Ellis v. The Bureaus, Inc. et al
ORDER denying the 29 Motion to Dismiss & 31 Motion to Dismiss as to Count Two. Signed by District Judge William H. Steele on 8/23/2017. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
THE BUREAUS, INC., et al.,
) CIVIL ACTION 17-0084-WS-N
By previous order, the Court denied the three movants’ motion to dismiss
with respect to Counts Three, Four, Five and Seven. (Doc. 60 at 11). With
respect to Count Two – the only other count made the basis of the movants’
motion – the Court granted the motion as to defendant Stoneleigh. (Id.). As to the
other two movants, the Court left the motion to dismiss Count Two pending,
awaiting an amended complaint that the plaintiff represented would moot the
movants’ objections – a procedure to which the movants did not object. (Id. at 5,
11).1 The plaintiff thereafter filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 63). The parties
filed supplemental briefs addressing the adequacy of the amended Count Two,
(Docs. 67, 71), and the motion to dismiss Count Two is now ripe for resolution.
Count Two asserts a claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act
(“TCPA”). The movants argued that Count Two failed to satisfy the plausibility
standard of Rule 8(a) as construed by the Supreme Court. In particular, the
movants argued that the complaint failed to allege facts supporting its assertions:
(1) that some or all of the movants’ collection calls were made using an automatic
telephone dialing system (“ATDS”); and (2) that the movant’s calls were made
The Court did not, as the movants assert, grant their motion to dismiss Count
Two with leave to amend. (Doc. 67 at 2).
willfully and/or knowingly so as to support an award of treble damages. (Doc. 60
at 4-5). The amended complaint addresses both challenges.
The amended complaint asserts that, “[w]hen Plaintiff would answer the
calls from [the movants], there would often be a silence, sometimes with a click or
a beep-tone, before a representative would pick up and start speaking. This is a
tell-tale indication that the call was placed through an ATDS.” (Doc. 63 at 5).
The amended complaint also asserts that, “[w]hen she was called by these debt
collectors, Plaintiff explained that the debt had been satisfied and the lien released
and she asked that they stop calling her, thereby revoking any prior consent to
receive calls and notifying [the movants] that there was no consent for the calls.”
(Id. at 5-6).
The movants do not argue that these allegations fail to attain the plausibility
standard, and it is patently obvious that they do satisfy the standard as articulated
by the movants themselves. The movants acknowledge that the use of an ATDS
would be plausibly alleged by “any indicia of an auto-dialed call, such as any
sounds, beeps, pauses, or robotic noises.” (Doc. 29 at 4). They also acknowledge
that the mental state required to support an award of treble damages would be
plausibly alleged by some “basis … for thinking that [the movants] knew that
[they] did not have Plaintiff’s consent to call her.” (Id. at 5). What the movants
demand is precisely what the amended complaint alleges.
The movants are nevertheless unsatisfied because, they believe, the new
allegations cannot be trusted. First, “[i]t is dubious at best that Plaintiff would
have left such key details of specific conversations out of her original Complaint.”
(Doc. 67 at 3). Second, they insist the description of the alleged ATDS calls
“should be completely disregarded” because “it is lifted word-for-word from” the
complaint in a recent TCPA case in California and therefore “is not an account of
anything that may have happened to” the plaintiff, (id. at 2); the movants continue
that the allegations of what the plaintiff told the movant’s representatives is
somehow derivatively tainted by this plagiarism and must therefore be
“ignore[d].” (Id. at 3).
The movants are clutching at air. As their own authority states, the
plausibility standard requires a court to “tak[e] as true” a complaint’s factual
allegations, “even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is
improbable.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). The
mere fact (if it be a fact)2 that the allegations of the amended complaint regarding
use of an ATDS mirror those of another case does not prove – or even suggest –
that the language does not describe the plaintiff’s experience. Nor does the
omission of allegations from an original complaint prove – or even suggest – that
the amended complaint’s addition of such allegations (at the movants’ insistence)
The movants have come dangerously close to accusing plaintiff’s counsel
of violating Rule 11, although they have presented nothing that could remotely
support such an accusation. That is not an acceptable practice in this District. The
movants remain free to file any properly supported motion under Rule 11, but they
are cautioned not to cast aspersions on the integrity of opposing counsel absent
such a motion.
For the reasons set forth above, the remaining movants’ motion to dismiss
Count Two is denied.
DONE and ORDERED this 23rd day of August, 2017.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The movants purport to quote from the California pleading but do not attach a
copy of it to their brief.
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