In Balogun v. Winn Law Group, APC, et. al., No. SA CV 17-0796-DOC (JCGx), 2017 WL 2984075 (C.D. Cal. July 12, 2017), Judge Carter dismissed an FDCPA lawsuit premised on a creditor obtaining a judgment in another state and domesticating that judgment in California.
First, Plaintiff alleges that the Delaware default judgment was improper because Delaware was not a proper venue for the action. Compl. at 7. Under 15 U.S.C. § 1692(i), a debt collector bringing legal action against a consumer may only do so in the district where the consumer (1) “signed the contract sued upon” or (2) “resides at the commencement of the action.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692(i). Plaintiff asserts that Plaintiff signed the Providian credit card contract in New Hampshire, and was living in California at the time FRI brought the Delaware action. Compl. at 3, 7. Should this Court grant Plaintiff her requested relief, the Court would void the Delaware court’s judgment. See Cooper, 704 F.2d at 777. Accordingly, the Court finds that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars Plaintiff’s first cause of action. Second, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants made false or misleading representations in violation of 15 U.S.C § 1692(e) when attempting to collect Plaintiff’s debt. Compl. at 8. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated this statute by misstating the interest rate on Plaintiff’s debt to third parties from 2014 through 2017, after the Sister State Judgment had been issued. See id. at 8–9. Should this Court rule on the merits of Plaintiff’s claim, the Court would need to determine the correct interest rate on Plaintiff’s debt in order to determine whether Defendants misrepresented the amount of debt. This would require review and possible reversal of the state court rulings. Accordingly, the Court finds that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars Plaintiff’s second cause of action. Third, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants engaged in annoying, abusive, or harassing telephone calls in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692(c)–(d) through a contractor, Esser James Collections (“Esser James”) when attempting to collect her debt in 2015 and 2016. Id. at 9. This cause of action does not implicate the validity of the state court judgments and so adjudicating it would not violate the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Noel, 341 F.3d at 1155. Fourth, Plaintiff argues that Defendants’ debt collection practices were in violation of California Civil Code § 1788.52(a). Id. at 11. This claim is based on Defendants’ debt collection practices after the Delaware and California default judgments were issued, and does not raise issues addressed in those actions. See id. Therefore, Plaintiff’s fourth claim is not barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Fifth, Plaintiff contends that the Providian credit card contract contained a choice-of-law provision designating New Hampshire law as the governing law, which mean the Delaware court improperly entered default judgment. Id. at 12. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that Defendants’ “willful omission of the credit card contract in all of their pleadings and request for judgment” was in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 45(a), which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” Id. Should this Court rule on the merits of Plaintiff’s claim arising under 15 U.S.C. § 45(a), this Court would necessarily need to decide whether the Delaware Court properly entered default. Accordingly, the Court finds that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars Plaintiff’s fifth cause of action. The Court GRANTS Winn’s Motion as to Plaintiff’s causes of action under 15 U.S.C. § 1692(i), 15 U.S.C § 1692(e), and 15 U.S.C. § 45(a) as barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.