Robert Horowitz v. Continental Casualty Company
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Originating case number: 8:14-cv-03698-DKC. Copies to all parties and the district court/agency . [16-1883]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
ROBERT HOROWITZ; CATHY HOROWITZ,
Plaintiffs - Appellants,
CONTINENTAL CASUALTY COMPANY, d/b/a CNA; ECCLESTON & WOLF;
SELZER GURVITCH RABIN WERTHERIMER POLOTT & OBECNY, PC;
BREGMAN, BERBERT, SCHWARTZ & GILDAY, LLC,
Defendants - Appellees.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland, at Greenbelt.
Deborah K. Chasanow, Senior District
February 28, 2017
March 7, 2017
Before AGEE, KEENAN, and WYNN, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.
John S. Lopatto III, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.
T. McGuckian, Rachel A. Shapiro, MILES & STOCKBRIDGE P.C.,
Rockville, Maryland; Kathleen H. Warin, Helyna M. Haussler,
WILSON, ELSER, MOSKOWITZ, EDELMAN & DICKER, LLP, Baltimore,
Washington, D.C.; Shirlie Norris Lake, ECCLESTON & WOLF, P.A.,
Hanover, Maryland, for Appellees.
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
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this action against three law firms and a malpractice insurance
carrier alleging that the Defendants conspired to induce them to
The Horowitzes appeal from the district court’s
order granting the Defendants’ motions to dismiss and dismissing
We decline the Horowitzes’ request to declare void a state
Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, 2 “lower federal courts are
(2006) (per curiam).
This abstention doctrine applies to “cases
brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by
Because the decision of the Court of Special Appeals of
Maryland — which is the basis for this request — did not issue
until after the district court’s final order in this case, the
Horowitzes did not present this argument to the district court.
See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923);
District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462
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proceedings commenced and inviting [federal] court review and
rejection of those judgments.”
Thana v. Bd. of License Comm’rs
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)).
seeking to attack a judgment that preceded the instant federal
Accordingly, we will not exercise appellate review over
this state court judgment.
several of their claims.
The district court found that many of
the Horowitzes’ claims constituted an attempt to relitigate the
raised and litigated in the prior state court action between
Selzer and the Horowitzes, and a final judgment on the merits
Therefore, we agree with the district court that
all of the Horowitzes’ claims premised on their contention that
the settlement was illegal are precluded.
See Comptroller of
Treasury v. Sci. Applications Int’l Corp., 950 A.2d 766, 772
Colandrea v. Wilde Lake Cmty. Assoc., 761 A.2d 899, 909 (Md.
2000) (stating elements of Maryland collateral estoppel).
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With respect to the remaining claims, the Horowitzes argue
that the complaint properly pleaded causes of action under the
(2012) (FDCPA), the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, Md.
Code Ann., Com. Law §§ 14-201 to -204 (LexisNexis 2013) (MCDCA),
the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, Md. Code Ann., Com. Law
§§ 13-101 to -501 (LexisNexis 2013) (MCPA), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983
We review de novo a district court’s grant or denial of
reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs’ favor.
Harbourt v. PPE
Casino Resorts Md., LLC, 820 F.3d 655, 658 (4th Cir. 2016).
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient
facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
To state a cause of action under the FDCPA, a plaintiff
must allege, among other things, that the defendant was a debt
business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any
directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed
or due another.”
15 U.S.C. §§ 1692a(6), 1692k (2012).
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regularly acted as debt collectors; 3 this barebones assertion
failed to state a claim under the FDCPA.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
The Horowitzes also sought to plead a violation of Md. Code
Ann., Com. Law § 14-202(8), which prohibits a collector from
threaten[ing] to enforce a right with knowledge that the right
does not exist.”
The complaint explicitly conceded that the
Horowitzes were indebted to the law firm that they sued for
Thus, the district court correctly ruled
that the complaint did not adequately plead a claim under the
To state a claim under § 1983, the Horowitzes were required
to allege that Selzer, acting under color of state law, deprived
them of “a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the
Thomas v. Salvation Army S. Territory, 841 F.3d
632, 637 (4th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The debt collection claims against Selzer and Defendant
Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday, LLC, were barred by res
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be attributable to the state, “the deprivation must be caused by
the exercise of some right or privilege created by the State or
by a rule of conduct imposed by the State or by a person for
whom the State is responsible,” and “the party charged with the
deprivation must be a person who may fairly be said to be a
Jones v. Poindexter, 903 F.2d 1006, 1010-11 (4th
Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Lugar v.
private party and a public official act jointly to produce [a]
Jackson v. Pantazes, 810 F.2d 426,
429 (4th Cir. 1987).
behest of Selzer, advised Robert Horowitz that Selzer would seek
intention to enforce their state court judgment through lawful
constitutional deprivation under § 1983.
Finally, we conclude that the district court did not abuse
its discretion in denying the Horowitzes’ request for a stay or
dismissal of the Horowitzes’ complaint is affirmed.
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with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are
argument would not aid the decisional process.
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