The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. District Judge
1) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (Doc. No. 9); and 2) DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION
FOR RULE 11 SANCTIONS (Doc. No. 31)
On May 1, 2012, Plaintiff Glenn Benedict ("Plaintiff") filed suit against Defendants CACH, LLC ("CACH") and Mandarich Law Group, LLP ("Mandarich") (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging various violations of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Collection Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. ("FDCPA"). Presently before the Court are Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), [Doc. No. 9], and Defendants' motion for sanctions under Rule 11, [Doc. No.31].*fn1 On August 14, 2012, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion under Rule 12(c), [Doc. No. 18], and on August 21, 2012 Defendants filed a reply, [Doc. No. 20]. On October 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion under Rule 11. [Doc. No. 35.] In accordance with Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1, the Court finds both motions suitable for determination on the papers and without oral argument. Accordingly, the motion hearing scheduled for December 21, 2012 regarding the Rule 12(c) motion is hereby vacated, and the motion hearing scheduled for December 7,2012 regarding the Rule 11 motion is hereby vacated. For the reasons set below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings and DENIES Defendants' motion for sanctions.
This action arises out of Defendants' attempt to collect a debt allegedly owed by Plaintiff.*fn2
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that although he currently "takes no position as to the validity of this alleged debt," [Compl.at ¶ 19], he is obligated or allegedly obligated to pay such debt incurred sometime before December 30, 2011, [Id. at ¶ 17]. Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that after incurring the debt, but sometime before December 30, 2011, Plaintiff allegedly fell behind in repaying the debt. [Id. at ¶ 19.] Subsequently, CACH, a debt collector as defined under the FDCPA, retained Mandarich, also a debt collector, to proceed with legal action against Plaintiff for the collection of his alleged debt. [Id. at ¶ 21.] On December 29, 2011, Mandarich, in the name of CACH, filed a state collection case against Plaintiff in San Diego Superior Court, Case No.: 37-2011-00103138-CL-CL-CTL ("State Court Action"), alleging causes of action for breach of written contract and account stated. [Id. at ¶¶ 22, 26.]
The basis of Plaintiff's claims in federal court under the FDCPA concern allegations made by CACH in the State Court Action. Therefore, because the Court takes judicial notice of the summons and the complaint filed in the State Court Action, as requested by the Defendants and unopposed by the Plaintiff, the allegations by CACH against Plaintiff are as follows. [Doc. No. 10, Ex. 1.] According to CACH, Bank of America, N.A. ("Bank of America") issued Plaintiff a credit card subject to the terms of the credit card application and the written terms and conditions sent with the card (the "Account").
[Doc. No. 10, Ex. 1 ¶ 5.] Upon issue of the credit card, Plaintiff agreed to comply with the written terms and conditions governing the use of the card, including repaying Bank of America for any charges on the Account. [Id. at ¶ 7.] Such compliance, which included payment of any charges or late fees pursuant to the terms of the governing written contract for the Account, was reaffirmed each time Plaintiff used the credit card.
During the four years prior to the commencement of the State Court Action, Plaintiff failed, refused, and/or neglected to make payments to Bank of America according to the conditions governing the Account. [Id. at ¶ 10.] The Account was then assigned for value by Bank of America to CACH, making CACH its current holder. [Id. at ¶ 6.] As of March 8, 2011, Plaintiff owed $4,075.24 on the Account, inclusive of interest. [ Id. ¶ 11.] Although demand was made to pay this amount, and Bank of America and CACH have performed all promises, conditions, and agreements on their part, Plaintiff has currently failed to make payment on the delinquent account. [Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13.] The terms and conditions of the Account require the Plaintiff to reimburse Bank of America, and therefore CACH, for the costs and expenses, including reasonable attorneys' fees, related to the collection of amounts owed on the Account. [Id. ¶ 14.] Based on these allegations, CACH sued Plaintiff for breach of written contract and account stated. [Id. ¶¶ 16, 19.] This action is currently pending in San Diego Superior Court and is set to go to trial before Judge Joan Lewis on November 9, 2012.
Plaintiff filed the instant federal action on May 1, 2012, alleging multiple violations of the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692. Primarily, Plaintiff alleges that the State Court Action was filed not to pursue legitimate litigation, but to "harass, oppress, or abuse" Plaintiff in connection with the collection of his alleged debt. [Compl. ¶ 23, 24.] Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), [Doc. No. 9], alleging Plaintiff has filed and pursued the instant action even though he is aware it has no merit, [Doc. No. 31].
Judgment on the Pleadings Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed--but early enough not to delay trial-- a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." A motion for judgment on the pleadings must be evaluated under the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6). See Enron Oil Trading & Trans. Co. v. Walbrook Ins. Co., Ltd.,132 F.3d 526, 529 (9th Cir. 1997). Thus, the standard articulated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173. L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) applies to a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Lowden v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 378 Fed.Appx. 693, 692 (9th Cir. 2010) ("To survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) motion, a plaintiff must allege 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'" (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955)). When deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court assumes the allegations in the complaint are true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Pillsbury, Madison & ...