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Bond v. United States Department of Education

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division

August 18, 2014

PAMELA SUE BOND, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JACKSON L. KISER, Senior District Judge.

On June 19, 2014, Defendant United States Department of Education filed its Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. [ECF No. 6.] The matter has now been fully briefed, and the parties appeared before me on August 14, 2014, to argue their positions. Having fully considered the pleadings and arguments of the parties, the matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated herein, I will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and dismiss this case.

STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

Plaintiff Pamela Sue Bond ("Plaintiff") was admitted to the Yale University School of Nursing in July of 1991. (See Compl. Ex. A [ECF No. 3].) In the fall of that year, she entered Yale as a student. (Id. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff asserts that, in April of 1992, she made a decision to return to Yale the next year, and thereafter applied for a Stafford student loan to cover some of her expenses. (Id. ¶ 2.) The student loan application, however, is dated by her hand "1-13-91, " and is file stamped "Jan 14, 1992." (Id. Ex. B.)[2] The loan was offered by the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation. (Id.) Plaintiff avers that she was only registered for one class for the Fall 1992 semester, "Pediatric Physical Exams, " and that Dr. Debbie Ferholt was assigned to teach the course. (Id. ¶ 3.) Dr. Ferholt only appeared for approximately 25% of the scheduled classes. (Id.)

Plaintiff says she paid for part of the semester in the fall, but that she found it necessary to take out a small loan to apply towards tuition. (Id. ¶ 4.) Tuition, at that time, included student health insurance through Blue Cross & Blue Shield. (Id.) Plaintiff apparently signed a promissory note to secure the loan. (See id. ¶ 5.) Whether the promissory note Plaintiff provides as Exhibit A to her Complaint (the note dated January 1992) and the note that she claims to have signed in April 1992 are the same is unclear. A week after signing the promissory note, Dr. Ferholt informed Plaintiff that she had failed a pediatric physical exam. (Id. ¶ 5.) According to Yale, Plaintiff withdrew as a student mid-semester, and Yale refunded a third of her tuition. (See id. Ex. M.)

Sallie Mae contacted Plaintiff on February 23, 1993, to inform her that Yale sold Plaintiff's student loan to Sallie Mae. (See id. Ex. D.) Plaintiff requested a "medical reprieve from payments due to her son's medical problems." (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff does not specify when she made that request or to whom it was made. It appears, however, that Sallie Mae granted Plaintiff a deferment from May 25, 1993, until November 25, 1993. (Pl.'s Add. to Ans. to Def.'s Resp. to Mot. to Admit Evid., Ex. B, Aug. 4, 2014 [ECF No. 22].) Sallie Mae sent Plaintiff a letter on April 15, 1994, informing her that she was "headed for default." (Compl. Ex. D.) Plaintiff forwarded Sallie Mae a check for $68.00 on April 28, 1994; the memo line read, "For white collar criminals." (Id.) Sallie Mae sent Plaintiff a "final demand" for payment on July 28, 1995.[3] (Id. Ex. E.) On May 22, 1997, the Financial Collections Agency informed Plaintiff that she owed $5, 217.81 on the note, plus an additional $2, 170.43 in "other charges, " for a total of $7, 388.04. (Id. Ex. F.) On August 29, 1998, Diversified Collections Services, Inc., informed Plaintiff that her loan had been referred to it for collection, and that the balance owed was $7, 891.77. (Id. Ex. G.)

In November of 2001, Van Ru Credit Corporation ("Van Ru") informed Plaintiff that it had "afforded [her] every opportunity to honor [her] obligations to" the loan originator, and that the balance she owed now totaled $9, 515.52. (Id. Ex. H.) At some point after receiving this correspondence, someone from the Florida Comptroller's office contacted Van Ru on Plaintiff's behalf. (Id. Ex. I.) Van Ru replied that Plaintiff had been provided the necessary forms "to advance [her] account. To this date [April 15, 2002] Van Ru or Connecticut Student Loan has not received the disability forms from Ms. Bond." (Id.)

Plaintiff asserts that, every time she attempted "to clarify the balance [on her loan], the government would assign a new collection agency in a new state." (Id. ¶ 11.) She also asserts that the latest collection agency in California "could not be contacted because the Post office marked correspondence as not being deliverable." (Id. ¶ 12.)

Plaintiff avers that the Treasury Department has been garnishing her early retirement benefits from Social Security. (Id. ¶ 13.) On April 24, 2013, the Department of Treasury sent Plaintiff a letter indicating that it would be forwarding a portion of her Social Security benefits to pay the loan held by the U.S. Department of Education. (Id. Ex. K.) Plaintiff had $135.75 withheld from her $905.00 monthly benefit. (Id.) She also claims that ten years worth of withholding from her tax returns is not indicated on a listing of withheld payments from the government. (See id. Ex. J.)

Plaintiff also asserts that the original note was "doctored." She asserts that, in January of 2013, she resided in Maryland and not in Connecticut.[4] She also asserts that she would "never" use her biological sister, Peggy Ervin, as a reference due to her "mental health diagnosis."[5] (Id. ¶ 14.) She requests that "this Court dismiss the fraudulent note submitted for payment, calculate all payments made on the loan, return what is appropriate to the Plaintiff in the amount of approximately $5, 000.00, and return improperly garnished' Social Security Benefits to the Plaintiff immediately." (Id. ¶ 17 (unnumbered).)

Plaintiff filed her Complaint pro se on April 3, 2014, and requested in forma pauperis status at the time. (See Mot. to Proceed in forma pauperis, Apr. 3, 2014 [ECF No. 1].) I denied that Motion because the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act sets a one-year statute of limitations. (See Order, Apr. 4, 2014 [ECF No. 3] (citing 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d) (2014)).) Nevertheless, Plaintiff paid the filing fee three days later. On June 19, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. [ECF No. 6.] Plaintiff replied on June 30, 2014, and has since filed two addendums: a motion to admit evidence (which I granted), and an "Addendum to Reply/Answer." I heard oral arguments on the Motion on August 14, 2014.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

As an initial matter, pro se complaints are held to "less stringent standards than the formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

When a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction is raised under Rule 12(b)(1), "the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff." Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. U.S. , 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Adams v. Bain , 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). "In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the district court is to regard the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Id . "The court must grant the motion only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to ...


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