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Cummings v. Rushmore Loan Management Service

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

October 26, 2017

SALLIE A. CUMMINGS, Plaintiff,
v.
RUSHMORE LOAN MANAGEMENT SERVICE and U.S. BANK, N.A., as Trustee for the RMAC Trust, Series 2016-CTT, Defendants.

          ORDER

          VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Defendants Rushmore Loan Management Service and U.S. Bank, N.A.'s Motion to Dismiss Count III of Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim or, Alternatively, Motion for More Definite Statement as to Count III, filed on October 9, 2017. (Doc. # 32). Plaintiff Sallie A. Cummings responded on October 20, 2017. (Doc. # 46). For the reasons that follow, the Motion is denied.

         I. Background

         Cummings initiated this action in state court on June 1, 2017, asserting claims under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA), Fla. Stat. §§ 559.55 et seq.; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq.; and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. §§ 227 et seq. (Doc. # 2). Defendants removed the case to federal court on July 10, 2017, and filed a motion to dismiss the TCPA claim, Count III of the Complaint, on August 11, 2017. (Doc. ## 1, 19). Cummings responded to that motion on August 31, 2017. (Doc. # 22).

         The Court granted the first motion to dismiss on September 12, 2017, because “[t]he Complaint [was] devoid of factual allegations to support the inference that an” automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) “or artificial or prerecorded voice was used for the calls to Cummings's cell phone.” (Doc. # 23 at 8). The Court identified examples of allegations that support that an ATDS was used: the number of calls and their frequency; that the plaintiff “heard an artificial or prerecorded voice during a call”; or that the “conversation with [d]efendants' employee began with a pause.” (Id.) (citing Neptune v. Whetstone Partners, LLC, 34 F.Supp.3d 1247, 1250 (S.D. Fla. 2014); Padilla v. Whetstone Partners, LLC, No. 14-21079-CIV, 2014 WL 3418490, at *2 (S.D. Fla. July 14, 2014)).

         Cummings filed the Amended Complaint on September 28, 2017. (Doc. # 30). The facts alleged by the Amended Complaint are summarized below.

         In 2008, Cummings obtained a mortgage for her property. (Id. at ¶ 21). The bank that then held the debt called Cummings in March of 2012 in an attempt to collect it, and Cummings provided the bank with her counsel's contact information. (Id. at ¶ 24). Once foreclosure proceedings were initiated, attorneys representing Cummings directed the bank to cease all direct communication with Cummings on two occasions. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 27). The mortgage debt and its servicing were transferred multiple times and Cummings or her counsel “explicitly withdrew any consent for Cummings to be contacted directly by mail or telephone with respect to the [d]ebt” from each transferee. (Id. at ¶ 28-30).

         On January 1, 2017, the servicing of the debt was “transferred to Rushmore to collect on behalf of U.S. Bank.” (Id. at ¶ 31). “At the time of the transfer, Rushmore and U.S. Bank, and its representatives, agents, or employees were advised of the Debt Collection Action, that Cummings is represented by legal counsel, the contact information for such legal counsel, and were provided business records and servicing files which included all of the aforementioned communications from [Cummings] and her legal counsel.” (Id. at ¶ 32).

         Nevertheless, in February of 2017, “Cummings received a call from a representative named Rubin who indicated that he was an employee of Rushmore.” (Id. at ¶ 34). Importantly, the Amended Complaint alleges that, upon answering this call but before Rubin began to speak, “Cummings was greeted by a noticeable period of ‘dead air' and audible clicks while the caller's phone system attempted to connect Cummings to a live telephone employee.” (Id. at ¶35). Cummings directed all future communications to her attorney, provided his contact information, and “request[ed] that Rushmore cease communicating with Cummings directly.” (Id. at ¶ 36).

         Cummings alleges that “[w]ithin the four year period immediately preceding this action” Defendants or their agents called Cummings's cellular and home telephones, “for the purpose of collecting on the alleged debt.” (Id. at ¶¶ 47, 52). Cummings states these calls were made “without prior express consent and without an emergency purpose.” (Id. at ¶ 99). Furthermore,

the [] calls to Plaintiff's cellular telephone were placed using an automated telephone dialing system or employed a prerecorded voice message. These calls which utilize a prerecorded message or have a noticeable pause or gap and audible clicks between the time the call is answered until a live human comes onto the line are telltale signs of an automated telephone dialing system.

(Id. at ¶100). According to Cummings,

[a]ll calls and messages which occurred after Rushmore took over servicing this consumer Debt and attempting to collect on the consumer Debt were made in willful violation of the TCPA because Rushmore knew it was making a call to Cummings[‘s] cellular telephone, knew that the system used to make the call qualifies as ...

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