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Skinner v. Mountain Lion Acquisitions, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

August 1, 2014

MOUNTAIN LION ACQUISITIONS, INC., a California corporation; JUDITH EAST, individually and in her individual capacity; D. SCOTT CARRUTHERS, A PROFESSIONAL LAW CORPORATION, a California corporation; and DENNIS SCOTT CARRUTHERS, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.


NATHANAEL M. COUSINS, Magistrate Judge.

In this action stemming from defendants' attempts to collect a debt from plaintiff Alicia Skinner, defendants move prematurely under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), which the Court construes as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, to dismiss Skinner's first amended complaint. The issue before the Court is whether Skinner has sufficiently alleged violations of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692d, 1692e, and/or 1692f to support a claim for relief under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Court finds that Skinner has done so and therefore DENIES defendants' motion to dismiss.


A. The Allegations of the First Amended Complaint

On July 13, 2006, Alicia Skinner obtained a loan from CashCall "primarily for personal, family or household purposes." Dkt. No. 65 at ¶ 13. CashCall later sold Skinner's debt to defendant Mountain Lion Acquisitions. Id. at ¶ 25. On February 23, 2012, Mountain Lion filed a lawsuit in Contra Costa County Superior Court, seeking to collect on Skinner's debt. Id. at ¶ 30. On July 2, 2012, Mountain Lion filed and served a document entitled "Prepared Testimony in Lieu of Direct Testimony, " purportedly signed by Louis Ochoa, CashCall's Vice-President of Servicing. Id. at ¶¶ 39, 41. Skinner alleges that this document was not signed by Ochoa, but that the signature purported to be Ochoa's was a forgery. Id. at ¶¶ 42-43. On January 11, 2013, Mountain Lion "unilaterally dismissed the Mountain Lion v. Skinner complaint when the case was called for trial...." Id. at ¶ 50. Skinner's amended complaint alleges a single cause of action under the FDCPA. Id. at ¶ 1.

B. Procedural History

On February 19, 2013, Skinner filed her original complaint. Dkt. No. 1. On July 5, 2013, defendants moved to dismiss the FDCPA claim under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Dkt. No. 35 at 3-4. The Court held that Skinner cannot state a claim under the FDCPA based on the theory that the sale of Skinner's debt to defendants violated California Financial Code § 22340 and thus made the debt void and unenforceable under the California Finance Lenders Law. See Dkt. No. 63. Because Skinner's FDCPA claim was based entirely on defendants' alleged violation of § 22340, she failed to state a claim for relief under the FDCPA. Id. As it was not clear that Skinner could not amend her complaint to state a claim for relief under the FDCPA, however, the Court permitted her leave to amend. Id. Skinner then filed her first amended complaint on February 25, 2014. Defendants filed their Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings on March 20, 2014. Dkt. No. 68.

The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as Skinner alleges violations of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq. Dkt. No. 65 at ¶¶ 4, 52. All parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Dkt. No. 13.


Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) before filing an answer to the first amended complaint. Rule 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings "[a]fter the pleadings are closed...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 7 (defining what constitutes the pleadings). Therefore, defendants' motion challenging the unanswered first amended complaint is premature. See Doe v. United States, 419 F.3d 1058, 1061-62 (9th Cir. 2005) ("[T]he pleadings are closed for the purposes of Rule 12(c) once a complaint and answer have been filed."). However, whether brought under Rule 12(c) or properly under Rule 12(b), the Court applies the same analysis. See Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989) ("The principal difference between motions filed pursuant to Rule 12(b) and Rule 12(c) is the time of filing[;... T]he motions are functionally identical....").

Here, Skinner noted that defendants' motion is more properly construed as a motion to dismiss, and addressed it as such. See Dkt. No. 69 at 13:1-5. Defendants also agree that the Court has discretion to treat their motion as a motion to dismiss. See Dkt. No. 70 at 2:14-3:6. Therefore, the Court will exercise its discretion and treat defendants' motion as one brought under Rule 12(b)(6). See KFD Enters., Inc. v. City of Eureka, No. 08-cv-04571 MMC, 2010 WL 1661822, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 22, 2010) (treating a premature 12(c) motion as a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss); see also Dale v. Exec. Office of the President, 164 F.Supp.2d 22, 24 (D.D.C. 2001) (holding "[i]f a party files a Rule 12(c) motion before the answer, the court may treat it as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)"); Seber v. Unger, 881 F.Supp. 323, 325 n.2 (N.D. Ill. 1995) ("Because [defendant's] motion essentially serves the same purpose as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we shall adopt the common practice of treating the premature Rule 12(c) motion as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.").

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). On a motion to dismiss, all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). The Court, however, need not accept as true "allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Secs. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). Although a complaint need not allege detailed factual allegations, it must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when it "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).


A. Skinner Has Sufficiently Stated a Claim ...

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