United States District Court, D. Minnesota
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss or in the Alternative for a More Definite Statement.
For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and
denied in part.
August 2015, Plaintiff Savanna Worley began renting an
apartment in Bloomington, Minnesota managed by Housing Hub,
LLC. (Am. Compl. (Docket No. 12) ¶ 11.) But, according
to Worley, the City of Bloomington had not licensed the
apartment as a rental property. (Id. ¶ 21.)
August 3, 2016, Worley filed a rent-escrow action in
Minnesota state court against Housing Hub and the
apartment's alleged owner, Christopher Hoff, alleging
multiple habitability issues. (Id. ¶ 12.) A
rent-escrow action allows a tenant to deposit their rent with
the court administrator instead of making a payment if they
believe their landlord has violated Minnesota law or the
lease agreement. Minn. Stat. § 504B.385. In response,
Defendant Matthew Engel filed an eviction action against
Worley on behalf of his client, CHC Investments, LLC
(“CHC”), for unpaid rent. (Id. ¶
13.) The eviction action alleged that CHC owned Worley's
apartment and also demanded $440 in court costs and fees.
(Id. ¶¶ 14, 18.) The state court dismissed
the eviction action without prejudice and directed Engel to
file the complaint as an answer in Worley's rent-escrow
action. (Kemp Decl. (Docket No. 22) Ex. A at
The state court eventually dismissed Worley's rent-escrow
action without prejudice because Worley failed to deposit her
rent with the court. (Id. Ex. C at 2.)
filed another eviction action against Worley on behalf of CHC
for unpaid rent on October 14, 2016. (Am. Compl. ¶ 25.)
Worley answered the complaint and argued that she was not
obligated to pay rent due to CHC's violations of the
covenants of habitability. (Id. ¶ 32.)
Following a bench trial, the state court concluded that CHC
did not violate the covenants of habitability, entered
judgment in favor of CHC in the amount of $5, 725, ordered
$3, 600 on deposit with the Court to be released to CHC, and
allowed Worley to redeem the apartment if she paid the
remaining $2, 135 within one week. (Id. ¶ 33;
Kemp Decl. Ex. D at 11.) Worley redeemed the apartment. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 34.) During these two eviction actions, Worley
alleges that Engel, through in-person conversations, demanded
that Worley pay her rent but failed to communicate
information that he was required to communicate under the
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).
(Id. ¶ 35.)
March 28, 2017, Engel filed another eviction action in state
court against Worley on behalf of CHC alleging that Worley
had not paid her rent. (Id. ¶ 37.) Engel later
filed an amended complaint against Worley on behalf of CHC
alleging that Worley owed a different amount of rent.
(Id. ¶ 42.) On April 5, Engel filed a second
amended complaint, this time bringing the action on behalf of
Christopher Hoff, and alleging a still different amount of
rent owed. (Id. ¶ 48.) That case is ongoing.
April 10, Worley filed this lawsuit alleging that, by filing
the eviction actions on behalf of CHC for nonpayment of rent,
Engel violated the FDCPA. In response, Engel filed a motion
to dismiss. Two days after the deadline passed to amend her
pleading as a matter of course, Worley filed an Amended
Complaint. (Docket No. 12.) Engel consented to the filing of
this amended pleading. (Docket No. 13.) Worley's Amended
Complaint lists one claim titled “Specific
Claims” and alleges that “[Engel's] conduct
includes multiple and numerous violations of the [FDCPA] . .
. including, but not limited to 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e,
1692e(2)(A), 1692e(5), 1692(10), 1692f, and 1692f(1).”
(Am. Compl. ¶ 53.) Engel now moves to dismiss the
Amended Complaint asserting that the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars Worley's
claims and that Worley has failed to state a claim on which
relief can be granted. In the alternative, Engel moves for a
more definite statement.
The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
Rooker-Feldman doctrine was born from two
cases that the Supreme Court decided 60 years apart and over
30 years ago. In Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., a
party sued in federal district court to have an unfavorable
state court judgment declared null and void. 263 U.S. 413,
414 (1923). In District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, a losing party in a separate litigation sued
the court that provided the party with an unfavorable ruling.
460 U.S. 462 (1983). The Supreme Court held that both
lawsuits were impermissible because only the Supreme Court
has appellate jurisdiction to reverse or modify a state-court
judgment. See id. at 482.
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, however, has
“sometimes been construed far beyond the
contours” of these two cases, “overriding
Congress' conferral of federal-court jurisdiction
concurrent with jurisdiction exercised by state courts, and
superseding the ordinary application of preclusion
law.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus.
Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 283 (2005). As the Supreme Court
has described it, the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine applies only to “cases brought by state-court
losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court
judgments rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of
those judgments.” Id. at 284.
Worley is a state-court loser, she is not complaining of
injuries caused by the state-court judgment, nor is she
asking the Court to review the state court judgment as an
appeals court would. Instead, she is complaining of injuries
caused by the filing of the eviction actions, and she seeks
monetary damages for Engel's alleged violations of the
FDCPA. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine
therefore does not apply.