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Lamonaca v. Firststates Financial Services, Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 26, 2019

VINCENT LAMONACA, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
FIRSTSTATES FINANCIAL SERVICES CORP., Defendant.

          JAMES A. FRANCIS FRANCIS & MAILMAN, P.C. Attorney for Plaintiff Vincent LaMonaca.

          HENRI MARCEL DEASEY, MAHONEY & VALENTINI LTD LAUREN MICHELLE STEINS DEASEY, MAHONEY & VALENTINI LTD Attorney for Defendant FirstStates Financial Services Corp.

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This case concerns various federal and state statutory and common law claims arising out of a collection notice (the “Notice”) sent by Defendant FirstStates Financial Services Corp. to Plaintiff Vincent LaMonaca on May 15, 2018. Currently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (“Motion for Judgment”). For the following reasons, this Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Judgment, in part, and deny it, in part.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court takes its facts from the pleadings in this matter. The facts are not in dispute and are straightforward. On October 23, 2016, Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Chester Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of the accident, but provided no assistance to Plaintiff. At some point thereafter, Pennsylvania Fire Recovery Service attempted to collect $600 from Plaintiff for the services rendered by the Chester Fire Department.

         After collection failed, collection was forwarded to Defendant to complete. Defendant added a collection fee of $200.40 to the $600 forwarded. On May 15, 2018, Defendant sent the Notice to Plaintiff in an attempt to collect the Chester Fire Department's service fees and its own collection fee. The Notice stated, in relevant part, the following:

PA Fire Recovery Service has retained our firm to collect $800.40. The entire balance of this debt is now due and payable because you failed to pay the obligation as agreed. Payment should be mailed to the above address and checks or money orders made payable to FirstStates Financial Services Corp.
Unless within thirty (30) days after receiving this letter you notify me that you dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, I will assume the debt to be valid.
If you notify me in writing within the thirty (30) day period that the debt, or any portion of it, is disputed, I will obtain verification of the debt and send a copy to you.
Upon written request within the thirty (30) day period I will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor if different from PA Fire Recovery Service.
Please be advised that if a suitable resolution has not been made within thirty (30) days of this correspondence, your account may be reported to the Credit Bureau. If reported, it may have a negative effect on how creditors respond to your credit requests and how they manage your credit accounts.
I AM ATTEMPTING TO COLLECT A DEBT, AND ANY INFORMATION OBTAINED WILL BE USED FOR THAT PURPOSE.

(Pl.'s Compl., Ex. A.)

         Plaintiff filed the instant action against Defendant on July 19, 2018. The Court notes there is also a related action (1:18-cv-11419 (NLH/KMW)) before this Court, against Pennsylvania Fire Recovery Services. In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the following ten counts: (1) violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”); (2) violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“NJCFA”); (3) violations of the New Jersey Truth in Consumer Contract Warranty Notice Act (“NJTCCWNA”); (4) violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“PCPL”); (5) violations of the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (“PFCEUA”); (6) common law fraud; (7) common law equitable fraud; (8) common law invasion of privacy; (9) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (10) intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         Defendant filed its Answer on October 1, 2018. On October 23, 2018, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Judgment. On November 20, 2018, after filing his opposition brief, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal of Counts 3, 8, 9, and 10. Accordingly, the Motion for Judgment is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.

         B. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Standard

         A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings may be filed after the pleadings are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c); Turbe v. Gov't of V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). In analyzing a Rule 12(c) motion, a court applies the same legal standards as applicable to a motion filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe, 938 F.2d at 428. Thus, a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005).

         A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks “not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim[].” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 583 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236(1974)); see also Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating the “Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: ‘stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This ‘does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead ‘simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element”). A court need not credit either “bald assertions” or “legal conclusions” in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).

         In addition, “on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, ” a court “reviews not only the complaint but also the answer and any written instruments and exhibits attached to the pleadings.” Perelman v. Perelman, 919 F.Supp.2d 512, 520 n.2 (E.D. Pa. 2013).

         C. Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Defendant challenges every count of Plaintiff's complaint, arguing for its dismissal in its entirety. The Court will not address Defendant's argument concerning Counts 3, 8, 9, and 10. Both parties have stipulated to the dismissal of these claims after Defendant filed the instant motion. ...


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