United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, United States District Judge.
Daniel White brings this action to determine the
constitutionality of Kentucky Revised Statute 404.040. This
statute codifies the antiquated common law “necessaries
doctrine, ” creating legal liability in a husband for
his wife's debts incurred before or after marriage.
Kentucky has no similar statute creating liability in a wife
for her husband's debts, nor does Kentucky have statutes
creating liability for spouses of same sex couples. Mr. White
alleges this statute violates the Equal Protection Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
He has presently sued Jewish Hospital, Universal Fidelity,
LP, and Link Revenue Resources, LLC, for attempting to
collect from him a debt owed by his wife. Today, this Court
considers Universal Fidelity's Motion to Dismiss, Link
Revenue's Motion to Dismiss, and Mr. White's Motion
to Amend/Correct his Complaint. For the following reasons,
all three motions are GRANTED.
Daniel White is happily married to Mrs. Tammy White. [R. 1 at
¶9.] In August of 2014, Mrs. White received medical
treatment at Jewish Hospital in Shelbyville, Kentucky.
Id. at ¶11. Following that treatment, Jewish
Hospital employed Universal Fidelity, a third-party debt
collector, to send Mr. White a letter to collect the
remaining expenses owed from Mrs. White's treatment.
Id. at ¶13. Essentially, Jewish Hospital,
Universal Fidelity, and Link Financial all attempted to
collect a debt from Mr. White that Mr. White believes is
solely owed by Mrs. White. Id. at ¶15-20.
Universal Fidelity identified Mr. White as
“Guarantor” of Mrs. White's debt.
Id. at ¶15. Mr. White claims that Universal
Fidelity has no basis for this characterization other than
Kentucky Revised Statute 404.040, which requires a husband to
be liable for “necessaries furnished to [his wife]
after marriage.” Mr. White seeks both declaratory and
monetary relief. He claims, first, that he is not liable for
his wife's debt and that Universal Fidelity and Link
Revenue Resources violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act (FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq.) by
attempting to collect a debt from him that he did not owe. In
addition, Mr. White seeks a declaration that KRS 404.040 is
the filing of this complaint, both Link Revenue Resources and
Universal Fidelity filed Motions to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim under Rule 12(b)(6). [R. 4; R. 8.] Jewish
Hospital filed an Answer requesting dismissal for various
reasons, including failure to state a claim under Rule
12(b)(6). [R. 6.] Mr. White responded to the motions of Link
Revenue Resources and Universal Fidelity, but also filed a
Motion for Leave to Amend/Correct Complaint. [R. 10.] Jewish
Hospital, Link Revenue Resources, and Universal Fidelity all
opposed this motion. [R. 14.]
Court first turns to Mr. White's Motion for Leave to
Amend/Correct his Complaint. Amendments to pleadings are
governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, which
provides that even if the party does not seek the amendment
within the of-right period, the court may give leave to
permit such an amendment and should “freely give leave
when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The
United States Supreme Court has read this provision broadly,
and the Sixth Circuit has recognized that “where the
underlying facts would support, a motion for leave to amend
should be granted, except in cases of undue delay, undue
prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith, dilatory motive,
repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, or futility.” Duggins v.
Steak'n Shake, Inc., 195 F.3d 828 (6th Cir. 1999)
(citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962)).
White's proposed First Amended Complaint contains several
additional assertions of fact. [R. 10-1.] He claims he had
not agreed to pay the debt to Jewish Hospital and was
concerned about the impact this debt collection might have on
his credit report. Id. at ¶15-23; ¶26;
¶39. In addition, Mr. White lists the time and money he
spent attempting to dispute this debt. Id. Mr. White
also contests the assertion by Jewish Hospital that he agreed
to serve as the guarantor of debt for Mrs. White's
medical expenses. Id. at ¶29-30. However, Mr.
White's legal claims and prayer for relief is largely the
same in his Proposed First Amended Complaint as in his
Complaint. The only difference this Court can find is
that the original Complaint included a prayer that this Court
“Declare that Plaintiff does not owe the Jewish
Hospital debt incurred by his wife” [R. 1 at 4,
¶4], but this is not included in the Proposed First
Fidelity, Link Revenue Resources, and Jewish Hospital all
oppose Mr. White's request to file an amended complaint
because they all claim that the amendment is futile. [R. 14
at 4.] A court has leave to deny an amendment if that
amendment would be futile. Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.
“A proposed amendment is futile if the amendment could
not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.”
Rose v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d
417, 420 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Thiokol Corp. v. Dept.
of Treasury, State of Michigan, Revenue Div., 987 F.2d
376, 382-83 (6th Cir. 1993)). Thus, this Court turns to
whether Mr. White's Proposed First Amended Complaint
would survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. In reviewing a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “construe[s] the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
accept[s] its allegations as true, and draw[s] all inferences
in favor of the plaintiff.” DirecTV, Inc. v.
Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted). The Court, however, “need not accept as true
legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.”
Id. (quoting Gregory v. Shelby County, 220
F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000)). The Supreme Court explained
that in order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). See also Courier
v. Alcoa Wheel & Forged Products, 577 F.3d 625, 629 (6th
Cir. 2009). In the Proposed First Amended Complaint, Mr.
White attached several exhibits. The Court may consider these
exhibits without converting this Motion to a motion for
summary judgment because these exhibits were attached to the
complaint. Amini v. Oberlin College, 259
F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001).
White essentially claims that Universal Fidelity and Link
Revenue violated the FDCPA by attempting to collect a debt
from him that he does not owe. Universal Fidelity, Link
Revenue, and Jewish Hospital allegedly relied on KRS 404.040
to determine that Mr. White was responsible for the debts of
Mrs. White. Mr. White urges this Court to find KRS 404.040
unconstitutional, and ...