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Geiger v. Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

March 29, 2017

RICHARD GEIGER; and DENIS TWOMEY Plaintiffs,
v.
FLORIDA HOSPITAL MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER; ACCELERATED CLAIMS, INC.; and HALIFAX HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER OF DAYTONA BEACH, Defendants.

          ORDER

          ROY B. DALTON JR., United States District Judge

         In the instant action, Plaintiffs assert claims against Defendants for violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. (Doc. 1.) Defendants Accelerated Claims Inc. and Halifax Health Medical Center of Daytona Beach move to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted. (Docs. 51, 53.) Concurrently, Defendant Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center moves for judgment on the pleadings or, alternatively, summary judgment. (Doc. 62.) Plaintiffs responded to each of Defendants' motions (Docs. 57, 63), and Defendant Florida Hospital filed a reply in support of its alternative motion for summary judgment (Doc. 64). For the reasons set forth below, Accelerated Claims Inc.'s motion to dismiss is due to be granted, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.

         I. Background

         On January 27, 2016, Plaintiff Richard Geiger (“Geiger”) received medical care at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center (“Florida Hospital”) for injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident. (See Doc. 1, ¶¶ 1, 24.) Two days later, on behalf of Florida Hospital and pursuant to Volusia County's hospital lien law (“Hospital Lien Law”), Accelerated Claims Inc. (“ACI”) sent Geiger a copy of a hospital lien claiming the amount owed for medical treatment-$1, 840.75. (See Doc. 1-1 (“Geiger Lien”).) The Geiger Lien indicated that it “[did] not represent any action or judgment against Richard Geiger” and that “it [was] limited to only proceeds arising from automobile insurance” (“Disclaimer”). (See id.) In addition, the Geiger Lien identified Geico Insurance Company (“Geico”) as the party liable for Geiger's medical charges. (Id.)

         Some months later, on May 1, 2016, Plaintiff Denis Twomey (“Twomey”) received medical care at Halifax Medical Center of Daytona Beach (“Halifax”). (See Doc. 1, ¶ 26.) Thereafter, Halifax sent Twomey a copy of a hospital lien claiming entitlement to the amount of medical charges that Twomey incurred at Halifax-$21, 777. (See Doc. 1-2 (“Twomey Lien”) collectively with the Geiger Lien, “Hospital Liens”.) The Twomey Lien also identified Geico as the party liable for Twomey's damages but did not contain a Disclaimer. (See id.)

         Based on a recent Florida Supreme Court decision, which concluded that Alachua County's hospital lien law was unconstitutional under the Florida Constitution, see Shands Teaching Hosp. and Clinics, Inc. v. Mercury Ins. Co. of Fla., 97 So.3d 204, 207 (Fla. 2012), Plaintiffs allege that the Hospital Lien Law is also unconstitutional under the Florida Constitution. (Doc. 1, 21.) Consequently, Plaintiffs contend that the Hospital Liens are invalid. (See id. ¶¶ 8, 12.)

         Based on the foregoing, Plaintiffs initiated the instant putative class action alleging that Defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”) by asserting and attempting to collect on the Hospital Liens. (See id ¶¶ 42-69.) Specifically, Geiger asserts: (1) an FDCPA claim against ACI (“Count I”); (2) an FCCPA claim against ACI (“Count II”); and (3) an FCCPA claim against Florida Hospital (“Count III”). Twomey asserts a single FCCPA claim against Halifax (“Count IV”). (Id. ¶¶ 63-69.)

         ACI and Halifax now move to dismiss the Counts alleged against them with prejudice. (Docs. 51, 53 (“MTDs”).) Florida Hospital separately moves for judgment on the pleadings as to Count III under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) or, alternatively, for summary judgment. (Doc. 62.) The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for the Court's consideration.

         II. Legal Standards

         A pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “[D]etailed factual allegations” are not required, but “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Rather, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may request dismissal of a pleading that falls short of these pleadings requirements. In resolving such motions, courts limit their consideration to the face of the complaint, its attachments, “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322-23 (2007); see also Hoefling v. City of Miami, 811 F.3d 1271, 1277 (11th Cir. 2016). Dismissal is warranted if, assuming the truth of the factual allegations of the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in a plaintiff's favor, there is a dispositive legal issue which precludes relief. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989); see also Bailey v. Wheeler, 843 F.3d 473, 480 (11th Cir. 2016).

         III. Analysis

         A. FDCPA Claim

         To plead an FDCPA claim, a plaintiff must allege facts showing that: (1) he has been the object of collection activity arising from a consumer debt; (2) the defendant is a debt collector as defined by the FDCPA; and (3) the defendant has engaged in an act or omission prohibited by the FDCPA. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692e; see also Reese v. Ellis, Painter Ratterree & Adams, LLP, 678 F.3d 1211, 1216 (11th Cir. 2012); Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co. v. Foxx, 971 F.Supp. 2d. 1106, 1114 (M.D. Fla. 2013). ACI attacks the first two elements, contending that, under the FDCPA: (1) the Geiger Lien is not debt collection activity (“Debt ...


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