United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
Christopher H. Steger, Magistrate Judge.
L. COLLIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Greeneville Collection Service, Inc. (“Greeneville
Collection”) and Laughlin Memorial Hospital, Inc.
(“Laughlin”) have moved for a judgment on the
pleadings for the claims alleged against them. (Doc. 44.)
Plaintiffs have not filed a response and the time to do so
has expired (Doc. 58). For the reasons set out below, the Court
GRANTS Defendants' motion (Doc 44).
2012 until 2017, Plaintiff Steven Drake (“Drake”)
received several medical services from Defendant Laughlin on
a credit basis. (Doc. 38-1.) After he defaulted on his
obligations, Defendant Laughlin hired Defendants Greeneville
Collection, Chesnut Law Office, LLP (“Chesnut
Law”), and Alex Chesnut to attempt to collect the debt.
(Doc. 38 at 5.) On December 5, 2017, Defendants Chesnut Law
and Alex Chesnut filed a collection lawsuit against Plaintiff
Drake and his wife, Courteney Squibb (together,
“Plaintiffs”), in the Greene County General
Sessions Court for $21, 413.60 plus 6.25% interest. (Doc.
Drake learned of the collection suit on December 7, 2017.
(Doc. 38 at 8.) Plaintiff Drake called Defendant Chesnut Law
and was told he would need to pay twenty to twenty-five
percent of his debt, or approximately $1, 000, every month to
pay off his debt. (Id.) Plaintiff Drake explained he
could only afford to pay $100 per month, which he was told
was not sufficient. (Id.) At the scheduled hearing
on December 21, 2017, the judge told Plaintiff Drake to meet
Defendant Alex Chesnut outside the courtroom to discuss a
payment plan. (Id. at 9.) Defendant Alex Chesnut
informed Plaintiff Drake that he would need to pay $300 per
month, but ultimately agreed to Plaintiff Drake's
proposal of $150 per month. (Id.) On December 22,
2017, a default judgment was entered against Plaintiffs based
on the civil summons. (Id.)
17, 2019, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against Defendants
Laughlin, Greeneville Collection, Alex Chesnut, and Chesnut
Law. (Doc. 38.) Plaintiffs claim the default judgment is void
for lack of personal jurisdiction due to improper service of
process and thus seek to have it set aside. (Id.)
Plaintiffs also seek recovery for claims under the Equal
Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) and the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).
Laughlin and Greeneville Collection have moved for a judgment
on the pleadings for the claims filed against them. (Doc.
44.) Defendants assert the Court lacks jurisdiction under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine for any alleged injuries
caused by the default judgment and that the remaining claims
fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for a
judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed, but
early enough not to delay trial. The standard of review for a
motion on the pleadings is the same standard applied in a
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b). Sensations, Inc. v. City of Grand Rapids, 526
F.3d 291, 295 (6th Cir. 2008). A court must construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and
accept all factual allegations as true. Coley v. Lucas
Cty, Ohio, 799 F.3d 530, 537 (6th Cir. 2015). Bare legal
conclusions, however, need not be accepted as true. See
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). In
addition, all ambiguities must be resolved in the
plaintiff's favor. Carter by Carter v. Cornwell,
983 F.2d 52, 54 (6th Cir. 1993) (citing Jackson v.
Richards Med. Co., 961 F.2d 575, 577 (6th Cir. 1992)).
defendant bears the burden of showing that the complaint has
not stated a claim for relief. Coley, 799 F.3d at
537. To survive a motion on the pleadings, a complaint must
present sufficient facts which, if true, “state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is
plausible on its face when there are sufficient facts to
“allow the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). In determining whether the complaint satisfies
facial probability, a court must “draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” See Id. at 679.
party presents matters outside the pleadings, the court must
either exclude those matters from consideration or treat the
motion as one for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).
Documents attached to the pleadings are considered part of
the pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).
Court will first determine the applicability of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine and then will evaluate
Plaintiffs' remaining claims.
The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
Rooker-Feldman doctrine arises from two Supreme
Court cases, Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S.
413 (1923) and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983).
Rooker, a federal court declined to exercise
jurisdiction over a petition to have a state court judgment
declared null and void. 263 U.S. at 414-15. The Supreme Court
agreed with the court's decision, explaining,
[I]t was the province and duty of the state courts to decide
[the constitutional questions]; and their decision, whether
right or wrong, was an exercise of jurisdiction. If the
decision was wrong, that did not make the judgment void, but
merely left it open to reversal or modification in an
appropriate and timely appellate proceeding.
[N]o court of the United States other than this court could
entertain a proceeding to reverse or modify the judgment for