BUSKIRK v. PREMIER RECOVERY GROUP, INC. et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Madeline C. Arleo on 2/29/2016. (mfr)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
LISA VAN BUSKIRK,
Civil Action No. 15-3025
PREMIUM RECOVERY GROUP, INC., et
ARLEO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Lisa Van Buskirk’s (“Plaintiff”) motion
for final judgment by default against Defendant Joey Younger (“Younger”) pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b). For the reasons set forth herein, the motion is GRANTED.
This matter arises out of numerous phone calls regarding the collection of a debt.
Defendant Premier Recovery Group (“PRG”) is a New York company that engages in debt
collection. Younger, a resident of New York, is PRG’s Chief Executive Officer. Defendant
Quinton M. Smith, Sr. is its President.
Plaintiff alleges that over the past twelve months PRG’s agents have made a number of
calls to Plaintiff at her New Jersey home about a past due payday loan. In one particular
conversation, a PRG agent called Plaintiff, stating that they needed to discuss the complaint filed
against Plaintiff regarding the loan. Plaintiff asked for validation of the debt, including when the
loan was taken and the outstanding balance. The agent, however, did not answer Plaintiff’s
questions and declined to send any information in writing. Prior to the call, Plaintiff had not
received any information in writing from PRG. The PRG agent informed Plaintiff that PRG would
proceed on their complaint if she failed to make immediate plans for payment.
Plaintiff continues to receive daily calls from PRG about the debt. PRG has never informed
Plaintiff of her right to dispute the debt.
Plaintiff filed a two count Amended Complaint on May 15, 2015, seeking monetary
damages and attorney’s fees. Count 1 asserts violations of several sections of the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Count 2 asserts a claim for invasion
of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion. Defendant Younger was served with a summons and copy
of the Amended Complaint on June 15, 2015. Proof of Service, Dkt. No. 5. The time to answer
or otherwise move as to the Amended Complaint has expired. The Clerk entered default against
Younger on July 17, 2015. 1 On July 29th, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for default judgment
against Younger. To date, Younger has not filed any opposition to the motion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
“The district court has the discretion to enter default judgment, although entry of default
judgments is disfavored as decisions on the merits are preferred.” Animal Sci. Prods., Inc. v. China
Nat’l Metals & Minerals Imp. & Exp. Corp., 596 F. Supp. 2d 842, 847 (D.N.J. 2008).
entering default judgment the court must: (1) determine it has jurisdiction both over the subject
matter and parties; (2) determine whether defendants have been properly served; (3) analyze the
Complaint to determine whether it sufficiently pleads a cause of action; and (4) determine whether
the plaintiff has proved damages. See Chanel, Inc. v. Gordashevsky, 558 F. Supp. 2d 532, 535-36
Plaintiff did not request default against Defendants PRG or Smith. See Request for Default, Dkt.
(D.N.J. 2008); Wilmington Savings Fund Soc., FSB v. Left Field Props., LLC, No. 10-4061, 2011
WL 2470672, at *1 (D.N.J. June 20, 2011). Although the facts pled in the Complaint are accepted
as true for the purpose of determining liability, the plaintiff must prove damages. See Comdyne
I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990).
Additionally, prior to granting default judgment, the Court must make explicit factual
findings as to: (1) whether the party subject to the default has a meritorious defense; (2) the
prejudice suffered by the party seeking default judgment; and (3) the culpability of the party
subject to default. Doug Brady, Inc. v. N.J. Bldg. Laborers Statewide Funds, 250 F.R.D. 171, 177
A. Jurisdiction & Service
The Court concludes it has both subject matter jurisdiction over this dispute and personal
jurisdiction over the Defendant. First, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1331 and 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d).
The Court also has personal jurisdiction over Younger. “A federal court sitting in New
Jersey has jurisdiction over the parties to the extent provided under New Jersey state law, and New
Jersey law provides for personal jurisdiction coextensive with that allowed by the United States
Constitution.” FlagHouse, Inc. v. ProSource Dev., Inc., 528 F. App’x 186, 188-89 (3d Cir. 2013).
In the corporate officer context, jurisdiction over a corporation does not automatically give rise to
jurisdiction over an employee. Id. (quoting Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 781
n.13 (1984)). The officer must have sufficient contacts with the forum state such that he can be
subject to personal jurisdiction there. Id. Here, Younger made sufficient contact with New Jersey
because he supervised the PRG agents and directed them to make the debt collection calls to
Plaintiff in New Jersey. See Compl. ¶¶ 16, 21; Cerciello v. Canale, 563 F. App’x 924, 927 (3d
Cir. 2014) (specific jurisdiction requires that defendant “purposefully directed his activities” at the
forum). The litigation arises from the calls that he directed, and the exercise of jurisdiction in this
case comports with fair play and substantial justice.
Additionally, Plaintiff has provided the Court with proof of service on Younger’s wife at
Younger’s home. See Proof of Service, Dkt. No. 5.
The Court concludes that Plaintiff has pled an FDCPA claim against Younger as Plaintiff
has pled that Younger controlled and directed the PRG agents, those agents called Plaintiff “daily”
for a year seeking to collect a debt while refusing to give any information on debt validation or
balance, and the agents threatened litigation unless Plaintiff paid the debt. See 15 U.S.C. §
1692d(5) (prohibiting debt collector’s use of telephone conversations repeatedly “with intent to
annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number”); see also Corson v. Accounts Receivable
Mgmt., Inc., No. 13-01903, 2013 WL 4047577, at *6 (D.N.J. Aug. 9, 2013) (finding actionable §
1692d(5) claim where collector called plaintiff every day for two months).
The Court makes no finding as to Plaintiff’s invasion of privacy claim because she does
not address the claim in her motion for default judgment.
C. Appropriateness of Default Judgment
Next, the Court must consider: (1) whether the party subject to the default has a meritorious
defense; (2) the prejudice suffered by the party seeking default judgment; and (3) the culpability
of the party subject to default. Doug Brady, 250 F.R.D. at 177. The Court concludes that in the
absence of any responsive pleading and based upon the facts alleged in the Complaint, Younger
does not have a meritorious defense. See Ramada, 2012 WL 924385, at *5. Second, the Court
finds that Plaintiff will suffer prejudice absent entry of default judgment as Plaintiff will have no
other means of obtaining relief. Finally, the Court finds the Younger acted culpably as he has been
served with the Complaint, is not an infant or otherwise incompetent, and is not presently engaged
in military service. See Vullings Decl. ¶¶ 8-9, Dkt. No. 9; Super 8, 2014 WL 4388697, at *2; see
also Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Starlight Ballroom Dance Club, Inc., 175 F. App’x 519, 523 (3d
Cir. 2006) (holding that a defendant’s failure to respond to communications from the plaintiff and
the court can constitute culpability).
D. Monetary Damages
Plaintiff first seeks $1,000.00 in statutory damages under FDCPA. Section 1692k provides
that the court may grant statutory damages to an individual in an amount not to exceed $1,000. 15
U.S.C. § 1692k. “Whether statutory damages should be granted, and if so, whether the full amount
of $1,000 should be allowed, is committed to the discretion of the court.” Manopla v. Bryant,
Hodge & Assocs., LLC, No. 13-338, 2014 WL 793555, at *6 (D.N.J. Feb. 26, 2014). The Court
finds it reasonable to grant statutory damages in the amount of $1,000.00. See Meth v. ARM
WNY, LLC, No. 14-1613, 2015 WL 1021287, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 9, 2015) (granting same),
Lastly, Plaintiff’s counsel seeks $7,267.50 in attorney’s fees and $590.00 in costs.
Pursuant to § 1692k(a)(3), a court may award “costs of the action” and “reasonable attorney’s fees
. . . in the case of any successful action to enforce the [FDCPA].” 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). In
awarding fees under the FDCPA, the “court should determine what constitutes a reasonable fee in
accordance with the substantial Supreme Court precedent pertaining to the calculation of
reasonable attorney's fees.” Graziano v. Harrison, 950 F.2d 107, 114 (3d Cir.1991). Here,
Plaintiff’s motion, billable hours exhibit, and supporting sworn declaration detail the attorney’s
fees and costs. See Exs. 6 and 7 to Mtn. for Default Judgment, Dkt No. 7-9. The exhibit contains
an hourly rate of $450, costs, hours worked, description of services rendered, and reasonable rates
for an attorney based on years of experience. Further, a line-by-line review of the counsel’s billing
statement shows that the attorney spent 17.10 hours on the case, including legal research, client
contact, drafting an original and amended complaint, and filing a motion for default judgment.
The $590.00 in costs were accrued from the complaint filing fee and fees for service on Younger.
As such, the Court finds that it is reasonable to award Plaintiff $7,267.50 in attorney’s fees and
$590.00 in costs.
Based upon the foregoing, judgment shall be entered against the Defendant Younger for:
(1) $1,000.00 in statutory damages; (2) $7,267.50 in attorney’s fees; and (3) $590.00 in costs.
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s motion for final judgment by default against
Defendant Joey Younger is GRANTED. An appropriate Form of Order accompanies this
Dated: February 29, 2016
/s Madeline Cox Arleo___________
MADELINE COX ARLEO
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?