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Levine v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 1, 2019

Hannah Levine, Appellant,
v.
Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, Respondent.

          Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-17-11453

          Jonathan L. R. Drewes, Drewes Law, PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          John G. Westrick, Savage Westrick, P.L.L.P., Bloomington, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Reilly, Judge; and Bratvold, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         A Minnesota district court is a court of competent jurisdiction to adjudicate claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and may not decline to exercise jurisdiction either because the claim involves interpreting an order of the United States Bankruptcy Court or because it involves unsettled federal law.

          OPINION

          RODENBERG, JUDGE

         Appellant Hannah Levine appeals the district court's sua sponte dismissal without prejudice of her FDCPA claim against respondent Bayview Loan Servicing LLC, arguing that, because the district court is a court of competent jurisdiction to decide FDCPA claims and because the FDCPA permits appellant to select her forum, the district court erred when it dismissed her complaint. We reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         The facts pertinent to this appeal are substantially undisputed. Appellant and J.T. owned a home that was encumbered by a home-mortgage loan serviced by CitiMortgage Inc. Appellant and J.T. filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in January 2011 and proposed a chapter 13 workout plan that same day. The plan was confirmed by the United States Bankruptcy Court (bankruptcy court) in April 2011. The workout plan was completed by May 2016, at which time the bankruptcy court ordered, "[t]he debtors in the above case are discharged from all debts dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 1328(a)."

         The chapter 13 plan confirmed by the bankruptcy court includes the following language:

5. CLAIMS NOT IN DEFAULT-Payments on the following claims are current and the debtor will pay the payments that come due after the date the petition was filed directly to the creditors.

         The claims not in default included the CitiMortgage-serviced mortgage loan encumbering appellant's homestead. After the chapter 13 plan was confirmed, the mortgage loan went into default. Respondent began servicing the loan around August 2016. Respondent reported negative credit information to TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, including the home-mortgage debt, the balance of it, and the amounts claimed to be past due.

         Appellant sued in Hennepin County District Court, alleging that respondent violated the FDCPA by reporting the debt as respondent did, and that respondent's actions amounted to debt collection after the discharge in bankruptcy. Appellant moved the district court for partial summary judgment, arguing that appellant's personal obligation to pay the loan serviced by respondent had been discharged by the United States Bankruptcy Court. The district court denied appellant's motion for partial summary judgment and dismissed appellant's claims without prejudice sua sponte because "the United States Bankruptcy Court is the most appropriate venue."

         This appeal followed.

         ISSUES

         I. Is the district court a court of competent jurisdiction ...


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