WARREN LAW GROUP, P.C., Bruce K. Warren, Esquire, Woodbury, New Jersey, Counsel for Plaintiff.
MAURICE & NEEDLEMAN PC, Joann Needleman, Esquire, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Counsel for Defendant.
JOSEPH E. IRENAS, Senior District Judge.
This case arises out of Defendant Accounts Receivable Management, Inc.'s ("ARM") telephonic debt collection attempts. Plaintiff Charles Corson alleges that ARM has been making harassing telephone calls to his home daily, for approximately two months, in attempt to collect a debt which ARM concedes that Plaintiff does not owe. Plaintiff asserts claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), 47 U.S.C. § 227, as well as a common law tort claim for intrusion upon seclusion. Pending before the Court is ARM's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
For the purposes of this Motion, the Court accepts as true the facts as alleged in the Complaint.
ARM is engaged in the business of collecting consumer debts through the use of telephone and mail. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 5) Beginning in "February 2013, " ARM began calling Plaintiff "daily" in an attempt to collect a consumer debt owed by Dawn Collins ("Collins"). ( Id. ¶¶ 8, 13) Although Collins is Plaintiff's relative, she has not resided with him since 2000. ( Id. ¶ 9) Plaintiff, himself, is not responsible for this debt and has no business relationship with ARM. ( Id. ¶ 10)
During the calls, some of which were "automated, " ARM "continually" demanded to know Collins's whereabouts. ( Id. ¶ 13, 14) Plaintiff, who is an "elderly man" and in "poor health, " "repeatedly" informed ARM that Collins was not available at his number and that they should contact her directly. ( Id. ¶ 11, 17, 18)
On or about March 20, 2013, Plaintiff received a call from ARM's agent Tina who requested to speak with Collins. ( Id. ¶ 15) When Plaintiff explained that Collins did not reside there, Tina "demanded" that Plaintiff give her Collins's phone number and whereabouts "or the calls would continue." ( Id. ¶ 15, 16) Plaintiff "became very upset" and once again asked Tina to stop calling him. ( Id. ¶ 17) ARM continues to call Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 18)
Just six days after the March 20th call, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint which asserts three counts pursuant to:
(1) the FDCPA; (2) the TCPA; and (3) the common law for intrusion upon seclusion. After filing an answer, ARM now moves for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(c) provides that a party may move for judgment on the pleadings "after the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial." A Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is subject to the same standard of review as a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. Turbe v. Gov't of V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991); see also Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 n.2 (3d Cir. 2004); Collins v. F.B.I., No. 10-CV-03470, 2011 WL 1627025, at *4 (D.N.J. April 28, 2011).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege facts that raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
While a court must accept as true all allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008), a court is not required to accept sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations, unwarranted inferences, or unsupported conclusions. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The complaint must state sufficient facts to show that the legal allegations are not simply possible, but plausible. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows 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).
When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court considers "only the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim." Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217, 221 n.3 (3d Cir. 2004). A document forms the basis of a claim when it is "integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint." Id. (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997)).
At the outset, the Court acknowledges that ARM disputes many of Plaintiff's allegations and attached several exhibits to its Answer which paint a vastly different picture of the circumstances than that of the Complaint. See Answer, Exs. A-D. For example, to rebut Plaintiff's allegation that ARM called Plaintiff daily from the beginning of February, ARM attached its Call Records which demonstrate that ARM called Plaintiff a total of nine times, with seven of the calls occurring during the month of March, and not a single call occurring after the March 20th call. See Answer Ex. A. ARM also attached a transcript of the March 20th call which shows that upon learning that Collins did not reside with Plaintiff, ARM's agent did not "threaten" to continue calling. The agent instead apologized and stated that Plaintiff's number was "removed" from ARM's records. See Answer Ex. D. Lastly, attaching its Account Notes, ARM contends that but for the March 20th call, all the calls that ARM made went unanswered by Plaintiff. See Answer Exs. B-C.
Relying heavily on these exhibits, ARM urges the Court throughout the instant Motion to consider ARM's version of the events. See, e.g., Def.'s MJOP 16-19, 24. Essentially, ARM asks the Court decide the merits of Plaintiff's case. However, as Rule 12(c) tests only the sufficiency of the Complaint, the Court cannot consider these exhibits at this stage. The exhibits, which have not been properly authenticated, were introduced by ARM and do not form the basis of Plaintiff's claim since they are not integral to or explicitly relied upon in the Complaint. Additionally, because discovery has been stayed since the filing of the instant Motion, it would be fundamentally unfair to dismiss any of Plaintiff's claims on the basis of these exhibits without allowing Plaintiff an opportunity to adduce evidence to rebut or call into question the evidence upon which ARM presently relies. Thus, rather than decide issues that are more appropriately addressed at the summary judgment stage, the Court will look only at the facts as alleged in the Complaint.
With this principle in mind, the Court now turns to Plaintiff's claims.
The FDCPA governs the behavior of debt collectors and is designed "to eliminate abusive debt collection practices." 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e). As a remedial statute, "the FDCPA must be broadly construed in order to give full effect to [this purpose]." Caprio v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Grp., LLC, 709 F.3d 142, 148 (3d Cir. 2013) (citations omitted). The FDCPA expressly authorizes "a private cause of action against debt collectors who fail to comply with [its ...