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Piccinetti v. Clayton, Myrick, McClanahan & Coulter, PLLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 5, 2017

BRIAN A. PICCINETTI, Plaintiff,
v.
CLAYTON, MYRICK, MCCLANAHAN & COULTER, PLLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MICHAEL A. SHIPP, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Clayton, Myrick, McClanahan & Coulter, PLLC ("Clayton"), Internal Credit Systems, Inc. ("ICS"), and Robert J. Nauseef s ("Nauseef') (collectively, "Defendants") Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings with respect to Counts Three and Four of Plaintiff Brian A. Piccinetti's ("Plaintiff) Complaint. (ECF No. 23.) Plaintiff1 responded (ECF No. 24-1) and Defendants replied (ECF No. 26). The Court has carefully considered the parties' submissions and decides the matter without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.[1] For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion IS GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background [2]

         Plaintiff is a resident of the State of New Jersey. (Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1.) Clayton is a law firm with its principal place of business in North Carolina. (Id. ¶ 10.) ICS is a collection agency with its principal place of business also in North Carolina. (Id. ¶ 7.) Nauseef is an attorney employed by Clayton.[3] (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Prior to May 30, 2016, Plaintiff signed a contract with Gold's Gym for a gym membership. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) [4] Plaintiffs debt to Gold's Gym "was assigned to or purchased by ICS." (Id. ¶ 18.) On or "around April 7, 2016, ICS began a collection campaign which included calling Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 19.) During one of these calls, Plaintiff spoke with an ICS representative who demanded $200 and "misled . . . Plaintiff into believing he was an attorney and calling on behalf of an attorney." (Id. ¶¶ 20-22.) Also during this call, "the ICS representative failed to notify Plaintiff that he was a debt collector and was calling in an attempt to collect a debt, and any information obtained would be used for that purpose." (Id. ¶ 23.) ICS hired Clayton to collect Plaintiffs debt. (Id. ¶ 26.)

         "On or [around] May 30, 2016, . . . Clayton and Nauseef. . . caused to be delivered to . .. Plaintiff a collection letter [(the 'Collection Letter')] ... in an attempt to collect the alleged debt." (Id. ¶ 27.) This letter was the first communication Plaintiff had with Clayton. (Id. ¶ 31.) The letter stated that Clayton's records indicated that Plaintiff had not responded to its previous attempts to settle the account and had disregarded the potential civil action against him. (Id. ¶ 32.)

         Plaintiff pled on information and belief that "no attorney reviewed the . . . [l]etter before it was mailed out to ... Plaintiff; "no attorney reviewed ... Plaintiffs account before the ... [l]etter was mailed out to . . . Plaintiff; and "no attorney reviewed . . . Plaintiffs account and made a reasoned, professional judgment that the amount[] sought on the . . . [l]etter was owed by . . . Plaintiff or that. . . Plaintiff was actually delinquent on this alleged debt." (Id. ¶¶ 38-40.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A court will grant judgment on the pleadings if, on the basis of the pleadings, no material issue of fact remains and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c); Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2005). The standard governing a Rule 12(c) motion is the same standard governing motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 n.2 (3d Cir. 2004).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court should conduct a three-part analysis. Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 201). "First, the court must 'take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Second, the court must accept as true all of a plaintiffs well-pleaded factual allegations and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). The court, however, must disregard any conclusory allegations proffered in the complaint. Id. For example, the court is free to ignore legal conclusions or factually unsupported accusations which merely state that "the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Finally, once the well-pleaded facts have been identified and the conclusory allegations ignored, a court must next determine whether the "facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief" Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         Determining plausibility is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Plausibility, however, "is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545). In the end, facts which only suggest the "mere possibility of misconduct" fail to show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         III. Discussion

         A. Count Three-Alleged Violations of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2), (5), and (10)

         1-15 ...


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