United States District Court, D. Maryland
MARY A. BRADEN
JH PORTFOLIO DEBT EQUITIES, LLC
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending and ready for resolution in this consumer debt
collection case are the motion for default judgment, (ECF No.
12), and the motion for attorney's fees filed by
Plaintiff Mary A. Braden, (ECF No. 13). The issues have been
briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed
necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the
motion for default judgment will be granted in part and
denied in part, and the motion for attorneys' fees will
complaint and attached documents, Plaintiff alleges that she
had an account with Citibank and that Citibank attempted to
collect a debt which it believed she owed it. To represent
her with respect to this debt and any claims on it, Ms.
Braden retained Wendell Finner PC. Ms. Braden informed
Citibank of the representation and requested Citibank to
cease all direct contact with her. JH Portfolio Debt
Equities, LLC (“Defendant”) then acquired Ms.
Braden's debt to Citibank. Next, Defendant's agent,
D&A Services (“D&A”) contacted Ms.
Braden's attorney, who informed D&A that Ms. Braden
disputed the debt claimed by Defendant. Finally, Defendant
sent a letter to Ms. Braden at her home attempting to collect
the debt and demanding payment of $41, 191.87.
April 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant
alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692c, the Maryland
Consumer Debt Collection Act (“MCDCA”), Md. Code,
Com. L. Art. 14-202(6), and the Maryland Consumer Protection
Act (“MCPA”), Md. Code, Com. L. Art. §
13-301(14). (ECF No. 1). Defendant was served with a summons
and copy of the Complaint on June 4, 2019. (ECF No. 7).
Plaintiff filed proof of service, (ECF No. 4), and moved for
Clerk's Entry of Default, (ECF No. 5), on June 26, 2019.
The clerk entered default on July 10, 2019, (ECF No. 8), and
Plaintiff moved for Default Judgment, (ECF No. 12), and
Attorney's Fees and Costs, (ECF No. 13), on December 2,
2019. Those motions are unopposed.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a), “[w]hen a party
against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has
failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is
shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the
party's default.” A defendant's default does
not automatically entitle the plaintiff to entry of a default
judgment; rather, that decision is left to the discretion of
the court. See Lewis v. Lynn, 236 F.3d 766, 767 (5th
Cir. 2001). The United States Court of Appeals for Fourth
Circuit has a “strong policy” that “cases
be decided on their merits, ” Dow v. Jones,
232 F.Supp.2d 491, 494 (D.Md. 2002) (citing United States
v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir.
1993)), but default judgment may be appropriate where a party
is unresponsive, see S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359
F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D.Md.2005)(citing Jackson v.
Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).
[entry of] default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint
as to liability are taken as true, but the allegations as to
damages are not.” Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d at
422. While the court may hold a hearing to consider evidence
as to damages, it is not required to do so; it may rely
instead on “detailed affidavits or documentary evidence
to determine the appropriate sum.” Adkins v.
Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C., 2001) (citing
United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857
(5th Cir. 1979)).
The FDCPA Claims
evaluating a request for a default judgment, the court must,
accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true,
determine if the complaint adequately states a claim. See
Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th
Cir. 2001). The Fourth Circuit has established that
“the threshold requirement for application of the
[FDCPA] is that prohibited practices are used in an attempt
to collect a debt.” Mabe v. G.C. Servs. Ltd.
P'ship, 32 F.3d 86, 87-88 (4th Cir.1994).
as true, Plaintiff's allegations adequately state a claim
for relief under the FDCPA: the debt collector knew Ms.
Braden was “represented by an attorney with respect to
[her] debt, ” but nonetheless communicated directly
with Ms. Braden in connection with the collection of that
debt. 16 U.S.C. § 1692c(a)(2).
apparent, however, is the amount of damages Ms. Braden is
owed. While the court may rely on “detailed affidavits
or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum,
” Adkins, 180 F.Supp.2d at 17, Ms.
Braden's affidavit regarding her damages is far from
detailed. In her statement, Ms. Braden writes that she was
“shocked and stunned” upon hearing that she owed
nearly $50, 000, and that “[f]or several weeks [she]
could not restfully sleep and [she] lost [her]
appetite.” (ECF No. 12-1, at 1-2). Ms. Braden further
suggests that because she “would gladly pay the sum of