In Walker v. Lyons, Doughty & Veldhuis, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and dismissed the case, in an order dated March, 15, 2019. In Walker the Plaintiff brought a claim, on behalf of a class, against the defendant for violations of 15 U.S.C. §§1692e and 1692g. She alleged in the complaint that she incurred a debt for “purchasing items for personal, family, or household purposes.” The claim was dismissed with prejudice by the Court.
In most cases leave may and often is granted so that the Plaintiff may amend the complaint as allowed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15. In this case the Court dismissed the claim with prejudice and judgment was entered for the defendant. This ruling may encourage defendants to seek a motion for dismissal when a Plaintiff has merely reiterated the statutory language in the FDCPA and act as precedent to dismiss cases with prejudice in similar situations. By seeking a dismissal with prejudice, if granted, the Plaintiff will not be able to bring the lawsuit again.
The Defendant filed a motion to dismiss claiming that the “Plaintiff failed to allege she incurred a consumer debt” in her complaint. When a complaint is filed it must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed. R. Civ. 8. In this case, Walker needed to show that she was entitled to relief under the FDCPA by showing (1) she is a consumer as defined in the statute, (2) the debt arises out of a transaction “primarily for personal, family or household purposes”, (3) the defendant is a debt collector, and (4) the defendant has violated one of the prohibitions in the FDCPA. If any of these are not met then the claim fails. Specifically at issue here is whether the transaction is for personal, family, or household purposes.
The Court found that the “[C]omplaint is void of any factual allegations demonstrating that the debt incurred was for primarily personal, family, or household purposes”. In support for its conclusion the Court cites to Maleh v. United Collection Bureau, Inc.  , which cited cases holding that the Plaintiffs merely reciting the statutory definition of debt under the FDCPA, without more facts, did not sufficiently meet the requirement for pleading in a complaint.
The use of conclusory language and restating the language of the FDCPA is not grounds for dismissal in every jurisdiction. In Walker, the Plaintiff cites to two cases, Pierce v. Cavalry SPV I, LLC . and Derisme v. Hunt Leibert Jacobson, PC , decided in the Western District of Pennsylvania and U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut respectively, in which language taken from the FDCPA was held to be enough to satisfy the pleading requirements.
In Walker, the Plaintiff’s complaint merely restated the definition of debt which is given in the FDCPA §803(5). Because of this the Court concluded that the Plaintiff’s complaint was “void of any factual allegations demonstrating that the debt incurred was primarily for personal, family or household purposes”. The Court went on to say that the Plaintiff’s restatement of the statutory language a citing to Piper v. Meade & Associates  (citing Papasan v. Allain ) says that this restatement “’constitutes a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation’” which “the Court is ‘not bound to accept [it] as true’”. As a result of this the Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
See the full decision here.
-  Maleh v. United Collection Bureau, Inc., 287 F. Supp. 3d 265, 271-72 (E.D.N.Y. 2018)
-  Pierce v. Cavalry SPV I, LLC, 2013 WL 6773632 at *4 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 20, 2013)
-  Derisme v. Hunt Leibert Jacobson, PC, 2010 WL 4683916, at *3
-  Piper v. Meade & Associates, Inc., 282 F.Supp.3d 905, 912 (D. Md. 2017)  Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)
** Many thanks to Jeremy Lifter for his contributions to this article. Jeremy is a law clerk with Slovin & Associates Co., L.P.A. and student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. **