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Ali v. LH Alliance Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

August 23, 2019

SAFRAH ALI, Plaintiff,
LH ALLIANCE INC., a Florida corporation doing business as Alliance Property Systems and VILLAGE SQUARE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATIONS, INC., Defendants.



         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon two Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Village Square Condominium Association, Inc. (“Village Square”), ECF No. [7], and LH Alliance, Inc. (“LH”), ECF No. [9] (together, the “Motions”). The Court has considered the Motions, all opposing and supporting submissions, the record in this case and the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons explained below, the Motions are granted in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises as a result of a disagreement regarding the amount due following a special assessment. Plaintiff Safrah Ali (“Plaintiff” or “Ali”) was the owner of a one-bedroom condominium unit that formed part of Village Square. ECF No. [1] ¶ 19. As a member of the homeowner's association, Ali was required to pay monthly maintenance charges to Village Square and along with other members, was responsible for payment of any special assessments validly enacted by the homeowners' association board and/or members. Id. In 2017, the owners were subject to a special assessment for various projects to improve the property, according to which one-bedroom unit owners would owe $12, 229.82. Id. ¶ 21; ECF No. [1-1]. Ali was given the option to pay the special assessment in monthly installments, with payments to begin on January 1, 2018. ECF No. [1] ¶ 21. Ali alleges that she began to make monthly payments on the special assessment around September, 2017, before the first payment due date. Id.

         On or about December 12, 2018, Ali sold her condominium unit to a third party purchaser, and the amount of the special assessment payoff total became a point of contention between Ali and Village Square and LH (together, “Defendants”). Id. ¶ 22. An estoppel certificate letter delivered to the closing agent at the time of sale of Ali's unit indicates that Ali owed $16, 436.50 for the special assessment, which Ali contends inflates and contradicts the previous amount of $12, 229.82. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. As such, Ali maintains that Defendants have wrongfully refused to refund the amounts they collected at the closing. Id. ¶ 25.

         As a result, Ali asserts claims for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq., the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”), Fla. Stat. §§ 559.55-559.785, against both Defendants (Counts 1 and 2), and for breach of contract against Village Square (Count 3). Defendants now seek dismissal with prejudice of Ali's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining that Rule 8(a)(2)'s pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”). In the same vein, a complaint may not rest on “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (alteration in original)). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. These elements are required to survive a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requests dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         When reviewing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, as a general rule, must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and evaluate all plausible inferences derived from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. S. Everglades Restoration Alliance, 304 F.3d 1076, 1084 (11th Cir. 2002); AXA Equitable Life Ins. Co. v. Infinity Fin. Grp., LLC, 608 F.Supp.2d 1349, 1353 (S.D. Fla. 2009). However, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions, and courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Thaeter v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 449 F.3d 1342, 1352 (11th Cir. 2006). Moreover, “courts may infer from the factual allegations in the complaint ‘obvious alternative explanations,' which suggest lawful conduct rather than the unlawful conduct the plaintiff would ask the court to infer.” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 682). A court considering a Rule 12(b) motion is generally limited to the facts contained in the complaint and attached exhibits, including documents referred to in the complaint that are central to the claim. Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009); see also Maxcess, Inc. v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 433 F.3d 1337, 1340 (11th Cir. 2005) (“[A] document outside the four corners of the complaint may still be considered if it is central to the plaintiff's claims and is undisputed in terms of authenticity.”) (citing Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1135 (11th Cir. 2002)).


         A. Village Square's Motion to Dismiss

         Village Square argues that Ali's claims should be dismissed because Village Square does not meet the statutory definition of a “debt collector” under the FDCPA or FCCPA, Ali fails to specify which subsection(s) of the FDCPA or FCCPA Village Square allegedly violated, Ali fails to allege that Village Square knowingly collected an incorrect debt in order to state a FCCPA claim, and the exhibits attached to the Complaint, ECF No. [1], expressly contradict the breach of contract claim.

         At the outset, the Court notes that despite granting Ali's request for an extension of time to respond to Village Square's Motion, see ECF No. [14], the Response, ECF No. [17], was filed eight days late without explanation.[1] In addition, Ali responds in substance to part of Village Square's first argument only, and thus effectively concedes that her other claims are subject to dismissal. See Brady v. Medtronic, Inc. No. 13-CV-62199-RNS, 2014 WL 1377830, at *6 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 8, 2014). “Generally, a litigant who fails to press a point by supporting it with pertinent authority, or by showing why it is sound despite a lack of supporting authority or in the face of contrary authority, forfeits the point. The court will not do his research for him.” Melford v. Kahane & Assocs., 371 F.Supp.3d 1116, 1126 n.4 (S.D. Fla. 2019) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Nevertheless, the Court considers Village Square's arguments in turn.

         i. Village Square is not a “debt collector” ...

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