United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION &
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 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.
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.]
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.
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)).
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
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).
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).
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, ...