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Caparelli v. Alan H Zimmerman PC

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 28, 2018

Ariana Caparelli, Plaintiff,
v.
Alan H Zimmerman PC and U.S. Collections West Incorporated, Defendants.

          ORDER

         Plaintiff Ariana Caparelli (“Caparelli”) alleges Defendants U.S. Collections West (“USCW”) and Alan H. Zimmerman PC (“Zimmerman, ” and collectively with USCW, “Defendants”) violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, as debt collectors, failed to effectively communicate the identity of her creditor and used false, deceptive, or misleading representations in connection with a debt. For the reasons set forth, Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         In support of her FDCPA claims, Caparelli's Amended Complaint alleges the following:

         Caparelli leased an apartment from Casa Santa Fe Apartments in Arizona. (Doc. 16 at 5.) Some time before January 2018, Caparelli apparently failed to make timely payments to Casa Santa Fe Apartments. (Doc. 16-3 at 2.)

         Caparelli received a letter from USCW, a collection agency, dated January 12, 2018. (Doc. 16 at 6.) The letter stated it was regarding Casa Santa Fe Apartments and that it was from a debt collector. (Doc. 16-2 at 2.) The letter further stated: “You have not responded to previous correspondence regarding the account shown above. You must make amicable arrangements for payment in full, or we will proceed against you under the guidelines of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.” (Doc. 16-2 at 2.) According to the letter, Caparelli owed $2715.46. (Doc. 16-2 at 2.) The letter advised: “This communication is from a debt collector. This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.” (Doc. 16-2 at 2.) Upon receipt of the letter, Caparelli claims she disputed the debt, without identifying how it was accomplished. (Doc. 16 at 6.)

         In February 2018, Caparelli received another letter from USCW. (Doc. 16-3 at 2.) This letter also referenced Casa Santa Fe Apartments and contained a handwritten note under the category “response from the above mentioned creditor.” (Doc. 16-3 at 2.) Creditor Casa Santa Fe Apartments stated: “Resident did not [fulfill] lease agreement and was informed of charges for leaving early.” (Doc. 16-3 at 2.) The letter also informed Caparelli to respond by faxing or mailing USCW within 15 days. (Doc. 16-3 at 2.)

         Caparelli received a third letter, this time from Zimmerman, dated March 27, 2018. (Doc. 16-1 at 2.) Caparelli alleges this letter “was Zimmerman's initial communication with [her] with respect to the Debt.” (Doc. 16 at 5.) The subject line was: “Re: $3, 829.63 Balance owed to U.S. Collections West, Inc. for debt incurred with Casa Santa Fe Apartments.” (Doc. 16-1 at 2.) This letter also stated it was from a debt collector. (Doc. 16-1 at 2.) It advised: “In the event that you choose to ignore this request, this office has been authorized to take any and all actions necessary to collect the full amount due.” (Doc. 16-1 at 2.) In addition, it informed Caparelli to contact USCW to discuss paying the account or to dispute the validity of the debt. (Doc. 16-1 at 2.)

         Following the March 2018 letter, Caparelli received additional correspondence from USCW. In April 2018, a letter from USCW stated: “Previously you advised our office of your dispute and or a request for validation of our clients [sic] claim against you. We previously provided you with the documentation provided by our client to validate their claims.” (Doc. 16-4 at 2.) USCW also sent Caparelli a proposed promissory note dated April 27, 2018. The promissory note stated: “Client: Casa Santa Fe Apts.” (Doc. 16-5 at 2.) It indicated that Caparelli owed $3829.63 but proposed a settlement amount of $2700.00. (Doc. 16-5 at 2.)

         On July 19, 2018, Caparelli filed a complaint against Zimmerman and USCW. (Doc. 1.) Caparelli alleges the letter dated March 27, 2018 (“the Letter”), sent by Zimmerman on behalf of USCW, violated §§ 1692g(a)(2) and 1692e of the FDCPA because it failed to “meaningfully convey to [Caparelli] the name of the creditor to whom the alleged debt is owed” and falsely represented the identity of the creditor. (Doc. 16 at 11-16.) According to Caparelli, the current creditor was Casa Santa Fe Apartments. The Letter, however, implied that USCW was the current creditor. (Doc. 16 at 6.) Zimmerman filed a motion to dismiss Caparelli's amended complaint, (Doc. 18), which USCW joined. (Doc. 20.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff's complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         ANALYSIS

         “To prevail on a FDCPA claim, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege that (1) he was the object of collection activity arising from a consumer debt as defined by the FDCPA; (2) the defendant is a debt collector as defined by the FDCPA; and (3) the defendant engaged in an act or omission prohibited by the FDCPA.” Hamilton v. Tiffany & Bosco PA, No. CV-14-00708-PHX-GMS, 2015 WL 11120694, at (D. Ariz. Feb. 10, 2015), aff'd, 713 Fed.Appx. 674 (9th Cir. 2018). Here, only the third factor is under dispute.

         The FDCPA was enacted to “prohibit debt collectors from engaging in various abusive and unfair practices, ” including abusive debt collection practices. McCollough v. Johnson, Rodenburg & Lauinger, LLC, 637 F.3d 939, 947-48 (9th Cir. 2011). Specifically, § 1692g(a)(2) provides: “[A] debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing . . . the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(2). § 1692e ...


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