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Stephens v. Troy Capital, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

May 4, 2015

AMANDA STEPHENS, Plaintiff,
v.
TROY CAPITAL, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

ALETA A. TRAUGER, District Judge.

Pending before the court is a Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint ("Motion to Amend") (Docket No. 19) filed by plaintiff Amanda Stephens ("Stephens"), to which defendant Troy Capital, LLC ("Troy") has filed a Response in opposition (Docket No. 23.) For the following reasons, the court will deny the motion.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This is an action by a consumer seeking damages for an alleged violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. ยงยง 1692 et seq., which prohibits debt collectors from engaging in abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices. Stephens is a resident of Sumner County, Tennessee and a "consumer" as defined by the FDCPA. Troy is a Nevada limited liability company, with a principal place of business in Las Vegas, Nevada, that is engaged in the business of purchasing debts from creditors and collecting the debts in, among other places, Tennessee. Troy is a "debt collector" as defined by the FDCPA.

On October 22, 2005, Stephens purchased a motor vehicle from Rivergate Toyota, a Nashville dealership.[1] Stephens received title to the vehicle subject to a lien of record in favor of Citifinancial Auto Credit, Inc. ("Citifinancial"). Stephens's sales contract with Rivergate Toyota was then sold and assigned to Citifinancial. Subsequently, the sales contract was sold and assigned to Troy.

Stephens made regular monthly payments on the loan until October 2006, when she had to take a job that paid less money. Stephens acknowledged her indebtedness in one or more telephone conversations with representatives from Citifinancial and asked whether the parties could work out a revised payment plan. Citifinancial declined. Stephens made no further payments on the loan; the last payment on the loan was therefore made in "late 2006."

Six and one-half years later, on July 29, 2013, Troy filed suit against Stephens in the Sumner County General Sessions Court to collect a deficiency balance allegedly due and owing on the automobile loan.[2] Troy attached an "Affidavit of Plaintiff's Claim" ("Affidavit") to its Civil Warrant incorrectly stating the amount and date of the last payment on Plaintiff's account. Stephens believed that the information contained within the Affidavit pertained to a debtor other than Stephens, yet was used as the basis for the suit against Stephens.[3]

Trial was scheduled for January 7, 2014. On multiple occasions prior to trial, Stephens attempted to contact counsel for Troy to advise that the General Sessions suit had been filed well outside the applicable four-year statute of limitations. Troy never responded. While in court on January 7, 2014, Stephens refused to settle with Troy; Stephens once again advised that collection of the debt was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Counsel for Troy requested and was granted a continuance of trial until August 5, 2014.

After the initial hearing, Stephens retained counsel, who, through phone calls and written correspondence, attempted to contact counsel for Troy to discuss the statute of limitations issue. Counsel for Troy never responded. Counsel for Stephens therefore prepared the case for trial on August 5, 2014. On July 15, 2014, counsel for Troy filed with the General Sessions court loan documents pertaining to a debtor other than Stephens, presumably for use at trial.

While in court on August 5, 2014, counsel for Stephens once again advised counsel for Troy that (1) Troy had filed loan documents with the court pertaining to the wrong debtor, (2) the date and amount of last payment stated in the Affidavit was based on information pertaining to the wrong debtor, and (3) Troy's claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. In response, counsel for Troy voluntarily dismissed the claim against Stephens without appearing before the judge.

On October 14, 2014, Stephens filed a Complaint in this court containing one claim for relief under the FDCPA. (Docket No. 1.) The gravamen of the Complaint is that Troy violated the FDCPA by bringing suit on a claim that it knew or should have known was barred by the statute of limitations and continuing to pursue that action without making a reasonable inquiry as to whether Stephens's statute of limitations defense was valid. Troy answered the Complaint, albeit belatedly, on December 11, 2014. (Docket No. 9.)

On March 2, 2015, Troy filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Docket No. 17.) Troy contended that Stephens's action ran afoul of the FDCPA's one-year statute of limitations. More specifically, Troy argued that (1) the one-year limitations period began to run upon the institution of Troy's action against Stephens (either on the day of filing on July 29, 2013, or the day after service on August 2, 2013), but (2) Stephens did not file the FDCPA Complaint until October 14, 2014, more than fourteen months later. Accordingly, Troy argued that the action was time-barred. Id.

On March 13, 2015, Stephens filed the pending Motion to Amend. (Docket No. 19.) Stephens concurrently filed a Motion to Stay Stephens's response to the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings for the sake of efficiency, arguing that if the Motion to Amend were granted, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings should be dismissed as moot. (Docket No. 21.) The court granted that request. ...


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