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Beverly v. Shermeta Law Group, PLLC

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

January 7, 2020

ANGEL R. BEVERLY, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERMETA LAW GROUP, PLLC, WILLIAM BEAUMONT HOSPITAL A/K/A BEAUMONT HEALTH SYSTEM, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          TERRENCE G. BERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated federal and state debt collection laws by trying to collect the same hospital bill twice. But both the Amended Complaint and Defendants' response make reference to the bills, and an examination of those bills shows conclusively that Plaintiff owed Defendants two unique debts for two separate hospital bills pertaining to two separate patients-so it is indisputable that Defendants did not attempt to collect multiple times on the same debt. This makes Plaintiff's claim completely implausible, so the Amended Complaint will be dismissed.

         I. Facts

         On July 9, 2013, Plaintiff Angel R. Beverly gave birth to her son Amir Beverly at a hospital operated by Defendant Beaumont Hospital (Beaumont). Am. Compl., ECF No. 11 ¶ 12, PageID.81. Plaintiff incurred a series of hospital bills in connection with the birth of Amir, totaling $1, 791.81. Ex. 1, Def's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12-2, PageID.122. One of the bills pertained to services rendered to Amir specifically (as opposed to his mother, Plaintiff), and was given the account number 50151682001. Id.

         On June 19, 2014, Plaintiff gave birth to a second child, Amaree Beverly, also at a hospital operated by Defendant Beaumont. Am. Compl. ¶ 12, ECF No. 11, PageID.81. Plaintiff's bills associated with the delivery of Amaree totaled $1, 885.41. Ex. 5, Def's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12-6, PageID.148. The account number for the bill associated with services rendered to Amaree was 51499042001. Ex. 4, Def's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12-5, PageID.137.

         On April 27, 2015, Defendant Beaumont filed a lawsuit against Plaintiff, seeking to collect on the outstanding $1, 791.81 debt Plaintiff owed for the delivery of her first child, Amir. Ex. 2, Def's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12-3, PageID.130-31. On September 28, 2015, Plaintiff entered a consent judgment with Defendant Beaumont, whereby Plaintiff agreed to pay off the $1, 791.81 debt associated with the birth of Amir, plus an additional $100.20 in costs, in installments of $30 per month. Ex. 3, Def's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12-4, PageID.135. In the consent agreement, Beaumont agreed not to garnish Plaintiff's wages as long as Plaintiff continued to make payments. Id.

         On July 17, 2018, Defendant Shermeta Law Group, on behalf of Defendant Beaumont, filed a lawsuit against Plaintiff seeking payment for the still outstanding $1, 885.41 Plaintiff owed for the birth of her second child, Amaree. Ex. 5, Def's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12-6, PageID.148.

         II. Allegations of the Complaint

         On August 14, 2019, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging that Defendants' second lawsuit, “which included account number 2001[, ] [is] for a debt which Plaintiff Beverly is currently paying in lawsuit #1.” Am. Compl., ECF No. 11 ¶ 16, PageID.81. Plaintiff contends that “Defendant Shermeta's false representation that Plaintiff Beverly had an outstanding balance on account number 2001 was an unfair and deceptive attempt to collect this debt” in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., the Michigan Collection Practices Act (MCPA), Mich. Comp. Laws § 445.251 et seq., and the Michigan Occupational Code (MOC), Mich. Comp. Laws § 339.915 et seq. Id. ¶¶ 26-29. Plaintiff alleges that she suffered emotional distress as a result of the Defendants' actions. Id. ¶ 30.

         III. Contentions

         Defendants move to dismiss the complaint, or in the alternative, for summary judgment against Plaintiff. ECF No. 12. Defendants first contend that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action because Plaintiff has not suffered any injury that the law recognizes. Second, Defendants correctly point out that the collection efforts pertain to two separate bills. The first, now-settled lawsuit was filed to collect on the debt owed for services rendered in connection with Plaintiff's first child, and the second lawsuit was filed to collect on the debt owed for services rendered in connection with the delivery of Plaintiff's second child. Defendants argue that because the second lawsuit validly seeks to collect on a separate outstanding debt, Plaintiff both suffered no injury and Defendants did not violate federal or state debt collection laws.

         In responding to the Defendants' motion, Plaintiff appears to abandon the gravamen of her complaint, that the second lawsuit is an attempt to collect the same debt twice, and pivots to another position that was actually suggested by the Defendants' first motion to dismiss-which argued that the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel did not prevent Defendants from collecting on Plaintiff's outstanding debt from the birth of her second child. ECF No. 14. Taking this cue, Plaintiff argues in response that actually res judicata and collateral estoppel should bar the second suit because the first lawsuit was filed after the June 2014 birth of Amaree, and Defendants could have included the second debt in the first lawsuit over the previous debt but did not. Plaintiff then contends that the doctrine of collateral estoppel barred Defendants' second lawsuit because “Case#2 had the same account number 2001 and Defendants sued again on that account number.” Id. at PageID.158.

         IV. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. In deciding whether the plaintiff has set forth a “plausible” claim, the court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 ...


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