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Essique v. Walnut Woods Condominium Association

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 19, 2016

CHRISTINE ESSIQUE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WALNUT WOODS CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT JONES'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOCUMENT NO. 18)

          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Christine Essique sued Defendants Walnut Woods Condominium Association, Kramer-Triad Management Group, LLC, and Jeffery Jones, P.C., alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Michigan's Regulation of Collection Practices Act (MRCPA), slander of title, invasion of privacy, nuisance, and breach of contract. She brought suit individually and as trustee of the Christine R. Essique Revocable Living Trust. Defendant Jones filed a motion to dismiss. For the reasons below, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.

         BACKGROUND

         In June 2014, Essique stopped paying condominium association fees to Walnut Woods based on a dispute over a retaining wall project. Am. Compl. ¶ 25, ECF No. 6. As a result, the association hired Jones to collect the unpaid fees from Essique. Mot. 2, ECF No. 18. On July 21, 2014, Jones sent a letter to Essique. Id. The letter stated that "this office is attempting to collect a debt on behalf of Walnut Woods Condominium Association." Letter, ECF No. 18-2. In the letter, Jones demanded $900 from Essique in association fees, late charges and legal charges. Id. Additionally, the letter informed Essique that, under the "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have thirty (30) days in which to dispute this debt. . . . Upon disputing the debt, we shall supply to you (by mail) verification of the debt." Id. The letter included a "ledger" that detailed Essique's association fee payment history and her then-current balance owed for two months of unpaid fees: $725. Id.

         Thirty days later, on August 20, 2014, Essique sent a response letter to Jones; she disputed the debt and requested verification of the debt. Am. Compl. ¶ 28, ECF No. 6. On December 5, 2014, Jones filed a lien on Essique's condominium. Id. ¶ 30. Then, on February 10, 2015, Jones sent another letter to Essique. Letter, ECF No. 18-3. The letter included "verification of the debt" - a document detailing Essique's balance owed: $3, 305 for unpaid association fees, late fees, and legal fees. Id.

         On May 8, 2015, Jones sent a notice to Essique, indicating that the lien would be foreclosed on June 9, 2015 at a public auction. Am. Compl. ¶ 34, ECF No. 6. Essique filed a complaint, dismissed her claim, and then filed an amended complaint. See Compl., ECF No. 1. Later, Essique voluntarily dismissed the complaint as to Kramer-Triad. Jones's motion to dismiss followed.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Jones brings the motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or, alternatively, for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must dismiss a complaint that fails to allege facts "sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ' and to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Hensley Mfg. v. ProPride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 609 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). In evaluating the motion, the Court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, presumes the truth of all well-pled factual assertions, and draws every reasonable inference in favor of the non-moving party. Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must offer "more than the bare assertion of legal conclusions." Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, L.L.C., 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009), or a "formulaic recitation of the elements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681(2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Instead, the plaintiff must provide sufficient facts to show a "plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. at 678. When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court may only consider the pleadings. Jones v. City of Cincinnati, 521 F.3d 555, 562 (6th Cir. 2008).

         If the Court relies on materials outside of the pleadings and not referenced in the complaint, the summary judgment standard applies. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment is proper if there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id. A fact is material for purposes of summary judgment if its resolution would establish or refute an "essential element[] of a cause of action or defense asserted by the parties[.]" Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Stiles ex rel. D.S. v. Grainger Cnty., Tenn., 819 F.3d 834, 848 (6th Cir. 2016). At the summary judgment stage, the judge's function is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Jackson v. VHS Detroit Receiving Hosp., Inc., 814 F.3d 769, 775 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)).

         DISCUSSION

         In the motion to dismiss the FDCPA and MRCPA claims, Jones asks the court to consider material, including a February 10, 2015 debt collection letter, that was not specifically mentioned by Essique in the complaint. Since the Court will consider material outside the pleadings, the Court will convert Jones's motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment.

         I. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

         Congress passed the FDCPA to prevent "abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices." 15 U.S.C. § 1692. The FDCPA exists "to protect consumers, " Haddad v. Alexander, Zelmanski, Danner & Fioritto, PLLC, 758 F.3d 777, 785 (6th Cir. 2014), reh'g denied (Aug. 8, 2014), and is "extraordinarily broad" in scope. Currier v. First Resolution Inv. Corp., 762 F.3d 529, 533 (6th Cir. 2014) (quotations omitted). And, as with any ...


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