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. 10); and
2) DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR RULE 11 SANCTIONS (Doc. No. 18)
On July 11, 2012, Plaintiff Steve Odish ("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. 10], and Defendants' motion for sanctions under Rule 11, [Doc. No.18].*fn1 On October 10, 2012, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion under Rule 12(c)*fn2 , [Doc. No. 20], and on October 12, 2012 Defendants filed a reply, [Doc. No. 21]. On October 23, 2012, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion under Rule 11. [Doc. No. 24.] 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.
Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint alleging Defendants violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq ("FDCPA"), by seeking to collect a debt originally owed to GE Money Bank.*fn3 [Compl. ¶ 20.] Plaintiff alleges that although he currently "takes no position as to the validity of this alleged debt," [Id.], if the debt is valid, it falls within the definition of "debt" under 15 U.S.C. § 1692(a)(5). [Id. at ¶¶ 19, 20.] The alleged debt was then assigned, placed, or otherwise transferred to CACH, a debt collector as defined under the FDCPA. Subsequently, CACH retained Mandarich, also a debt collector, to proceed with legal action against Plaintiff for the collection of Plaintiff's alleged debt. [Id. at ¶ 22.] On March 29, 2012, Mandarich, in the name of CACH, filed a state collection case against Plaintiff in San Diego Superior Court, Case No.: 37-2012-00066473-CL- CL-EC (the "State Court Action"), alleging causes of action for breach of written contract and account stated. [Id. at ¶¶ 23, 25.]
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. 11, Ex. 1.] According to CACH, GE Money Bank 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"). [Id. at ¶ 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 GE Money Bank for any charges on the Account. [Id. at ¶ 7.] Plaintiff's compliance, which included payment of any charges or late fees, 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 GE Money Bank according to the terms and conditions governing the Account. [Id. at ¶ 10.] The Account was then assigned for value by GE Money Bank to CACH, making CACH its current holder. [Id. at ¶ 6.] As of May 9, 2011, Plaintiff owed $9,972.92 on the Account inclusive of interest. [ Id. at ¶ 11.] Although demand was made to pay this amount, and GE Money Bank and CACH have performed all promises, conditions, and agreements on their part, Plaintiff has currently failed to make payment on the delinquent account.*fn4 [Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13.] Based on these allegations, CACH commenced the State Court Action on March 29, 2012 against Plaintiff for breach of written contract and account stated. [Id. at ¶¶ 16, 19.] The state court collection action has since been dismissed by Defendants without prejudice.
Plaintiff filed the instant federal action on July 11, 2012, alleging multiple violations of the FDCPA. Primarily, Plaintiff alleges that the State Court Action was filed not to pursue legitimate litigation, but to "cause financial hardship" with the intent of "coercing the plaintiff to settle the action." [Compl. ¶ 24.] Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), [Doc. No. 10], and sanctions under Rule 11, alleging Plaintiff has filed and pursued the instant action even though he is aware it has no merit, [Doc. No. 18].
Judgment on the Pleadings Under Rule 12(c)
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 & Sutro v. Lerner, 31 F.3d 924, 928 (9th Cir. 1994). A judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when, even if all ...