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Artis v. T-Mobile USA, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 29, 2019

PARIS A. ARTIS Plaintiff
v.
T-MOBILE USA, INC., et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Paris A. Artis (“Artis”), pro se, filed this action in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland against Defendants T-Mobile USA, Inc. (“T-Mobile”) and Receivables Performance Management, Inc. (“RPM”). On August 7, 2018, Artis filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of Defendant T-Mobile in the Circuit Court case. ECF No. 9-1. Since removing the case to this Court, RPM has filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (ECF No. 4).

         For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and Artis will have thirty (30) days to file an Amended Complaint pleading facts sufficient to support his claims.

         I.

         In its Memorandum Opinion of February 14, 2019, ECF No. 11, the Court recites the factual background and procedural history of the case. This Opinion will only restate the facts alleged in Artis's Complaint relevant to RPM's Motion to Dismiss.

         The case derives from a debt Artis allegedly owes to T-Mobile that T-Mobile retained RPM to collect. ECF No. 1-3 at ¶¶ 1-5. Artis alleges that Defendants “initiated collection activities . . . by using improper and deceptive characterizations of unliquidated and non-judicially determined claims” and “violated and failed to comply with the required debt collection processes and procedures” under both federal and state laws. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 4.

         At some point prior to the beginning of this case, Artis was a customer of T-Mobile, but he alleges that he “canceled his account . . . due to lousy and non-responsive service.” Id. at ¶ 11. Artis says he “paid his bill in full, with due prorated reimbursement, at the time of cancellation.” Id. However, he claims that after he canceled his account, T-Mobile “continued to send billings to [him] and added on charges for ‘unreturned equipment.'” Id. at ¶ 13. According to the Complaint, T-Mobile purportedly retained RPM to collect Artis's debt, and that RPM incorrectly informed credit bureaus that Artis owed T-Mobile $569.00 in unpaid charges on his account. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 15. In his Complaint, Artis claims that RPM (and T-Mobile) violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, and committed various common law transgressions.

         RPM removed the case to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. On September 14, 2018, Artis filed a Motion to Remand the case to Prince George's County Circuit Court, arguing that RPM's removal was untimely. ECF No. 8. After RPM filed its Opposition and Artis filed his Reply, the Court denied the Motion to Remand on February 14, 2019. ECF No. 11.

         The Court gave Artis fourteen days to file an Opposition to RPM's Motion to Dismiss and RPM fourteen days thereafter to file a Reply. After the Court granted a Consent Motion to Extend, Artis filed an Opposition to RPM's Motion to Dismiss on March 7, 2019. ECF No. 15. But instead of using his Opposition to rebut the claims in RPM's Motion to Dismiss, Artis simply submitted that his Complaint is “sufficient in substance” and asks the Court for permission to file an Amended Complaint to clarify the claims in the Complaint and to add certain federal claims. See Id. RPM filed a Reply on March 21, 2019. ECF No. 17.

         II.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) prescribes “liberal pleading standards” that require a plaintiff to submit only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The plaintiff's statement must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” in order to survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007). The plausibility standard requires that the plaintiff plead facts sufficient to show by “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although a court will accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations or “unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments” do not satisfy the plausibility pleading standard. E. Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D. Associates Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). The complaint must contain factual allegations sufficient to apprise a defendant of “what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) requires that a party “alleging fraud or mistake” must plead “with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” The certain “circumstances” of a fraud or mistake claim that must be plead with particularity are the “time, place, and contents of the false representations, as well as the identity of the person making the misrepresentation and what he obtained thereby.” See Spaulding v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 714 F.3d 769, 781 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). Lack of compliance with the heightened pleading standard for claims of “fraud or mistake” is grounds for dismissal for failure to state a claim. See Smith v. Clark/Smoot/Russell, 796 F.3d 424, 432 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Harrison, 176 F.3d at 783 n.5).

         Federal courts have an “obligation to liberally construe a pro se [c]omplaint” and may consider additional facts and information supporting the complaint that is provided in an opposition to a motion to dismiss. See Rush v. Am. Home Mortg., Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist LEXIS 112530, at *11-12 (D. Md. Dec. 3, 2009). However, this requirement “does not transform the court into an advocate, ” United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal quotations and citations omitted), and “[w]hile pro se complaints may ‘represent the work of an untutored hand requiring special judicial solicitude,' a district court is not required to recognize ‘obscure or extravagant claims defying the most concerted efforts to unravel them.'” Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.,901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986)). Although the facts alleged in a pro se ...


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