Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Washington v. Stewart, Zlimen, & Jungers, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 26, 2019

JaRonda Washington, Plaintiff,
v.
Stewart, Zlimen & Jungers, Ltd., Defendant. Nicole Smith, Plaintiff,
v.
Stewart, Zlimen & Jungers, Ltd., Defendant.

          Darren B. Schwiebert, DBS Law LLC, Minneapolis, MN, for Plaintiffs JaRonda Washington and Nicole Smith.

          Michael P. Arthur, Stewart Zlimen Jungers, Ltd., Minneapolis, MN, for Defendant Stewart, Zlimen, & Jungers, Ltd.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Eric C. Tostrud United States District Judge

         In separate cases, Plaintiffs JaRonda Washington and Nicole Smith assert essentially identical claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) against the same debt collector, Stewart, Zlimen, & Jungers, Ltd. (“SZJ”). Washington and Smith's FDCPA claims in these cases arise out of debt-collection lawsuits that SZJ filed against each of them in Ramsey County Conciliation Court. Washington and Smith allege that SZJ violated the FDCPA when, in each of those debt-collection lawsuits, it (1) falsely represented that is was entitled to recover “disbursements” and (2) violated a standing court order that required it to file evidence establishing that its client in both cases owned the sued-for debt. SZJ has moved to dismiss both cases under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). SZJ's motion will be granted because Washington and Smith fail to plead plausible FDCPA claims.

         I[1]

         SZJ pursued the debt-collection lawsuits against Washington and Smith on behalf of LVNV Funding, LLC. In December 2018, SZJ filed suit in Ramsey County Conciliation Court on behalf of LVNV against an individual named “Joionda Wilks.” Washington Compl. ¶ 6 [Washington ECF No. 1].[2] Washington's former surname was Wilks, and Washington received a copy of the conciliation-court papers at her home address. Id. ¶ 7. Although Washington had never used the first name Joionda, id., the Parties seem to agree that SZJ's conciliation-court suit targeted her. In its Statement of Claim (the conciliation- court analog to a complaint), SZJ alleged that Washington owed a debt on a credit account she had opened with Credit One Bank in August 2008. Id. ¶ 8.[3] Also in December 2018, SZJ filed a debt-collection lawsuit in Ramsey County Conciliation Court on behalf of LVNV against Smith. Smith Compl. ¶ 6 [Smith ECF No. 1]. In its Statement of Claim in that case, SZJ alleged that Smith owed a debt on a credit account she had opened with WEBBANK in May 2015. Id. ¶ 7.

         Other than the description of those details concerning the underlying debt, the allegations in Washington and Smith's federal-court complaints are identical. SZJ's conciliation-court Statement of Claim alleged that both Washington and Smith's allegedly delinquent accounts “w[ere] sold” and that LVNV “acquired and is now the owner of the account which is the subject matter of this action.” Washington Compl. ¶ 10; Smith Compl. ¶ 9. SZJ alleged in its Statement Of Claim against Washington that Washington owed LVNV “$1, 445.44 plus filing fee of $85.00, for a total of $1, 530.44, plus disbursements, because” of the facts alleged surrounding the debt. Washington Schwiebert Decl. Ex. A [Washington ECF No. 19-1]; Washington Compl. ¶ 11. Similarly, SZJ alleged in its Statement Of Claim against Smith that Smith owed LVNV “$497.76 plus filing fee of $85.00, for a total of $582.76, plus disbursements, because” of the facts alleged surrounding the debt. Smith Schwiebert Decl. Ex. A [Smith ECF No. 21-1]; Smith Compl. ¶ 10.

         Washington and Smith allege that SZJ's Statements of Claim violated the FDCPA in two ways. First, they allege that the reference to disbursements was false because “[t]here was no possibility of SZJ incurring any additional recoverable ‘disbursements' against [either Plaintiff] in LVNV[‘s] lawsuit against [them] over and above the amount of the alleged debt and the filing fee, ” and that SZJ had (and has) no intention of seeking to recover any such disbursements. Washington Compl. ¶¶ 12-13; Smith Compl. ¶¶ 11-12.

         Second, Washington and Smith allege that SZJ's conciliation-court suits violated Ramsey County's Amended Standing Order, issued September 23, 2016, which, at the time SZJ filed its conciliation-court actions against Plaintiffs, applied to all litigants in consumer credit cases filed in that judicial district and required, in relevant part, that:

         A party seeking judgment against a consumer on a consumer credit lawsuit shall possess and present to the court:

a. a copy of the written contract between the debtor and original creditor or, if no written contract exists, other admissible evidence establishing the terms of the account relationship between the debtor and the original creditor, including the moving party's entitlement to the amounts described in subpart d [regarding the amount allegedly owed] . . .; and
e. admissible evidence establishing a valid and complete chain of assignment of the debt from the original creditor to the party requesting judgment, including documentation or a bill of sale evidencing the assignment with evidence that the particular debt at issue was included in the assignment referenced in the documentation or bill of sale.

Amended Standing Order dated Sept. 23, 2016 (“2016 Standing Order”) [Washington ECF No. 8 at 20; Smith ECF No. 12-1 at 4]; see also Washington Compl. ¶¶ 14-15; Smith Compl. ¶¶ 13-14.

         Plaintiffs, or at least their counsel, appeared at hearings in the conciliation-court cases. Washington Compl. ¶¶ 16-18; Smith Compl. ¶¶ 15-17. But at those hearings, Plaintiffs allege, it became clear not only that SZJ had failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the 2016 Standing Order, it could not comply with the substance of that order either, because neither SZJ nor LVNV possessed any documentation that could show LVNV's “standing” to sue either Plaintiff. Washington Compl. ¶¶ 19-22; Smith Compl. ¶¶ 18-21. The only documentation SZJ produced to the conciliation court in its cases against Plaintiffs was “a redacted computer printout that was not the actual attachment to any of the alleged bills of sale between the Original Creditor and LVNV [].” Washington Compl. ¶ 20; Smith Compl. ¶ 19. Accordingly, on February 28, 2019, the conciliation court entered judgments in favor of both Washington and Smith, concluding that LVNV had “failed to provide evidence that the particular debt at issue was included in the assignment referenced in the documentation or bill of sale” and so had failed to establish it had standing to pursue its actions against Washington or Smith. Washington Compl. ¶ 23; Smith Comp. ¶ 22.

         In March 2019, Washington and Smith separately filed these federal cases against SZJ, alleging that SZJ's state-court debt-collection tactics violated various provisions of the FDCPA. Washington Compl. ¶¶ 24-30, 33-34; Smith Compl. ¶¶ 23-29, 32-33. The dismissal of the case against Washington has since been vacated and removed to Ramsey County District Court where it is set for trial later this fall. See Washington SZJ Br. at 3; see also Ramsey County No. 62-CV-19-1812. At oral argument, SZJ's counsel represented that the judgment in Smith's case was not appealed because she filed for bankruptcy. At this point, those procedural differences in the underlying ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.