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Camaj v. Makower Abbate Guerra Wegner Vollmer, PLLC

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

November 14, 2019

MICHAEL CAMAJ, Plaintiff,
v.
MAKOWER ABBATE GUERRA WEGGNER VOLLMER PLLC, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF NO. 15)

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In 2017 and 2018, the law firm of Makower Abbate Guerra Wegner Vollmer PLLC (“Makower”) sent Michael Camaj a series of letters seeking to collect outstanding assessments that Camaj allegedly owed to the Ashley Commons Condominium Association (the “Association”). In this action, Camaj claims that Makower's collection efforts violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”) and the Michigan Collection Practices Act, Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 339.901 et seq. (“MCPA”). Camaj also asserts several common law tort and contract claims against Makower arising out of Makower's collection activities. Makower has filed a motion to dismiss Camaj's action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (based upon an alleged lack of Article III standing) and for failure to state a claim.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that Camaj has Article III standing but that he has failed to state a viable FDCPA claim against Makower. Accordingly, Makower's motion is DENIED IN PART to the extent that it seeks dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and GRANTED IN PART to the extent that it seeks dismissal for failure to state a viable FDCPA claim. The Court DISMISSES Camaj's FDCPA claim WITH PREJUDICE. The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Camaj's remaining state law claims, and it will therefore DISMISS those claims WITHOUT PREJUDICE such that Camaj may re-file them in state court.

         I

         A

         In or around August of 2017, Camaj held “title” to a parcel of real property within the Ashley Commons Condominium complex. (See Sec. Am. Compl., ECF No. 13, PageID.88.) At that time, the Association made and collected assessments to cover certain unidentified expenses. By mid-August of 2017, the Association appears to have determined that Camaj fell behind on his obligations to pay prior assessments.

         Makower represents the Association. On August 22, 2017, Makower sent Camaj a letter demanding that Camaj pay outstanding assessments. (See 8/22/17 Letter, ECF No. 15-2.) The letter provided:

Re: Amount Due - $486.80 as of August 22, 2017 15134 Ashley Court, Macomb, Michigan 48044; Unit 19, Ashley Commons Condominium
Dear Mr. Camaj:
Please be advised that this firm represents Ashley Commons Condominium Association. We have been advised by Red Star Equities, LLC that you are delinquent in the payment of your Association assessments and we have been asked to proceed with collection of the delinquent sums.
Please bring your account up to date or call this office to make alternative arrangements. Please make sure payments are made payable to your Association and mailed to our office for proper credit.
Please note that the Amount Due referenced in this letter only includes those amounts owing as of the date of this letter. Assessments and applicable late fees on unpaid assessments that accrue subsequent to the date of this letter will be imposed consistent with the Association's governing documents. Please also note that, at this time, no attorney with this firm has personally reviewed the particular circumstances of your account.
This firm is a debt collector attempting to collect a debt on behalf of Ashley Commons Condominium Association and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.
Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume the debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days from receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against you and have such verification or judgment mailed to you. If you request of this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor if different from the current creditor.

         Very truly yours, MAKOWER ABB ATE GUERRA WEGNER VOLLMER PLLC

         Cheryl Garman

(Id; emphasis in original.)

         Makower then sent three additional collection letters to Camaj: one on October 23, 2017, (10/23/17 Letter, ECF No. 15-3), one on December 18, 2017, (12/18/17 Letter, ECF No. 15-4), and one on January 17, 2018. (1/17/18 Letter, ECF No. 15-5.) Although there were slight differences in the letters, all demanded the payment of outstanding assessments owed to the Association.[1]

         B

         Camaj filed this action on January 17, 2019. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) In his Complaint, he alleged that Makower's letters violated numerous provisions of the FDCPA. More specifically, he claimed that the letters:

• Violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692g by failing “to properly and completely give the validation notice required by 15 USC 1692g”;
• Violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692e by threatening “to initiate legal action, ” failing “to disclose the total amount due in the demand for payment, which included add-on expenses for attorneys fees and collection costs, ” misleading “Plaintiff regarding the law firm's involvement in the collection process, ” failing “to inform Plaintiff of his rights under state law, ” sending a letter that was “not reviewed by a lawyer despite being on the law firm's letterhead, ” and making a “false representation for the amount of the debt”;
• Violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(1) by attempting “to collect an amount not authorized by the agreement”;
• Violated the MCPA by failing “to properly and completely give the validation notice required by MCL 339.918” and falsely threatening litigation in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 339.915(e); and
• Constituted common law breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, conspiracy for theft, and tortious interference with Camaj's use and enjoyment of title.

(Compl. ¶¶ 21, 24, 26-47, ECF No. 1, PageID.3-7.) Camaj further alleged that Makowers' FDCPA and state law violations caused him to suffer emotional distress. (See ...


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