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Levy v. American Medical Collections Bureau Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

September 29, 2016

TODD A. LEVY, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLECTIONS BUREAU, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES C. CACHERIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. 4] filed by Defendants American Medical Collections Bureau, Inc. and Inova Health System Foundation. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion and permit Plaintiff seven days to file an Amended Complaint against Inova Health Care Services.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is a resident of Prince William County, Virginia. On July 31, 2015, Plaintiff received a debt collection letter from an entity identifying itself as American Medical Collection Bureau, Inc., or AMCB. The letter advised Plaintiff of his right to contest the debt within 30 days, and requested that Plaintiff “remit payment in fully [sic] today” to “avoid further action.”

         Plaintiff contested the amount of the debt, and the balance was adjusted accordingly. Plaintiff then received a second letter dated August 31, 2015, reflecting the new balance and stating that the amount due “must be remitted promptly to our office or our client will find it necessary to take further action.” On October 1, 2015, Plaintiff received a third letter demanding payment of the outstanding debt. In a fourth and “final” notice sent November 2, 2015, AMCB advised Plaintiff that “any further delay in paying” the amount owed “may result in our collection agency referring this account to an attorney.”

         On July 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit against AMCB and Inova Health Systems Foundation, alleging that the letters described above violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.

         Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss on August 31, 2016, contending that Plaintiff failed to name the proper party. Defendants allege that AMCB is a trade name employed by Inova Health Care Services, not a freestanding corporate entity. Moreover, Inova Health System Foundation is a charitable foundation maintained by Inova Health Care Services that is not engaged in debt collection. Accordingly, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims against these two entities should be dismissed without prejudice to Plaintiff's ability to bring suit against Inova Health Care Services - presumably the intended Defendant.

         II. Legal Standard

         Defendant brings this Motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court generally may not look beyond the four corners of the complaint. See Goldfarb v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015). As such, it is not clear that the Court may reach the arguments advanced by Defendant under Rule 12(b)(6), as they rely on extrinsic evidence.

         The Court therefore finds it appropriate to consider Defendant's Motion under Rule 12(b)(1). Defendant's arguments are directed to “jurisdictional facts” of the kind properly considered under that Rule. See 24th Senatorial Dist. Republican Comm. v. Alcorn, 820 F.3d 624, 629 (4th Cir. 2016). Moreover, “[a] federal court has an independent obligation to assess its subject-matter jurisdiction, ” and must reach the issue sua sponte if necessary. Constantine v. Rectors & Visitors of George Mason Univ., 411 F.3d 474, 479-80 (4th Cir. 2005). The Court finds it necessary to do so here. As such, the Court may look beyond the Complaint to evaluate the jurisdictional facts brought to light in Defendants' Motion and conceded by Plaintiff. See 24th Senatorial Dist. Republican Comm., 820 F.3d at 629.

         III. Analysis

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Complaint must be dismissed because it names the wrong parties.

         Plaintiff does not dispute that he made such a mistake. Rather, he admits that he intended to sue Inova Health Care Services, not its charitable foundation, and requests leave to file an amended complaint making that substitution.

         He argues, however, that the Court should deny Defendant's Motion as to his claims against AMCB, contending that AMCB “can be sued in its own name.” Opp. [Dkt. 7] at 3. It is unclear what, if ...


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