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Jones v. Professional Claims Bureau, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

July 13, 2017



          GLASSER, Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Josanne Jones commenced this action on behalf of herself and others similarly situated against Professional Claims Bureau, Inc. (“PCB”), the Defendant, seeking damages, declaratory, and injunctive relief for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Pending before the Court is PCB's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which Plaintiff opposes. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.


         Defendant PCB is in the business of collecting debts owed to others. ECF 1, (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 3, 5. Plaintiff Jones is a resident of New York who incurred a debt for medical services. Id. ¶¶ 2, 31. On or about December 30, 2015, PCB mailed a letter to the Plaintiff seeking to recover on the unpaid financial obligation. Id. ¶ 9. This letter reads in part, “THIS ACCOUNT IS SERIOUSLY PAST DUE, ” and “[i]t is extremely important that you resolve this past due account and we suggest that you contact our offices via telephone or mail immediately.” Id. ¶¶ 24-26. The letter further states that “payment is expected within 10 days of this notice. If this account is not resolved, we will assume that you have no intention of settling this outstanding debt.” Id. ¶ 27. Finally, the letter concludes, “We are here to help you, as our client was there to help you in your time of need.” Id. ¶ 28.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay a trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” In deciding a 12(c) motion, the Court applies the same standard applicable to dismissals pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010). To survive a 12(c) motion, Plaintiffs must plead “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true” to state a claim that is plausible on its face, from which the Court can draw the reasonable inference that the Defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).


         I. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

         The FDCPA was enacted in response to a “serious national problem” of debt collection abuse, “including obscene or profane language, threats of violence, telephone calls at unreasonable hours, misrepresentation of a consumer's legal rights, disclosing a consumer's personal affairs to friends, neighbors, or an employer, obtaining information about a consumer through false pretense, impersonating public officials and attorneys, and simulating legal process.” S. REP. 95-382, 2, 1977 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1695, 1696. The enacted purpose of the statute was to eliminate such “abusive debt collection practices.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e). In pursuit of its objective, the statute restricts, inter alia, the use of false or misleading representations and the harassment or abuse of any person in connection with collection of a debt, and broadly prohibits “unfair” and “unconscionable” debt collection practices. See §§ 1692d, 1692e, 1692f.

         In analyzing whether a particular communication runs afoul of the FDCPA, courts apply an objective “least sophisticated consumer” standard. Greco v. Trauner, Cohen & Thomas, L.L.P., 412 F.3d 360, 363 (2d Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). In so doing, a defendant's communication is viewed “from the perspective of a debtor who is uninformed, naïve, or trusting, but is making basic, reasonable and logical deductions and inferences.” Dewees v. Legal Servicing, LLC, 506 F.Supp.2d 128, 132 (E.D.N.Y. 2007). “It should be emphasized that in crafting a norm that protects the naive and the credulous the courts have carefully preserved the concept of reasonableness.” Clomon v. Jackson, 988 F.2d 1314, 1319 (2d Cir. 1993)

         II. Plaintiff's Claims

         To recover under the FDCPA, a plaintiff must satisfy three threshold requirements: (1) the plaintiff must be a “consumer, ” (2) the defendant must be a “debt collector;” and (3) the defendant must have committed some act or omission in violation of the FDCPA. Oscar v. Prof'l Claims Bureau, Inc., No. CV11-5319 SJF WDW, 2012 WL 2367128, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. June 1, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, No. CV-11-5319 SJF WDW, 2012 WL 2367136 (E.D.N.Y. June 19, 2012). The parties do not dispute the satisfaction of the first two requirements. With respect to the third, Plaintiff alleges that PCB's letter to Ms. Jones violated §§ 1692d, 1692e, and 1692f of the FDCPA.

         The decision in Oscar informs the conclusions to follow. In that case, PCB, Defendant here, responded to an analogous complaint alleging FDCPA violations stemming from a debt collection letter. As here, the letter stated that “Payment is expected within 10 Days of this notice.” As the letter continued, “If this account is not resolved, we will assume you have no intention of settling this outstanding debt and will notify our client of this.” Id. at 1. As here, the plaintiffs in Oscar contended that the letter disgraced the reader, was false and misleading, and was unfair and unconscionable in contravention of the FDCPA. In dismissing claims brought pursuant to 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e and 1692f, the Oscar court noted that plaintiffs submitted little more than the text of the letter alongside conclusory allegations as to how the letter violated the statute. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff here has similarly failed to state a claim.

         a. 15 U.S.C. ...

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