Schmitt v. Miller and Steeno, P.C. et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER... IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's state law claims against Armstrong Motors, Inc., are DISMISSED without prejudice . IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for default judgment against Armstrong Motors, Inc., is DENIED as moot . (Doc. No. 15 .) All claims against all parties having been resolved, a separate Judgment shall accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig on 10/22/2014. (NEB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MILLER AND STEENO, P.C.;
WILLIAM F. WHEALAN, JR.; and
ARMSTRONG MOTORS, INC.,
Case No. 4:14CV00406 AGF
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment against
Armstrong Motors, Inc. (“Armstrong Motors”), the only remaining Defendant in the case.
Because the federal claims in the action have been dismissed, the Court will decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims against Armstrong Motors and
will dismiss them without prejudice, thereby resolving the case as a whole.
Plaintiff alleges in the three-count complaint that in February 2012, when she was
17 years old, she visited Armstrong Motors, a car dealership, with her boyfriend, Nicholas
House. House decided to purchase a 1995 Pontiac for approximately $1000, and
Armstrong Motors told Plaintiff that she had to sign documents before House could get the
car. Plaintiff further alleges that, as a minor, she did not understand what she was signing
when she signed a financing agreement, but did so on Armstrong Motors’ instructions.
Plaintiff alleges that Armstrong Motors inspected her driver’s license prior to her signing
the financing agreement. She further alleges that in July 2013, she received a letter from
Defendant Miller and Steeno, P.C. (“Miller”), a law firm representing Armstrong Motors,
stating that she was responsible for a defaulted loan related to the Pontiac. Plaintiff
alleges the letter failed to state that Armstrong Motors was “looking to collect interest from
Plaintiff” and “contained no ‘safe harbor’ language that indicated to Plaintiff that due to
accruing interest, attorneys’ fees and other charges, that Plaintiff’s balance would be
different from the one stated in the letter.” (Doc. No. 1 at 6.) Therefore, Plaintiff alleges,
that letter “failed to state the amount of the debt.”
On August 21, 2013, Armstrong Motors, represented by Miller, sued House and
Plaintiff to collect the debt. Defendant William F. Whealan, Jr., signed the state court
petition on behalf of Miller. The state court granted default judgment against Plaintiff on
December 30, 2013. Plaintiff alleges that her wages were garnished in order to satisfy the
Plaintiff’s complaint claims that Miller and Whealan violated the federal Fair Debt
Collections Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. ' 1692 (“FDCP”), by, among other things, filing a
lawsuit on a void debt (Count I); that all three Defendants abused court process by suing
Plaintiff on a void, uncollectable debt because she was a minor when the finance agreement
was entered into (Count II); and that Armstrong Motors violated the Missouri
Merchandising Practices Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. ' 407.010 (“MMPA”) by deceiving Plaintiff
about the nature and import of the financing agreement and misrepresenting and/or
concealing material facts during pre-sale discussions with Plaintiff in connection with the
purchase of the Pontiac (Count III). In Counts II and III, the two counts against
Armstrong Motors, Plaintiff seeks actual damages and punitive damages, and in Count II
she seeks attorney’s fees as well.
On July 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to enforce settlement against Miller and
Whealan. On August 29, 2014, Plaintiff dismissed Miller and Whealan with prejudice.
Also on August 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default against Armstrong
Motors, and the present motion for default judgment against Armstrong Motors as to
Plaintiff’s MMPA and abuse of process claims. By affidavit, Plaintiff asserts that she is
entitled to “actual damages in at least the amount of $10,000 given [her] damaged credit”
and attorneys’ fees in the amount of $1,770. (Doc. No. 15-2 at 1.)
On September 2, 2014, the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion to enforce settlement
against Miller and Whealan as moot, in light of their dismissal from the lawsuit. On
September 24, 2014, the Clerk of Court entered default against Armstrong Motors. 1
By statute, a district court “may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
a claim” when it “has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction.” 28
The record includes a letter on Armstrong Motors’ letterhead, dated April 2, 2014,
signed by Timothy Armstrong. The letter states that Plaintiff and House asked to have
Plaintiff added to the financing agreement, that Plaintiff understood what agreement she
was entering into, that she never made Armstrong aware of her age, and that it was
Timothy Armstrong’s understanding that Plaintiff has been relieved of any obligations
with respect to the outstanding balance of the loan.
By Order dated May 8, 2014, the Court noted that there was no indication that
Timothy Armstrong was an attorney and that Armstrong Motors could not proceed pro se.
(Doc. No. 10.) The Court gave Armstrong Motors 30 days to obtain counsel and respond
to the complaint, and cautioned that failure to do so could result in entry of default
judgment against Armstrong Motors. Armstrong Motors failed to respond in any way.
U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). Moreover, here, deciding the state law claims against Armstrong
Motors would require determining whether Plaintiff has met the requirement of
establishing an ascertainable loss under the MMPA, suggesting an additional reason based
on statute to decline supplemental jurisdiction. See Id. §1367(c)(1) (providing that a
district court “may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim under
subsection (a) if . . . the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law”). Further, the
Court finds that the parties will not be unduly inconvenienced by litigating the remaining
claims in state court. Neither the Court nor the remaining parties have expended any
significant time and resources in this Court on the claims against Armstrong Motors.
In sum, the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
Plaintiff’s state law claims against Armstrong Motors and will dismiss those claims
without prejudice. See Delta Holdings, LLC v. Town of Boone, No.
5:13-CV-00048-RLV-DSC, 2014 WL 4771602, at *2 (W.D.N.C. Sept. 24, 2014)
(declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over motion for default judgment on a
state law claim, where federal claims had been resolved; remanding state law claim);
Norris v. Schauman, No. 3:13–0542, 2014 WL 3845165, at *6 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 5, 2014)
(same; dismissing state law claim without prejudice).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s state law claims against Armstrong
Motors, Inc., are DISMISSED without prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment
against Armstrong Motors, Inc., is DENIED as moot. (Doc. No. 15.)
All claims against all parties having been resolved, a separate Judgment shall
accompany this Memorandum and Order.
AUDREY G. FLEISSIG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 22nd day of October, 2014.
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