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Sial v. Unifund CCR Partners

August 28, 2008

ASIF A. SIAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNIFUND CCR PARTNERS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (Doc. No. 8)

Plaintiff asserts claims for violation of (1) the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the "FDCPA" or the "Act") and (2) California's Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the "Rosenthal Act"). Defendant Unifund CCR Partners ("Unifund") moves for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(c). Unifund argues that the NoerrPennington doctrine bars Plaintiff's FDCPA claim and that California's litigation privilege bars the Rosenthal Act claim. Plaintiff filed a timely opposition and Unifund a timely reply. For the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES the motion for judgment on the pleadings.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initially filed his complaint on May 21, 2008. Defendant filed an answer on June 30, 2008. The following facts are taken from the complaint and are assumed to be true only for the purpose of reviewing the motion for judgment on the pleadings.

Unifund is a consumer debt collection company. (Compl. at 2 ¶ 4.) Unifund collects debts by mail and telephone. (Compl. at 2 ¶ 5.) At an unknown time, Unifund obtained information about two alleged debts on two credit cards held in Plaintiff's name. (Compl. at 3 ¶ 12.) On June 1, 2007, Unifund sued Plaintiff in San Diego Superior Court to collect the debts (hereinafter the "collection action"). (Compl. at 3 ¶ 13 (referring to Case No. 37-2007-00059285-CL-CL-EC).) Unifund alleged in the collection action that Plaintiff owed a total principal amount of $5,200.27. (Compl. at 3 ¶ 14.) This amount included $3,194.22 for a credit card "originating with 'First Card Conv,'" and $2,006.05 for a credit card "originating with 'Citibank.'" (Id.) Citibank had reported Plaintiff's account as delinquent by September 2001. (Compl. at 3 ¶ 15.) First Card Conv had reported Plaintiff's account as delinquent by May 2003. (Compl. at 3 ¶ 16.) Because Unifund filed the collection action after the statute of limitations expired, the collection action was time-barred. (Compl. at 3 ¶ 17.)

Unifund knew that it had not served Plaintiff with a copy of the summons and complaint in the collection action. (Compl. at 3 ¶ 17.) Nevertheless, Unifund obtained a default judgment against Plaintiff and garnished Plaintiff's wages. (Compl. at 3-4 ¶¶ 17-18.) Unifund submitted declarations and/or affidavits containing false statements in support of its request for default judgment. (Compl. at 4 ¶ 21.) Due to Unifund's conduct, Plaintiff suffered "great stress and worry" and emotional distress, and incurred attorneys' fees in connection with the collection action. (Compl. at 4 ¶¶ 20, 22.)

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards for a Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

A Rule 12(c) motion challenges the legal sufficiency of an opposing party's pleadings. See FRCP 12(c). As with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must assume the truthfulness of the material facts alleged in the complaint and must construe all inferences reasonably drawn from the allegations in favor of the responding party. See General Conference Corp. of Seventh-Day Adventists v. Seventh-Day Adventist Congregational Church, 887 F.2d 228, 230 (9th Cir. 1989). "Judgment on the pleadings is proper when the moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1989). Thus, judgment on the pleadings in favor of a defendant is not appropriate if the complaint raises issues of fact that, if proved, would support the plaintiff's legal theory. General Conference Corp., 887 F.2d at 230.

B. Claims for Violation of the FDCPA and Rosenthal Act

1. Statutory Framework

The FDCPA prohibits false or deceptive practices in connection with the collection of debts.

15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. The purpose of the FDCPA is to "eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses." 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e). Given its remedial nature, courts must construe the Act broadly to effect its purposes. Clark v. Capital Credit & Collection Serv., Inc., 460 F.3d 1162, 1176 (9th Cir. 2006).

The Rosenthal Act establishes liability under California law for violations of the FDCPA. Cal. ...


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