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Johnson v. Capital One

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

April 30, 2019

DAX JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPITAL ONE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAUL W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Dax Johnson has brought this suit against Capital One Bank (USA), N.A. ("Capital One"), accusing the company of furnishing false information about him to a credit reporting agency. After Capital One previewed its arguments for a dismissal, I authorized Mr. Johnson to amend his Complaint to address the alleged deficiencies, cautioning that his failure to remedy those deficiencies may result in a dismissal with prejudice. Mr. Johnson took the opportunity to amend his Complaint but has nevertheless failed to state any claims upon which relief may be granted. I am therefore granting Capital One's motion to dismiss this case and am dismissing all counts with prejudice.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Mr. Johnson filed this case in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City on May 25, 2018. See State Court Compl. 4, ECF NO.1-1. His original, one-sentence Complaint accused Capital One of "failure to validate debt and illegal reporting" under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA".. Id. Capital One removed the case to this Court on July 10, 2018, [1] invoking the Court's federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 9 1331. See Notice of Removal ~ 7, ECF NO.1. It soon afterward notified the Court of its intent to move for a dismissal under Rule I2(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See July 2018 Notification Letter, ECF No. 7. The company's letter said the proposed motion would argue, among other things, that Capital One cannot be liable under the FDCPA because it is not a debt collector within the meaning of that statute. See Id. Also, it said, even if Mr. Johnson had meant to bring a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA",, his barebones Complaint would still fail to pass muster under Rule 12(b)(6). See id.

         In an August 1, 2018 letter order, I authorized Mr. Johnson to amend his complaint in light of the alleged defects detailed in Capital One's letter. See. August 2018 Letter Order, ECF NO.1O. I also authorized Capital One to file its proposed motion to dismiss the case. See Id. The letter order cautioned that, should the case be dismissed on any of the grounds identified in Capital One's July 2018 notification letter, the dismissal "likely will be with prejudice," given that I had afforded Mr. Johnson an opportunity to amend the Complaint. Id. I explained, though, that a dismissal based on any previously undiscussed grounds Capital One might choose to assert in its motion would not be with prejudice "unless further amendment would be futile." Id.

         Mr. Johnson chose to amend his Complaint. His new pleading, spanning less than two full pages, was only slightly more detailed than the first, but it was accompanied by a series of exhibits. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 11. It asserted two claims: one for fraud, and one alleging Capital One had violated the FCRA. See id.

         In brief, the Amended Complaint alleges that Mr. Johnson mailed several documents to Capital One on January 15, 2018. The first of these was a "validation letter," which purported to dispute an unspecified "alleged debt" and demanded that Capital One provide him with proof of the debt. Validation Letter 1, ECF No. 11-1. The letter included several other demands and asserted that failure to comply with these would amount to an admission that the company was not a "party of interest," could not enforce its claims under the Uniform Commercial Code, and was "engaged in domestic terrorism." Id. at 2. A separate document, entitled "Notice of Contract Change," purported to terminate Mr. Johnson's contract with Capital One. See ECF No. 11-2. A third demanded the company pay him $2, 253 for the harm it had caused him. See ECF No. 11-3.

         The Amended Complaint alleges Capital One "never verified" the debt and continued to report it to the credit reporting agency Equifax. See Am. Compl. It states that Mr. Johnson at some point filed an "identity theft report" with Equifax and with the federal government.. See Id. It appears that Mr. Johnson intended to enclose this report along with the Amended Complain,, but he did not do so. See id.

         Capital One, as promised, has moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). Mr. Johnson did not respond to the motion.[2] Having reviewed all of the materials before me, I find a hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes parties in a civil action to seek the dismissal of a claim or complaint on the grounds that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Tucker v. Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC, 83 F.Supp.3d 635, 647-48, 2015 WL 452285, at *8 (D. Md. Feb. 3, 2015). This rule's purpose "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). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief," Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

         "Generally, when a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), courts are limited to considering the sufficiency of allegations set forth in the complaint and the 'documents attached or incorporated into the complaint.'" Zak v. Chelsea Therapeutics Int'l, Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 606 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kalan Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011)). Where, as here, a plaintiff has attached exhibits to the complain,, these exhibits are considered part of the pleading. See Fayetteville Inv'rs v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1465 (4th Cir. 1991); Bryant .. Wash. Mut. Bank, 524 F.Supp.2d 753, 757 n.4 (W.D. Va. 2007), aff'd, 282 Fed.Appx. 260 (4th Cir. 2008).

         DISCUSSION

         Capital One's motion seeks to dismiss each of the two counts ...


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