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Boone v. Dynamic Collectors, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 12, 2019

MAUDINA BOONE, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
DYNAMIC COLLECTORS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO AMEND

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Dynamic Collectors, Inc.'s (“Dynamic”) motion to dismiss. Dkt. 14. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion in part and denies the motion in part for the reasons stated herein.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 8, 2018, Plaintiff Maudina Boone (“Boone”) filed suit as a putative class representative against Dynamic. Dkt. 1. Boone sues for damages arising from Dynamic's alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”). Dkts. 1, 10. On January 23, 2019, Dynamic filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. 9. On February 7, 2019, Boone filed an amended complaint. Dkt. 10. On February 12, 2019, Dynamic withdrew its motion to dismiss. Dkt. 11. On February 21, 2019, Dynamic filed a new motion to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. 14. On March 25, 2019, Boone responded. Dkt. 20. On April 9, 2019, Dynamic replied. Dkt. 21.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         At some time prior to November 15, 2017, Boone incurred medical debt. Dkt. 10. On November 15, 2017, Boone received a letter from Dynamic seeking to collect on the debt. Id. ¶ 10. The letter listed amounts owed for principal balance, interest, attorney's fees, court costs, and collection fees. Id. ¶ 11. The principal balance owed was listed as $438. Id. ¶ 16. Interest, attorney's fees, court costs, and collection fees all listed a $0 balance. Id. ¶ 12. Below the amounts owed, “the letter states that interest accrues at 12% per annum.” Id. ¶ 13.

         Boone alleges that “[i]t appears [Dynamic] is seeking interest at 12% which begins to accrue from the date of the letter, as opposed to the date the debt became delinquent.” Id. ¶ 19. Boone also alleges that the letter makes it appear as though Dynamic “expects the least sophisticated consumer to understand that interest will only start accruing from the date on the letter.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Boone alleges that Dynamic's false and deceptive representations violate sections 1692d, e(2) and e(10) of the FDCPA, Dynamic's attempt to collect interest violates section 1692f(1) of the FDCPA, and Dynamic's failure to list the correct amount of the debt violates section 1692(g) of the FDCPA. Dkt. 10, ¶¶ 41-43.

         A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) Standard

         Motions to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure may be based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under such a theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Material allegations are taken as admitted and the complaint is construed in the plaintiffs favor. Keniston v. Roberts, 717 F.2d 1295, 1301 (9th Cir. 1983). Despite this, courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint does not require detailed factual allegations but must provide the grounds for entitlement to relief and not merely a “formulaic recitation” of the elements of a cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiffs must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         1. Stating a Claim under the FDCPA

         Boone correctly explains that Dynamic's motion to dismiss contests only whether it has committed an act prohibited by the FDCPA, not any of the elements establishing that collection of the debt is governed by the FDCPA. Dkt. 20 at 6; see also Dkt. 14.

         FDCPA violations are assessed from the “least sophisticated debtor” standard, which is “lower than simply examining whether particular language would deceive or mislead a reasonable debtor.” Terran v. Kaplan, 109 F.3d 1428, 1431-32 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Swanson v. S. Or. Credit Serv., Inc., 839 F.2d 1222, 1227 (9th Cir. 1988). “An FDCPA plaintiff need not even have actually been misled or deceived by the debt collector's representation; instead, liability depends on whether the hypothetical ‘least sophisticated debtor' likely would be misled.” Tourgeman v. Collins Fin. Servs., Inc., 755 F.3d 1109, 1117-18 (9th Cir. 2014). “This inquiry is objective and is undertaken as a matter of law.” Id. at 1118 (citing Gonzales v. Arrow Fin. Servs., LLC, 660 F.3d 1055, 1060-61 (9th Cir. 2011)). Though the least sophisticated debtor “may be uninformed, naïve, and gullible, ” a “bizarre or unreasonable” interpretation of a collection notice will not violate the FDCPA. Evon v. Law Office of Sidney Mickell, 688 F.3d 1015, 1027 (9th Cir. 2012).

         To be actionable under sections 1692e or 1692f of the FDCPA, any ambiguity or false or misleading statement must be material. Donohue v. Quick Collect, Inc., 592 F.3d 1027, 1033 (9th Cir. 2010). A false or misleading statement is material when it affects the consumer's ability to make intelligent decisions about how to address their debt. Id. Therefore, on a motion to dismiss, the question is not whether sufficient facts are present such that it is plausible the plaintiff was misled or ...


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