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Waddell v. Capital Accounts, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

November 5, 2019




         I. Introduction

         Pending before the court is Plaintiff Waddell's Motion for Entry of Default Judgment [ECF No. 8]. For the reasons that follow, the Request is GRANTED. Damages are awarded in amounts set forth below.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff Wesley Waddell (“Waddell”), an individual and resident of Fayette County, West Virginia, brought the current action against Defendant Capital Accounts, LLC (“Capital Accounts”), a foreign corporation with its principal place of business in Franklin, Tennessee. Waddell alleges violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (“WVCCPA”) by Capital Accounts.[1] According to the complaint, a dentist's office engaged Capital Accounts to collect an alleged debt (“Alleged Debt”) from Waddell. The Alleged Debt is not legitimate because Waddell does not owe the dentist's office any amount. Compl. [ECF No. 1] ¶ 7.

         In attempting to collect the illegitimate, Alleged Debt, Capital Accounts called Waddell numerous times on his employer's telephone line, including multiple times per day every day for three weeks and, in some cases, calling multiple times in a row within a matter of minutes. Id. at ¶¶ 8-11. Waddell told Capital Accounts the debt was not valid and that he was not allowed to receive personal calls on his work telephone line or during work hours, yet they called at least twenty more times. Waddell Decl. [ECF No. 8-1] ¶ 4. Further, Capital Accounts threatened to talk to Waddell's employer about the Alleged Debt. Id. at ¶ 12. Notably, Capital Accounts “failed to disclose the name and full business address of the person…to whom the Alleged Debt was owed” in at least twenty calls. Id. at ¶ 11; Compl. [ECF No. 1] ¶ 23.

         Capital Accounts made Waddell “feel harassed, abused and oppressed.” Waddell Decl. [ECF No. 8-1] ¶¶ 3-6. Waddell also suffered “fear, anxiety and mental anguish” as a result of Capital Accounts' conduct. Id. at ¶ 3. Waddell asks for $25, 000 in actual damages based on Capital Accounts' conduct, $1, 000 in statutory damages under the FDCPA, and $41, 000 in statutory damages under the WVCCPA. Pl.'s Mot. For Entry of Default J. [ECF No. 8] 5-6.

         Capital Accounts was served with the Summons and Complaint on February 21, 2019. Aff. of Service [ECF No. 4]. To date, Defendant has failed to appear or file a pleading responsive to Plaintiff's Complaint. The Clerk entered default against Defendant on March 29, 2019 [ECF No. 6]. Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Entry of Default Judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         III. Legal Standard

         Default judgment is available “when the adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party.” S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md. 2005). Under Rule 55, which governs default judgments, “trial judges are vested with discretion, which must be liberally exercised, in entering [default] judgments and in providing relief therefrom.” United States v. Moradi, 673 F.2d 725, 727 (4th Cir. 1982). A defendant's failure to respond constitutes an admission of the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, except as related to damages. Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001). The court must make an independent determination of damages where the amount of the Plaintiff's claim is uncertain. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b).

         Here, Waddell has filed a declaration and a Motion for Entry of Default Judgment, setting forth the amount due. Based on its review of Waddell's Motion for Entry of Default Judgment and Waddell's declaration, the court finds that a hearing on this matter is unnecessary.

         IV. Discussion

         Waddell has alleged multiple violations of the FDCPA and WVCCPA. In taking all the facts in the complaint as true, the court will first assess the liability of Capital Accounts under each claim. Next, the court will review the question of damages.

         a) Liability

         1) FDCPA Claims

         One of the purposes of the FDCPA is to “to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e). “To prevail on a FDCPA claim, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege that (1) he was the object of collection activity arising from a consumer debt as defined by the FDCPA, (2) the defendant is a debt collector as defined by the FDCPA, and (3) the defendant engaged in an act or omission prohibited by the FDCPA.” Woods v. Oxford Law, LLC, No. CIV.A. 2:13-6467, 2015 WL 778778, at *4 (S.D. W.Va. Feb. 24, 2015); see also Boosahda v. Providence Dane LLC, 462 Fed.Appx. 331, 333 n.3 (4th Cir. 2012).

         Consumer debt includes “an obligation or alleged obligation ‘to pay money arising out of a transaction…primarily for personal, family, or household purposes[.]'” 15 U.S.C. § 1692a. Because the Alleged Debt here is for dental services, the first element is met. Capital Accounts is a “debt collector” because the complaint establishes that it is a company using an “instrumentality of interstate commerce, ” here a telephone, attempting to collect the debts owed to another, here the dentist office. See Id. As for the third element, Waddell has alleged several actions by Capital Accounts in violation of the FDCPA which are to follow.

         15 U.S.C. ...

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