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Daley v. Mountain Empire Radiology, P.C.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

November 6, 2019

JAMES DALEY and KRISTEN DALEY, Plaintiffs,
v.
MOUNTAIN EMPIRE RADIOLOGY, P.C., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THOMAS W. PHILLIPS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on defendants MCOT, Inc. (“MCOT”) and Timothy D. Hall's motion for judgment on the pleadings [doc. 25] and motion for leave to file supplemental authority [doc. 59]. The motion for judgment on the pleadings has been fully briefed [docs. 26, 52, 54, 58] and is ripe for determination. For the reasons set forth herein, the defendants' motion for leave to file supplemental authority [doc. 59] will be granted, to the extent that the Court has considered the supplemental authority, and defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings [docs. 25] will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Relevant Facts

         Mountain Empire Radiology (“MER”) is a provider of radiological services and provided medical treatment to plaintiff Kristen Daley. Thus, Mrs. Daley owed MER for the cost of that medical treatment. When that debt went unpaid, MER hired MCOT, a collection agency, to collect the amount. MCOT, by its attorney, Mr. Hall, filed a collection action in the Greene County General Sessions Court. On February 15, 2018, that court entered a judgment against Mr. and Mrs. Daley in the amount of $712.24. Subsequent to the entry of judgment, MER obtained a garnishment of Mrs. Daley's wages in the amount of $996.41. Plaintiffs assert violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., by defendants MCOT and Mr. Hall.[1]

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states, “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Motions for judgment on the pleadings are reviewed under the same standard as motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Fritz v. Charter Twp. of Comstock, 592 F.3d 718, 722 (6th Cir. 2010). That is, “all well-pleaded material allegations of the opposing party must be taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to judgment.” Id. The Court construes the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepts all factual allegations as true, and determines whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Albrecht v. Treon, 617 F.3d 890, 893 (6th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 562 U.S. 1201 (2011) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007)).

         Applying the pleading requirements outlined in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Iqbal to Rule 12(c) motions, plaintiffs must “plead . . . factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Albrecht, 617 F.3d at 893 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see New Albany Tractor, Inc. v. Louisville Tractor, Inc., 650 F.3d 1046, 1050-51 (6th Cir. 2011). When considering a Rule 12(c) motion, the Court “need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” HDC, LLC v. City of Ann Arbor, 675 F.3d 608, 611 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 689 (6th Cir. 2006)). However, “[i]f it is at all plausible (beyond a wing and a prayer) that a plaintiff would succeed if he proved everything in his complaint, the case proceeds.” Doe v. Baum, 903 F.3d 575, 581 (6th Cir. 2018) (citations omitted). The Court may consider documents central to the plaintiffs' claims to which the complaint refers and incorporates as exhibits. Amini v. Oberlin College, 259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001).

         III. Analysis

         As an initial matter, this Court has reviewed Defendants' motion for leave to file supplemental authority [doc. 59], in which the Defendants ask the Court to consider this Court's recent decision in Drake et al. v. Greeneville Collection Service, et al., No. 2:19-cv-01 (E.D. Tenn. Oct. 16, 2019). Defendants' motion [doc. 59] is GRANTED, to the extent that the Court has reviewed and considered the Drake case.

         The FDCPA is an “extraordinarily broad” statute intended to address debt collection abuse by unscrupulous debt collectors. Currier v. First Resolution Inv. Corp., 762 F.3d 529, 533 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Barany-Snyder v. Weiner, 539 F.3d 327, 333 (6th Cir. 2008)). The Act identifies specific conduct that is prohibited, but it also generally prohibits any harassing, unfair, or deceptive debt collection practice. Id. To determine whether conduct fits within the broad scope of the FDCPA, the conduct is viewed through the eyes of the “least sophisticated consumer.” Id. This standard recognizes that the FDCPA protects the gullible and the shrewd alike while simultaneously presuming a basic level of reasonableness and understanding on the part of the debtor, thus preventing liability for bizarre or idiosyncratic interpretations of debt collection notices. Id.

         In the second amended complaint, plaintiffs assert the following violations of the FDCPA:

• defendants falsely represented the character and legal status of the debt in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A) by representing that Mr. Daley owed the debt by virtue of his marriage to Mrs. Daley [Doc. 45 at ¶ 71];
• defendants violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(8) by communicating credit information which is known or should be known to be false [Id.];
• defendants violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10) by using a false representation or deceptive means to collect or ...

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