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Worley v. Engel

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 26, 2017

Savanna Worley, Plaintiff,
Matthew A. Engel, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Second Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for a More Definite Statement. For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.


         The Court stated the relevant facts of this case in an order following Defendant Matthew Engel's previous motion to dismiss, and will not repeat those facts here. (July 18, 2017 Order (Docket No. 25.) This matter stems from numerous interactions between Plaintiff Savanna Worley and Engel, an attorney who represented landlords in three separate eviction actions against Worley in Minnesota state court. Worley alleges that Engel violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, by attempting to collect rent, court costs, and fees from her, and failing to communicate to her information required of a debt collector. (2d Am. Compl. (Docket No. 26).)

         Engel previously moved to dismiss Worley's Amended Complaint, which raised only one claim, arguing that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine barred the claim and that Worley failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted because he is not a debt collector and Worley did not allege any communications under the FDCPA. In the alternative, Engel moved for a more definite statement.

         This Court denied in part Engel's motion to dismiss, concluding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not apply, that Engel qualified as a debt collector under the FDCPA, and that the Amended Complaint included numerous allegations of communications under the FDCPA. (Order at 4, 6-8.) But because the Amended Complaint was poorly drafted, the Court directed Worley to file a second amended complaint “that brings distinct claims for each alleged violation of the FDCPA, accompanied by the factual allegations that support those claims.” (Id. at 9.)

         Worley filed her five-count Second Amended Complaint on August 7, 2017. Count I contends that Engel violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A) by “falsely represent[ing] the character, amount, and legal status of [Worley]'s alleged debt.” (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 52-53.) Count II alleges that Engel “attempted to collect an alleged debt through false or deceptive means in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10).” (Id. ¶¶ 54-55.) Count III claims that Engel violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(11) by failing to disclose that he was a debt collector. (Id. ¶¶ 56-57.) Count IV alleges that Engel violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(1) by attempting to collect a debt that was not authorized by law. (Id. ¶¶ 58-59.) And Count V contends that Engel violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692g by failing to provide Worley with any of the information mandated by 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a). (Id. ¶¶ 60-61.)

         Engel then filed a second Motion to Dismiss, arguing that issue or claim preclusion bars Worley's allegations and that she failed to allege any communication that violated the FDCPA. In the alternative, he again moves for a more definitive statement.


         A. Failure to State a Claim

         Engel moves the Court to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim, arguing that Worley's claims are barred by either res judicata or do not sufficiently allege communications that violate the FDCPA.

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court assumes the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint to be true and construes all reasonable inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986). The Court need not accept as true wholly conclusory allegations, Hanten v. Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d 799, 805 (8th Cir. 1999), or legal conclusions that the plaintiff draws from the facts pled. Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990).

         A complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” to survive a motion to dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain facts with enough specificity “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will not pass muster under Twombly. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This standard “calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the claim].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Dismissal at the pleading stage on the basis of res judicata “is appropriate if the defense is apparent on the face of the complaint.” Magee v. Hamline Univ., 775 F.3d 1057, 1058-59 (8th Cir. 2015) (citing C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. v. Lobrano, 695 F.3d 758, 763-64 (8th Cir. 2012)).

         1. Res ...

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