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Bobo v. Clark County Collection Service, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 23, 2018

JAMILAH BOBO, Plaintiff,



         This is a dispute about the attempts of defendant Clark County Collection Service, LLC (CCCS) to collect on a debt owed by plaintiff Jamilah Bobo. In January 2015, Bobo received treatment from Fremont Emergency Services (FES) at Mountain View Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a year of non-payment on the bill for this treatment, FES assigned the debt to CCCS for collection, and CCCS commenced a civil action in state court. Multiple calls occurred between the parties, in which Bobo reiterated her belief that her health insurance would cover the bill. Eventually, CCCS moved for and obtained default judgment, which it later moved to vacate after Bobo's insurance paid FES.

         Bobo sues CCCS for various violations of the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. She alleges that CCCS made statements to her over the phone that made her believe that CCCS would not prosecute the court action, and made statements in its motion for default judgment that misrepresented whether the debt was still owed. CCCS moved for summary judgment a month after Bobo's complaint was filed. Before that motion could be decided, the parties conducted discovery and CCCS filed an amended motion for summary judgment, which this order addresses. CCCS argues that Bobo's claim is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, that there is no evidence of CCCS making the statements alleged in Bobo's complaint or otherwise violating the FDCPA, and that to the extent Bobo alleges violations of the statute based on any call not alleged in the complaint, those allegations are barred.

         Bobo also moves for summary judgment. She argues that Rooker-Feldman does not apply, as she is not attacking the vacated default judgment. She contends that statements made by CCCS representatives on three different telephone calls led her to erroneously believe that CCCS was not pursuing its case against her while it attempted to bill her insurance. She also argues CCCS falsely represented in its motion for default judgment that she had not yet paid the bill.

         The parties are familiar with the facts of the case, and I will not further detail them here except where necessary. I grant summary judgment for CCCS on Bobo's claim to the extent it relies on violations of 15 U.S.C. § 1692d and the calls that occurred on April 25 and May 31, 2016. Bobo does not raise an issue of material fact about whether CCCS violated § 1692d by engaging in abusive behavior, and her complaint did not allege a claim based on the April 25 and May 31 calls. Nor was she diligent in pursuing amendment to her complaint, to the extent her oppositions to CCCS's motions can be treated as such. I deny summary judgment for both parties to the extent Bobo's claim relies on a call on April 18, as there remain issues of fact as to whether the call occurred and what statements were made. I also deny Bobo summary judgment to the extent her claim is based on statements CCCS made in its motion for default judgment. CCCS did not move on this ground, but it has shown an issue of material fact as to whether its statements were false or misleading.

         I. ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, discovery responses, and affidavits demonstrate “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts demonstrating there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 2000). I view the evidence and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. James River Ins. Co. v. Hebert Schenck, P.C., 523 F.3d 915, 920 (9th Cir. 2008).

         A. Rooker-Feldman

         CCCS first argues that Bobo's suit is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because her grievance over CCCS obtaining a default judgment is a challenge to the validity of that judgment. Bobo responds the doctrine is inapplicable, because she is not challenging the vacated default judgment but rather CCCS's actions that led to the judgment.

         The Rooker-Feldman doctrine “forbids a losing party in state court from filing suit in federal district court complaining of an injury caused by a state court judgment, and seeking federal court review and rejection of that judgment.” Bell v. City of Boise, 709 F.3d 890, 897 (9th Cir. 2013). If a federal plaintiff “asserts as a legal wrong an allegedly erroneous decision by a state court” and seeks relief from that decision, Rooker-Feldman bars jurisdiction. Id. (quotation omitted). “In contrast, if a federal plaintiff asserts as a legal wrong an allegedly illegal act or omission by an adverse party, ” the doctrine does not bar jurisdiction. Id. (quotation omitted).

         Bobo is not seeking review and rejection of the default judgment. She is not “complaining of injuries caused by [a] state-court judgment[] rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). Instead, she is complaining of allegedly illegal conduct by CCCS in its attempt to collect on her debt. Such a claim is not barred by Rooker-Feldman. See Hageman v. Barton, 817 F.3d 611, 616 (8th Cir. 2016) (holding Rooker-Feldman did not apply to claims alleging “statutory violations seeking statutory penalties based on . . . actions in the process of obtaining” default judgment).

         B. 15 U.S.C. § 1692d

         Title 15 U.S.C. § 1692d forbids a debt collector from engaging in “any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” CCCS contends there is no evidence that it engaged in any abusive or harassing conduct. In support, it points to Bobo's deposition, in which she was asked if a CCCS customer service representative engaged in any abusive conduct towards her and she answered no. ECF No. 51-1 at 25. Bobo does not respond to this argument, and does not point to any evidence of abusive or harassing behavior. Therefore, she has not ...

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