United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
S. Lasnik United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on “Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss.” Dkt. # 20. The question for the
Court on a motion to dismiss is whether the facts alleged in
the complaint sufficiently state a “plausible”
ground for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). All well-pleaded allegations are
presumed to be true, with all reasonable inferences drawn in
favor of the non-moving party. In re Fitness Holdings
Int'l, Inc., 714 F.3d 1141, 1144-45 (9th Cir. 2013).
If the complaint fails to state a cognizable legal theory or
fails to provide sufficient facts to support a claim,
dismissal is appropriate. Shroyer v. New Cingular
Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir.
2010). As plaintiff Mr. Yohannes is the non-moving party and
is unrepresented by counsel, the Court construes Mr.
Yohannes' pleadings liberally. See Bernhardt v. Los
Angeles Cty., 339 F.3d 920, 925 (9th Cir. 2003)
(“Courts have a duty to construe pro se
pleadings liberally, including pro se motions as
well as complaints.”).
reviewed the complaint, the docket from the proceedings
against Mr. Yohannes in state court,  and the parties'
memoranda, the Court finds as follows:
Aklilu Yohannes is a government employee who works for the
Federal Aviation Administration. Around April 28, 2016, Mr.
Yohannes received a letter from his employer about a
garnishment order against his wages. The garnishment order
arose from an alleged debt owed to Baker Dental Implants
& Periodontics in Edmonds, WA dating back to 2005 or
2006. On March 1, 2006, a lawsuit was filed against Mr.
Yohannes in Snohomish County District Court. A default
judgment was entered against Mr. Yohannes on May 1, 2006. Mr.
Yohannes maintains that he was never served and had no
knowledge of the lawsuit or the default judgment until almost
ten years later when the garnishment order arrived.
before the default judgment was set to expire,  defendants
attempted to collect. On April 6, 2016, an application and writ
of garnishment was entered in the amount of $ 1, 886.67. On
April 7, 2016, Mr. Yohannes' employer was added as a
participant. On April 22, 2016, an answer to the writ was
1, 2016, the default judgment against Mr. Yohannes expired.
On May 9, 2016, the first check arrived from Mr.
Yohannes' employer to the county district court in the
amount of $ 623.72 and was forwarded to defendants. Around
May 18, 2016, plaintiff spoke with someone at his office who
processed the garnishment order and informed that person
about irregularities contained within the order. Plaintiff
alleges that around this date there were a number of
teleconferences between Mr. Yohannes' employer and
defendants. Plaintiff asserts that during these
conversations, defendant Cable falsely represented herself as
an attorney, and she falsely claimed that Mr. Yohannes was
negotiating with defendants to settle the debt. On May 23,
2016, a second check arrived in the amount of $ 673.72 to the
county court from plaintiff's employer. Mr. Yohannes
alleges that around the end of May 2016, he informed
defendants of his intention to file a lawsuit, and defendants
refunded the money to Mr. Yohannes. A release of the writ of
garnishment was filed on May 26, 2016.
though the money was returned, Mr. Yohannes maintains that he
was harmed by defendants' attempts to collect the alleged
debt. Mr. Yohannes offers that there were irregularities in
the garnishment order which caused the order to be rejected
by the first district court in Lynnwood on February 23, 2016,
before it was then presented unchanged to the Everett
district, which granted the order. Additionally, Mr. Yohannes
maintains that defendant Cable's misrepresentations
harmed plaintiff's reputation at work and his record with
his employer. The garnishment order remains on file at
plaintiff's work, and the file shows that plaintiff
settled a valid debt with defendants. Plaintiff asserts that
this entry in his file is false and has harmed his job
prospects. He also alleges that defendants' actions have
caused embarrassment to plaintiff and negatively impacted his
credit history and financial prospects. Plaintiff now seeks
to redress these injuries before this Court.
complaint, plaintiff asserts twelve causes of action against
defendants based on violations of various federal laws and
common law fraud and defamation. On July 6, 2017, defendants
filed a motion to dismiss all claims. Each of plaintiff's
claims is addressed below.
claims 1-3 allege violations of the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et
seq. Claims 1 and 2 allege that defendants used false
and deceptive means to attempt to collect the debt, including
that defendant Cable falsely represented herself as an
attorney. Claim 3 alleges violations of 15 U.S.C. §
1692c(b), which restricts communications between debt
collectors and third parties. These claims are sufficiently
supported by plaintiff's complaint, which alleges various
misrepresentations and abuses of the legal system in an
attempt to unlawfully collect a debt. These claims may
claim 4, plaintiff asserts that defendants violated federal
law based on the “lack of meaningful attorney
involvement” of defendant Martin. Dkt. # 1 ¶¶
48-50. The statutory provision that plaintiff cites is 15
U.S.C. § 1592j. This provision states that a party cannot
pretend to have an interest in a debt when that party does
not in fact have any interest. There is nothing within this
section that speaks to the requirement of “meaningful
attorney involvement” as alleged in plaintiffs
complaint. Therefore, claim 4 is DISMISSED.
asserts the same “lack of meaningful attorney
involvement” in violation of the Consumer Finance
Protection Act (CFPA), 12 U.S.C. §§ 5531, 5536. In
their motion to dismiss, defendants correctly posit that CFPA
violations do not provide a private right of action. See,
e.g., Diaz v. Argon Agency Inc., No. C15-451,
2015 WL 7737317, at *3 (D. Haw. Nov. 30, 2015) (collecting
cases finding that no private right of action exists under
the CFPA). Plaintiff argues in his response, however, that a
violation of the CFPA can support a cause of action under
Washington's Consumer Protection Act (CPA), RCW 19.86
et seq. Dkt. # 22 at 9. To the extent that claim 5
is based on a direct violation of the CFPA, claim 5 is
DISMISSED. However, plaintiff is GRANTED leave to amend his
complaint to include violations of Washington's Consumer
Protection Act that might be premised on violations of the
CFPA or other unfair or deceptive acts.
alleges violations 5 U.S.C. § 552a(i)(3). Defendants
assert that the statutory provision cited by plaintiff
“does not exist.” Dkt. # 20-1 at 11. Defendants
are incorrect. The statute cited by plaintiff provides
criminal liability for “[a]ny person who knowingly and
willfully requests or obtains any record concerning an
individual from an agency under false pretenses[.]” 5
U.S.C. § 552a(i)(3). Nevertheless, ...