United States District Court, D. Maryland
CATHERINE BLAKE, District Judge.
Haideh Hejazi and her husband Nassar Hejazi (collectively "plaintiffs") bring suit against Oliveri & Associates, LLC ("Oliveri") and Riva Trace Council, Inc., ("Riva") (collectively "defendants") for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") and various Maryland laws. This suit was filed in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County on July 25, 2014. The defendants timely filed a notice of removal to this court on September 19, 2014. Presently pending before this court are the defendants' motions to dismiss all counts. (ECF Nos. 10, 11).
Riva is the community association for a planned unit development in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. (Complaint, ECF No. 2 at ¶ 10). The plaintiffs own real property at 172 Cranes Crook Lane in Annapolis that is within the Riva community. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 5, 11). Oliveri is a law firm that does debt collection for Riva. ( Id. at ¶ 15). Plaintiffs reside at another residence in Annapolis, Maryland on Moran Drive. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 1, 2). Their adult daughter, Sudi, resides at the property on Cranes Crook Lane. ( Id. at ¶ 6).
On August 26, 2013, an Oliveri employee, Michele May, spoke over the telephone with Sudi. ( Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiffs allege that, after telephoning the Cranes Crook Lane residence, May did not verify Sudi's identity but spoke with her about past due assessments on the property. ( Id. at ¶ 17). According to plaintiffs, Sudi is not an owner of the property and is not liable for assessments on the property. ( Id. )
Plaintiffs allege that Sudi was misled by the conversation and believed she owed a debt to Oliveri. ( Id. at ¶ 20). She made an offer to settle the debt and was advised by May to submit her proposal to Oliveri in writing. ( Id. at ¶ 21). Sudi subsequently submitted a letter to Oliveri offering to settle the debt. (ECF No. 2-1). She stated in this letter that "I understand that several other letters were mailed out by your office addressed to my parents, who do not live at the residence on Cranes Crook Lane." Id. Sudi also indicated that she was "a single mother who is working full time and trying to stay ahead of my bills, " who was in the "process of selling this house." Id. Plaintiffs allege that Sudi notified Oliveri on at least one other occasion that her parents did not reside at the property on Cranes Crooks lane. (ECF No. 2 at ¶ 23). According to plaintiffs, at this time, they were out of the country in Iran. ( Id. at ¶ 24).
In October 2013 Riva, through Oliveri, filed a statement of lien with the Land Records of Anne Arundel County. On December 3, 2013, Riva, through Oliveri, sent a Notice of Intent to Foreclose on the property to the Cranes Lane address. (ECF No. 2 at ¶ ¶ 27-29). The notice was addressed to Haideh and Nassar Hejazi. ( Id. at ¶ 27.) On December 18, 2013, an employee of Oliveri named Timothy Larsen sent a letter to Haideh and Nassar at the address of their residence in Annapolis requesting the payment of the Hejazis' unpaid assessments. ( Id. at ¶ 31). On January 15, 2014, Larsen sent a letter responding to Sudi's settlement letter. This letter was sent to Haideh and Nassar's address on Moran Drive. ( Id. at ¶ 32).
On March 18, 2014, Riva filed a notice of foreclosure action against plaintiffs in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. ( Id. at ¶ 33). The foreclosure action identified that the plaintiffs owed Riva $4, 260.79 in principal and $16.30 in interest. ( Id. at ¶ 34). While $670 of the principal is the past due assessments, a substantial amount is attorneys' fees for the collection. ( Id. at ¶ 35).
This lawsuit was filed by the Hejazis in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on July 25, 2014. (ECF No. 2). Defendants filed a notice of removal to this court on September 19, 2014. (ECF No. 1). At the time this suit was filed, the foreclosure action was pending in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. See Riva Trace Council Inc. v. Nassar Hejazi, et. al., Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Case No. 02-C-14-186167. The state court judge denied a motion to dismiss the foreclosure action at a hearing on August 10, 2014. See id. In February 2015, the state court foreclosure action was voluntarily dismissed. See id. Supplemental briefing indicates that the state court action was dismissed after the Hejazis paid the debt. (ECF No. 30).
Haideh is seventy years old and Nassar is eighty years old. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 36-37). They allege that Olivieri and Riva's actions caused both of them to suffer severe anxiety that has had physical manifestations. ( Id. at ¶ 40). Haideh's alleged issues include stomach problems and weight loss; Nassar alleges blood pressure problems. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 41, 42).
The Hejazis' complaint contains eight counts. The first two counts are plaintiffs' respective claims under the FDCPA against Oliveri. The third and fourth are plaintiffs' respective claims under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act ("MCDCA") against Oliveri. The fifth and sixth are plaintiffs' respective claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Oliveri. The seventh and eighth are for punitive damages against Olivier. The ninth is for punitive damages against Riva. Defendants move to dismiss all counts.
"[T]he purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). When ruling on such a motion, the court must "accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true" and "construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). "Even though the requirements for pleading a proper complaint are substantially aimed at assuring that the defendant be given adequate notice of the nature of a claim being made against him, they also provide criteria for defining issues for trial and for early disposition of inappropriate complaints." Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir.2009).
To survive a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of a complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations and alterations omitted). The plaintiff's obligation thus is to set forth sufficiently the "grounds of his entitlement to relief, " offering "more than labels and conclusions." Id. (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). It is not sufficient that the well-pled facts create "the mere possibility of misconduct." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Rather, to withstand a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual yeamatter, ...