United States District Court, District of Columbia
PAUL A. MAHON, Plaintiff,
ANESTHESIA BUSINESS CONSULTANTS, LLC, Defendant. Re Document Nos. 13, 20
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss; Denying Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint
Bringing claims under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the District of Columbia debt collection statute, Plaintiff Paul A. Mahon alleges that Defendant Anesthesia Business Consultants, LLC (“ABC”) continued to pursue payment of a debt Mr. Mahon had already paid. ABC moves to dismiss Mr. Mahon’s claims. ABC argues that it is not a debt collector subject to the FDCPA and that Mr. Mahon’s debt did not arise from a consumer credit sale, which is a prerequisite for liability under the District of Columbia debt collection statute. The Court agrees with ABC’s FDCPA assertions and will accordingly dismiss Mr. Mahon’s federal claims. The Court will dismiss Mr. Mahon’s remaining claims without prejudice, because those claims present a novel question of local law over which this Court’s exercise of supplemental jurisdiction would be inappropriate. The Court will also deny Mr. Mahon’s motion for leave to amend his complaint, because Mr. Mahon’s proposed amendment would not save his claims from dismissal.
According to the complaint, Plaintiff Paul A. Mahon incurred a $1320.00 medical debt on March 20, 2014, for anesthesia administered to him at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., by a company named Certified Anesthesia Services. First Am. Compl. ¶ 21, ECF No. 16; id. Ex. 1, ECF No. 16-1. “[A]t the time he received the anesthesia services, ” Mr. Mahon believes that he signed an agreement “acknowledging financial responsibility for the debt in its entirety, authorizing the debt-holder to bill his medical insurance company, and agreeing to pay any amount of the debt not paid by his medical insurance plan.” Id. ¶ 23.
Afterward, Certified Anesthesia Services “sold, assigned, transferred, or placed” the debt with Defendant Anesthesia Business Consultants, LLC (“ABC”) “for the purpose of collecting payment.” Id. ¶ 24. ABC received a partial payment of $1207.94 from Mr. Mahon’s primary medical insurance provider, Cigna, on April 16, 2014. Id. ¶ 25. ABC then billed Mr. Mahon for the amount that remained outstanding ($112.06). Id. ¶ 26; id. Ex. 1 (reproducing ABC’s bill). ABC’s bill asked Mr. Mahon to address his payment check to “Surgical and Anes Assoc.” Id. Ex. 1. With a check dated May 6, 2014 and made out to “Surgical & Anes Assoc, ” Mr. Mahon paid the $112.06 in full. Id. ¶ 28; id. Ex. 3, ECF No. 16-3 (reproducing Mr. Mahon’s check). ABC deposited Mr. Mahon’s check on May 12, 2014. Id. ¶ 28; id. Ex. 3.
But even though Mr. Mahon had paid the outstanding balance, ABC sent Mr. Mahon a second bill, for the same $112.06, on July 2, 2014. Id. ¶ 29; id. Ex. 4 (reproducing the July 2, 2014 bill). Again, ABC’s bill asked Mr. Mahon to address his payment check to “Surgical and Anes Assoc.” Id. Ex. 4, ECF No. 16-4. The bill’s sender was likewise labeled as “Surgical and Anes Assoc.” Id. ¶ 30; id. Ex. 4. In addition to the written bill, ABC also called Mr. Mahon four times in July and August 2014 and left voice messages about the asserted debt. Id. ¶ 31. Having paid the $112.06 already, Mr. Mahon twice called ABC in July and August 2014 to dispute the debt and to ask ABC to produce records demonstrating an unpaid bill. Id. ¶ 32.
ABC never produced any records demonstrating an unpaid bill, and in October 2014 it instead “sold, assigned, transferred, or placed” Mr. Mahon’s account with another company for debt collection purposes. Id. ¶ 34. Mr. Mahon asserts that ABC did not tell that company that Mr. Mahon had disputed the debt. Id. ¶ 35.
Mr. Mahon filed suit in this Court in July 2015. See Compl., ECF No. 1. His complaint brings claims for violations of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p, and the District of Columbia debt collection statute, D.C. Code § 28-3814. See First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 64-76. ABC moves to dismiss Mr. Mahon’s claims. See Mot. Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), ECF No. 13. With respect to Mr. Mahon’s FDCPA claims, ABC argues that ABC is not a debt collector as defined in the FDCPA, so the Court must dismiss the FDCPA claims because the FDCPA does not apply to ABC. Statement P. & A. Supp. Mot. Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), at 3-4 [hereinafter Def.’s Statement]. With respect to Mr. Mahon’s District of Columbia statutory claims, ABC argues that Mr. Mahon’s debt did not arise from a consumer credit sale, the presence of which is a requirement for his claims’ success under the relevant statute, so the Court must also dismiss Mr. Mahon’s District of Columbia statutory claims. Id. at 4-6.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Mahon’s opposition disagrees with ABC’s arguments. See Pl.’s Resp. Opp’n Def. ABC’s Mot. Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), at 4-10, ECF No. 17 [hereinafter Pl.’s Opp’n]. But Mr. Mahon also moves to amend his complaint “to more accurately describe the relationship between Defendant ABC and C[ertified] A[nesthesia] S[ervices], the party that originated the debt” and “to more fully lay out its claim against Defendant ABC on that basis.” Pl.’s Mot. Leave Amend Compl. Pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2), at 2, ECF No. 20 [hereinafter Pl.’s Mot. Leave]. The Court addresses each pending motion in turn.
III. ABC’S MOTION TO DISMISS
A. Legal Standard
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim” in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff’s ultimate likelihood of success on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Brewer v. District of Columbia, 891 F.Supp.2d 126, 130 (D.D.C. 2012). A court considering such a motion presumes that the complaint’s factual allegations are true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff’s favor. See, e.g., United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements of his prima facie case in the complaint. See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511-14 (2002); Bryant v. Pepco, 730 F.Supp.2d 25, 28-29 (D.D.C. 2010).
Nevertheless, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This means that a plaintiff’s factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (citations and footnote omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are therefore insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A court ...