United States District Court, D. New Jersey
KATHARINE S. HAYDEN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on defendant's motion to
dismiss plaintiff Gino Ferrulli's class action complaint
(D.E. 6) in which he alleges that BCA Financial Services
(“BCA”) sent him and others similarly situated a
debt collection letter that violates two provisions of the
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”): 15
U.S.C. § 1692e(10) and 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a). For
the reasons expressed below, the Court grants the motion.
incurred a $780 debt to Saint Barnabas Medical Center, which
was referred to BCA for collection purposes. (D.E. 1, Compl.
¶¶ 15, 21.) BCA proceeded by sending Ferrulli a
collection letter dated May 2, 2017, fully reproduced here:
1, Ex. A, Collection Letter.)
claims the collection letter “us[es] false, deceptive,
or misleading representations or means in connection with the
collection of a debt, ” violating 15 U.S.C. §
1692e(10), and “fail[s] to provide the
consumer[-recipient] with a proper notice, ” as
required by 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(3). (Compl. ¶ 36.)
Central to his argument is the letter's second paragraph:
“If you have any questions regarding this debt you may
speak to an account representative by calling our
office.” (Id. ¶ 30; D.E. 11, Opp. Br.,
3-4.) Ferrulli asserts that this language could mislead the
recipient into thinking that a debt may be disputed
either by calling BCA or by writing to BCA.
(Compl. ¶ 43.) Since an effective debt dispute
must be in writing, Ferrulli argues that this language
renders the letter false and misleading, and so the letter
provides ineffective notice. (Compl. ¶¶ 46, 47.)
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009), the
district court employs a two-part analysis to decide a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. First, the court “must take
all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true,
” but is not obligated “to accept as true a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”
Id. at 678. Second, “only a complaint that
states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to
dismiss.” Id. at 679.
a claim's plausibility is a “context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id. Further,
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. at 678. Merely pleading a cause
of action “does not unlock the doors of discovery for a
plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”
Id. at 678-79. Instead, “[a] complaint has to
‘show' such an entitlement with its facts.”
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
enacted the FDCPA to curb ‘abusive, deceptive, and
unfair debt collection practices.'” Tatis v.
Allied Interstate, LLC, 882 F.3d 422, 426 (3d Cir.
2018); 15 U.S.C. § 1692(a). The FDCPA is remedial
legislation, and as such, “must be broadly construed in
order to give full effect to these purposes.”
Caprio v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Grp., LLC, 709
F.3d 142, 148 (3d Cir. 2013). With that aim, courts apply the
“least sophisticated debtor” standard when
deciding whether debt collection practices violate the FDCPA.
Jensen v. Pressler & Pressler, 791 F.3d 413, 418
(3d Cir. 2015) (reasoning that the standard empowers courts
to advance the Act's intent to “protect the
gullible as well as the shrewd”) (internal citations
omitted). The standard is objective; “the specific
plaintiff need not prove that [s/he] was actually confused or
misled, only that the objective least sophisticated debtor
would be.” Id. at 419.
successful FDCPA claim requires a plaintiff to prove that
“(1) [s/he] is a consumer, (2) the defendant is a debt
collector, (3) the defendant's challenged practice
involves an attempt to collect a ‘debt' as the Act
defines it, and (4) the defendant has violated a provision of
the FDCPA in attempting to collect the debt.”
Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing, 765 F.3d 299,
303 (3d Cir. 2014). The fourth element is contested here.