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White v. MSCB, Inc,

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

August 29, 2019

FRANKFORT DANIEL WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
MSCB, Inc., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Gregory F.Van Tatenhove, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff 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 MSCB, Inc. for attempting to collect from him a debt incurred by his wife. Today, this Court considers Defendant's Motions to Dismiss [R. 8; R. 16] and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint [R. 10]. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint will be DENIED, and Defendant's Motions to Dismiss will be GRANTED.

         I

         Plaintiff Daniel White initiated this suit in August, 2018 seeking damages for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. [R. 1 at ¶ 1.] Specifically, Mr. White alleges that debt collector Defendant MSCB, Inc. violated the FDCPA by attempting to collect a debt from him he did not owe. [R. 1 at ¶ 6-7.] Mr. White is married to Tammy Jean White. Id. at ¶ 14. At some point, Mrs. White received medical treatment from Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, and incurred medical debt. On March 2, 2018, MSCB sent Mr. White a “dunning” letter in an attempt to collect the debt Mrs. White incurred while at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville. [R. 1 at ¶ 6.] At no point has Mr. White ever agreed to be guarantor or obligor for the debt, nor has he assumed the debt. [R. 1 at ¶ 13.]

         Nevertheless, MSCB has attempted to collect the balance for Mrs. White's medical bills from Mr. White, based on Kentucky's “necessaries” statute. See K.R.S. § 404.040. In so doing, Mr. White argues that MSCB has violated FDCPA. More specifically, Mr. White argues that KRS 404.040 is facially unconstitutional, and therefore MSCB may not hide behind it in order to validate what would otherwise be unfair debt collection practice. According to Mr. White, MSCB's reliance on KRS 404.040 amounts to “misrepresenting the legal status of the debt[.]” [R. 1 at ¶16.] MSCB argues that the Kentucky law is valid, and therefore they cannot be held liable for unfair debt collection practices.

         II

         A

         This Court first turns to Mr. White's Motions 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)).

         Mr. White's proposed First Amended Complaint differs from his original complaint in that it contains several additional assertions of fact. [R. 10-1.] In his Amended Complaint, Mr. White more clearly sets out the relationship between Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, KentuckyOne Health, and KentuckyOne Health, Inc., thereby fleshing-out his argument that “MSCB violated the FDCPA by . . . failing to identify the correct original creditor in its initial communication with Mr. White. [R. 10-1 at ¶¶ 15-18.] The Amended Complaint also alleges, rather than implies, that MSCB in fact relied on KRS 404.040 to justify seeking repayment of Mrs. White's debt from Mr. White. [R. 10-1 at ¶25.] Finally, Mr. White sets forth the bases upon which he believes this Court should find K.R.S. 404.040 facially unconstitutional. Id. at ¶¶25-28.] Though Claims for Relief and Prayer for Relief are identical to his initial complaint, in the Introduction Mr. White makes it clear that he seeks “declaratory relief that KRS 404.040 is unconstitutional, ” which is another item not including in his initial complaint. Id. at ¶1.

         MSCB opposes Mr. White's request to file an amended complaint because it claims that his Proposed Amended Complaint could not survive a motion to dismiss. [R. 11; R. 16.] 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).

         B

         A 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).

         Mr. White essentially claims that MSCB violated the FDCPA by attempting to collect a debt from him that he does not owe. MSCB 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 thus find the defendant violated the FDCPA by attempting to collect debt in reliance on the state statute. Secondarily, Mr. White's amended complaint alleges that MSCB violated FDCPA because it's March 2, ...


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