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Awah v. Capital One Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 22, 2015



DeBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this consumer case are the following motions: (1) motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Capital One Bank, N.A. ("Defendant" or "Capital One") (ECF No. 10); (2) motion opposing case removal and to remand filed by Plaintiff Edmund Awah ("Plaintiff" or "Mr. Awah") (ECF No. 12); (3) motion to defer ruling on the motion to dismiss, filed by Plaintiff (ECF No. 15); (4) motion for leave to amend the complaint filed by Plaintiff (ECF No. 16); and (5) motion requesting ruling on pending motions filed by Plaintiff (ECF No. 18). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion opposing case removal and requesting remand will be denied. Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the complaint will be granted in part, and he will have fourteen (14) days to file a new amended complaint in accordance with this memorandum opinion. Defendant's motion to dismiss will be denied as moot. Plaintiff's motions to defer ruling on the motion to dismiss and to adjudicate the pending motions will be denied as moot.

I. Background

The litigation between the parties originates from a previous complaint filed by pro se Plaintiff in this court on March 7, 2013. See Awah v. Capital One Bank NA, Case No. 13-CV-00706 (D.Md. 2013). Plaintiff's complaint in that case stated that he had a line of credit with Capital One Bank and that the balance on the line of credit was $570.39 as of October 2011. Case No. 13-CV-00706, at ECF No. 1. Plaintiff stated that he made several check deposits to Defendant and instructed the bank to use the deposits to offset the balance. According to Plaintiff, Defendant did not credit his account with the check deposits, and instead filed a "derogatory report on Plaintiff's credit file." ( Id. ). Plaintiff alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). The court issued an order requiring Plaintiff to supplement the complaint. Plaintiff consequently filed a one-page supplement in which he asserted that the report filed in late 2012 "was derogatory because it was false and consequently impacted [] Plaintiff's credit file in a negative way." ( Id. at ECF No. 5). Plaintiff further asserted that Defendant "harassed Plaintiff with incessant daily telephone calls" and that the report was unlawful because it violated Section 1692.

Defendant then moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, arguing that based on the face of Plaintiff's complaint, Capital One Bank is a "creditor" and not a "debt collector" and therefore outside the FDCPA's liability coverage. ( Id. at ECF No. 8-1). Plaintiff then moved to dismiss the case, writing that "[t]his matter will now be filed in state court as the federal court is not the appropriate forum." ( Id. at ECF No. 13). The court issued a memorandum opinion and order on September 19, 2013 granting Plaintiff's motion and dismissing the case without prejudice. (ECF Nos. 14, 15, 16).[1]

On April 16, 2014, Capital One Bank filed a notice of removal in this case, citing federal question jurisdiction as the jurisdictional basis. (ECF No. 1). Defendant attached a copy of the complaint Mr. Awah filed in the District Court of Maryland for Prince George's County. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2). The only allegation in the complaint is that "Defendant filed a derogatory report on Plaintiff's credit file. The report was false, malicious and violated sections of U.S. Code 15 Section 1962." (ECF No. 1-1, at 3). Defendant subsequently moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, again arguing that Capital One is not a debt collector under the FDCPA. (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff was provided with a Roseboro notice (ECF No. 11), which advised him of the pendency of the motion to dismiss and his entitlement to respond within seventeen (17) days from the date of the letter. Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975) (holding pro se plaintiffs should be advised of their right to file responsive material to a motion for summary judgment).

In response to Defendant's motion to dismiss, Plaintiff submitted a motion in which he argues that Defendant improperly removed the action and that this matter belongs in state court. (ECF No. 12). Plaintiff "requests that the Court deny Defendant's removal and remand the case to the state court." ( Id. at 2). Plaintiff then filed a supplement to his motion. (ECF No. 13). Defendant opposed Plaintiff's request to remand. (ECF No. 14). Plaintiff then submitted another motion in which he requests "that the Court defer ruling on Defendant's [m]otion to [d]ismiss until the Court decides on the outcome of Defendant's [r]emoval [p]etition." (ECF No. 15).

On June 4, 2014, Plaintiff moved for leave to amend his complaint, attaching a proposed one-page amended complaint. (ECF No. 16). Defendant opposed the motion. (ECF No. 17).[2]

II. Analysis

A. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

Plaintiff asserts that this case was improperly removed from state court. ( See ECF Nos. 12 & 13). Plaintiff believes that his original dismissal of Civil Case Number 13-706 and initiation of a new proceeding in state court asserting violations of the FDCPA cured the deficiency identified in Defendant's initial motion to dismiss - namely, that Capital One is not a debt collector within the meaning of the FDCPA (and that Plaintiff failed to allege as much in his complaint). Plaintiff is mistaken. Capital One argued in the original action - and argues again in the instant motion to dismiss - that it cannot be held liable for any violations of the FDCPA, regardless of whether the action is brought in federal or state court. Thus, the fact that Plaintiff brought a virtually identical action in state court asserting the same cause of action under the FDCPA fails to cure the deficiencies Defendant identified in its original motion to dismiss in Case Number 13-706.

Plaintiff also argues that "[s]tate courts exercise broad jurisdiction, hearing cases arising from federal as well as state laws. The filing of this matter in the state court is therefore proper." (ECF No. 13 ¶ 12). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove a case filed in state court if the federal courts would have original jurisdiction over the case, however. "The removability of a case depends upon the state of the pleadings and the record and the time of the application for removal."[3] Francis v. Allstate Ins. Co., 709 F.3d 362, 367 (4th Cir. 2013) (quotations and citations omitted). As Defendant points out, at the time of removal, Plaintiff's complaint expressly indicated that his action was premised on alleged violations of the FDCPA - a federal statute.[4] Thus, the action was properly removed.

Following proper removal, Plaintiff moved for leave to amend the complaint in this court, indicating that he no longer asserts claims under the FDCPA, instead opting to proceed under the "Maryland Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." (ECF No. 16). Once the claim over which this court has original jurisdiction has been eliminated, the court has discretion to remand the remaining claims, over which it has supplemental jurisdiction, to the state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); Hinson v. Norwest Fin. S.C., Inc., 239 F.3d 611, 617 (4th Cir. 2001). Indeed, district courts in the Fourth Circuit "enjoy wide latitude in determining whether or not to retain jurisdiction over state claims when all federal claims have been extinguished." Shanaghan v. Cahill, 58 F.3d 106, 110 (4th Cir. 1995). Factors to be considered include the "convenience and fairness to the parties, the existence of any underlying issues of federal policy, comity, and considerations of judicial economy." Id. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff will be permitted to ...

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