 25 at 2; Docket Item 1 ¶ 37. But
the calls did not stop, and King continued to receive up to
three calls per day. Docket Item 1 ¶ 38. Further, Slane
threatened to file legal action against King and failed to
send her written correspondence informing her of the right to
dispute her debt. Id. ¶¶ 39-40.
Lawson. Slane attempted to collect Lawson's debt by
repeatedly calling him at work, as many as 30 times, even
after Lawson told Slane that the contact was inconvenient and
asked for it to stop. Id. ¶¶ 74-76; Docket
Item 12-5 ¶ 4. Slane falsely told Lawson that it was a
law firm, threatened to “ruin” Lawson's
credit and financial future, and threatened to tell
Lawson's family and employer that he owed the debt.
Docket Item 1 ¶¶ 77-79.
Goff. Slane sought to collect Goff's debt through
written correspondence. Id. ¶ 85; Docket Item
1-2 at 2. Because the letter, with the letterhead “The
Law Office of Daniel Slane, ” did not state whether or
not it was prepared or reviewed by an attorney, Goff assumed
that he was being contacted by an attorney. Docket Item 1
¶¶ 85-86; Docket Item 1-2 at 2.
Tucker. Slane tried to collect Tucker's debt by
contacting him at his place of employment. Docket Item 1
¶¶ 93. After Tucker asked that the calls stop,
Slane persisted in contacting Tucker at work as many as 15
more times, even speaking with several coworkers about the
purpose of the calls. Id. ¶¶ 94-96; Docket
Item 12-7 ¶ 4. Slane threatened to garnish Tucker's
wages, contacted Tucker's mother and informed her of the
debt without Tucker's consent, and withdrew money from
Tucker's bank account after Tucker had revoked his
permission for that withdrawal. Id. ¶¶
Davis. In attempting to collect Davis's debt, a
Slane representative called Davis several times without
informing him of the debt-collection purpose of those calls.
Id. ¶¶ 110-11. Slane also lied to Davis by
threatening to issue a warrant for Davis's arrest and
representing in a voicemail that Slane was a law firm rather
than a collection agency. Id. ¶¶ 112-13.
In the same voicemail, Davis was told that the matter could
“result in civil or criminal charges being
filed.” Id. ¶ 114.
Taylor. Slane sought to collect Taylor's debt by
calling her workplace and disclosing to a coworker, without
Taylor's consent, the purpose of the call. Id.
Moore. Slane called Moore to collect Moore's debt,
but Moore was not told the purpose of the call. Id.
¶¶ 126-27. When Moore explained to Slane that he
had already paid his debt in full, Slane responded that it
nevertheless would continue to seek payment until the debt
was paid directly to Slane. Id. ¶¶ 128-29.
Slane also failed to provide the requested proof that
Moore's debt was valid and payable, did not tell Moore
about his right to dispute his alleged obligation to pay the
debt, and continued to call Moore in an effort to collect the
purported debt. Id. ¶¶ 130-32.
Johnson. In attempting to collect Johnson's debt,
Slane called Johnson several times. Id. ¶ 137.
On one occasion, a Slane collector spoke with Johnson's
wife and told her that Slane would be “filing a claim
through Johnson's social security number.”
Id. ¶¶ 139. In a later call, a Slane
representative did not tell Johnson that the purpose of the
calls were to collect a debt. But he did falsely threaten
Johnson that a warrant would be issued and falsely told him
that Daniel Slane could “practice in all 50
states.” Id. ¶ 140-42.
Welling. In October 2012, Welling paid his debt to Slane
and requested proof of payment, which he never received.
Id. ¶¶ 147, 149. In January 2014, a Slane
collector orally confirmed that Welling's debt was paid
and told Welling that he would receive a release-of-debt
letter, which he never did. Id. ¶¶ 148-49.
Instead, from January to June 2014, Slane called Welling
numerous times seeking payment on the already-paid debt and
providing misleading information. Id. ¶ 150.
For example, Welling was told both that “payment made
in 2012 was not the full amount” and that Slane had
“never received a payment from [Welling].”
plaintiffs allege that they suffered myriad negative
consequences as a result of their contact with Slane and its
collectors, including anger, emotional distress, frustration,
anxiety, helplessness, embarrassment, and frustration.
Id. ¶¶ 6-9, 11-19.
obtain default judgment, a party must secure a Clerk's
Entry of Default by demonstrating, “by affidavit or
otherwise, ” that the opposing party “has failed
to plead or otherwise defend” the case. Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(a). Upon entry of default, the court accepts the
complaint's factual allegations, except those relating to
damages, as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in the
moving party's favor. See Finkel v. Romanowicz,
577 F.3d 79, 84 (2d Cir.2009); Greyhound Exhibitgroup,
Inc. v. E.L.U.L. Realty Corp., 973 F.2d 155, 158 (2d
Cir. 1992) (citing Flaks v. Koegel, 504 F.2d 702,
707 (2d Cir.1974)). In considering whether to enter default
judgment, the court determines whether the alleged facts
state a valid claim for relief and has the discretion to
require further proof of necessary facts. Au Bon Pain
Corp. v. Artect, Inc., 653 F.2d 61, 65 (2d Cir. 1981)
(discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2)). As to damages, the court