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Troutman v. Jefferson Capital Systems LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

June 27, 2019




         Plaintiff Bobby Troutman alleges that Defendants Jefferson Capital Systems (“JCS”); Roosen, Varchetti, & Olivier (“RVO”); and Fierman engaged in abusive debt collection practices in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, and the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act (“GFBPA”). Doc. 1. The Defendants move to dismiss. For the following reasons, that motion (Doc. 5) is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Troutman claims that he “is alleged to have incurred” a debt to Fingerhut Direct Marketing for personal, family, or household purposes in 2011. Doc. 1 ¶ 29-31. In August 2016, JCS purchased accounts receivable, including Troutman's debt.[1] Doc. 8-1 at 5-7. In March 2018, JCS, represented by RVO, sued Troutman in the Magistrate Court of Bibb County to collect the debt. Doc. 1 ¶ 32. RVO allegedly sent Troutman a notice indicating that it “‘may introduce regularly held business records as admissible evidence, '” but no documents were attached to that notice. Id. ¶¶ 33-35; see O.C.G.A. § 24-8-803(6) (allowing business records as an exception to the rule against hearsay). Troutman alleges that on July 26, 2018, Defendant Fierman appeared for RVO and JCP at a hearing and told Troutman's counsel that the Defendants had no documents to prove the debt. Id. ¶¶ 36-37. Fierman requested that the court provide him with a copy of the complaint, then testified to the accuracy of the amounts alleged in the complaint and the accuracy of certain records.[2] Id. ¶¶ 4-46. Troutman alleges Fierman had never seen the documents but falsely testified that he knew they were accurate. Id. ¶¶ 43-45. Troutman also alleges Fierman never filed an entry of appearance and that Fierman's testimony violated Rule 3.7 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct by acting both as an advocate and a witness. Id. ¶¶ 49-57.

         The Magistrate Court entered judgment for JCS for the full amount alleged on the same day, July 26, 2019. Doc. 8-1 at 1-2. Troutman filed a notice of appeal on July 28, 2018. Troutman also requested documents verifying the accuracy of the complaint. Docs. 1 ¶ 59; 8-1 at 18-19. JCS then filed a notice of dismissal pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-41(a). Docs. 1 ¶ 59; 8-1 at 21-22. Troutman then brought this suit on January 24, 2019, alleging that Fierman's false testimony in the state court collection action, the lack of meaningful attorney participation in the collection action, and the Defendants' filing the collection action without any intention of proving the debt, all violated the FDCPA and the GFBPA.[3]


         A. Motion to Dismiss Standard Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)

         “A defendant can move to dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction by either facial or factual attack.” Stalley v. Orlando Reg'l Heathcare Sys., Inc., 524 F.3d 1229, 1232 (11th Cir. 2008). “A facial attack on the complaint requires the court merely to look and see if the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in his complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion.” Id. at 1232-33 (internal quotations and citation omitted). A factual attack, however, “challenges the existence of subject matter jurisdiction using material extrinsic from the pleadings, such as affidavits or testimony.” Id. at 1233. The Defendants here have introduced material outside the pleadings and thus have made a factual attack on the Court's jurisdiction. When a defendant makes a factual attack on a court's subject matter jurisdiction, the court is permitted to consider matters outside the pleadings and weigh the evidence to ensure that it has the power to hear the case. Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.3d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). “In the face of a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that jurisdiction exists.” OSI, Inc. v. United States, 285 F.3d 947, 951 (11th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).

         B. Motion to Dismiss Standard Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         To avoid dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter 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)). “At the motion to dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Garfield v. NDC Health Corp., 466 F.3d 1255, 1261 (11th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'“ Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.” Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002). The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Where there are dispositive issues of law, a court may dismiss a claim regardless of the alleged facts. Marshall Cty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993).

         C. Analysis

         The Defendants move to dismiss on five grounds, arguing that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, that Troutman fails to state a claim, that the claims against Fierman are barred by witness immunity, and that the claims against Fierman are barred by litigation privilege. See generally Doc. 5.

         1. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         The Defendants argue this case is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which “eliminates federal court jurisdiction over those cases that are essentially an appeal by a state court loser seeking to relitigate a claim that has already been decided in a state court.” Target Media Partners v. Specialty Marketing Corp., 881 F.3d 1279, 1281 (11th Cir. 2018). Rooker-Feldman is a narrow jurisdictional bar which prevents inferior federal courts from exercising appellate jurisdiction over state courts. Id.; Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 285 (2005). Federal district courts, therefore, lack jurisdiction over two categories of claims: (1) those “actually adjudicated by a state court” and (2) those “inextricably intertwined with a state court judgment.” Target Media Partners, 881 F.3d at 1286 (quotation marks omitted). A claim is ...

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