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Quintanilla v. The Bureaus Inc.

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

July 11, 2019

THE BUREAUS, INC., et al., Defendant.


          Ronald B. Leighton United States District Judge.


         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants The Bureaus, Inc. (“TBI”), Bureaus Investment Group Portfolio No. 15, LLC (“BIG 15”), and Bureaus Investment Group III's (“BIG III”) Motion to Dismiss for Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Dkt. #18. Plaintiff Nicole A. Quintanilla's claims challenge a letter sent by counsel for TBI representing that BIG 15 owns a $1, 807.22 debt owed by Quintanilla. According to Quintanilla, the documents provided to verify BIG 15's ownership of the debt were insufficient authentication. The moving Defendants (collectively “The Bureaus”) argue that the documents provided to Quintanilla support BIG 15's ownership of the debt and Quintanilla is not legally entitled to additional proof.

         The Court agrees with the Bureaus and GRANTS their Motion.


         At some unknown time, Quintanilla alleges that “the Defendants” contacted her either through the mail or by telephone to attempt to collect a debt originally owned by Capital One, NA, for charges made on an HSBC retail account. Quintanilla also apparently became aware that The Bureaus had furnished information about her debt to a credit bureau. On October 30, 2018, Quintanilla sent a letter to TBI demanding authentic proof that they had a valid claim against her. Dkt. #19 at 8. Her letter identified no legal authority or specific documents for authentication.

         TBI, the master servicer for BIG 15, responded on November 6 with a brief letter stating the open date for the account, the date of delinquency, the last payment prior to acquisition, the charge-off balance and date, and the current balance due. Id. at 11. The letter also contained numerous attached documents evidencing that the debt in question was owed by Quintanilla and was transferred to BIG 15. These documents included a Bill of Sale and Affidavit of Sale signed by the vice president of Capital One, NA, a Certificate of Conformity stating that the sale conformed to Virginia law, an Affidavit of Assignment signed by a Capital One Services, LLC, employee verifying that Quintanilla's account was transferred to BIG 15, a copy of a check from Quintanilla to HSBC Retail Card Services making a payment on the debt, and copies of Quintanilla's account statements showing payments and failures to pay. Id. at 12-22. Quintanilla's account was apparently sold as part of a pool of debts that Capital One sold to BIG 15.

         Unsatisfied with this response, Quintanilla had her lawyer, Bruce Clark, reach out to TBI on November 27. TBI's counsel, Dara Tarkowski, responded on December 5, with a letter reiterating that BIG 15 owned the debt in question. Id. at 5-6. Tarkowski's letter included the November 6 letter and all of its documentation as attachments. The letter also characterized Quintanilla's October 30 letter as a “debt validation request.”

         In her Complaint, Quintanilla claims that the December 5 letter from Tarkowski misrepresented that Defendants actually own Quintanilla's debt. Quintanilla alleges that Defendants failed to produce “any authenticatable documentation” in response to her inquiries and characterized the documents attached to the December 5 letter as “hearsay.” Dkt. #1-1 at 6. The Complaint asserts more specific issues with the documentation, including that the Bill of Sale and Affidavit of Sale do not specifically mention Quintanilla or her account and reference a “Forward Flow Receivable Sale Agreement” between Capital One and the BIG 15 that was never produced to Quintanilla. Although the Affidavit of Assignment does identify Quintanilla and her account, Quintanilla claims that this document is not specific enough and is not reliable because it is not signed by an employee of Capital One, NA. Notably, Quintanilla does not deny that she owes the relevant debt.


         1. Legal Standard

         Dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) may be based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff's complaint must allege facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim has “facial plausibility” when the party seeking relief “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although the court must accept as true the Complaint's well-pled facts, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences will not defeat an otherwise proper 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Vazquez v. Los Angeles Cty., 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and footnotes omitted). This requires a plaintiff to plead “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me-accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing id.).

         Allegations of “fraud or mistake” trigger a heightened pleading standard under which the plaintiff must “state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). This means “the pleader must state the time, place, and specific content of the false representations as well as the identities of the parties to the misrepresentation.” Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986). Sections of the FDCPA that require a showing of false or misleading communications must be pled with particularity under Rule 9(b). Cutler ex rel. Jay v. Sallie Mae, Inc., No. EDCV-13-2142-MWF, 2014 WL 7745878, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 9, 2014). RICO claims may also be subject to Rule 9(b)'s requirements if they involve fraud. Moore v. Kayport Package Exp., Inc., 885 F.2d 531, 541 (9th Cir. 1989).

         On a 12(b)(6) motion, “a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Cook, Perkiss & Liehe v. N. Cal. Collection Serv., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990). However, leave to amend should be denied as futile if “no set of facts can be proved under the amendment to the pleadings that would constitute a valid and sufficient claim or defense.” Gaskill v. Travelers Ins. ...

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