In Greenberg v. Hunt and Henriques, 2011 WL 4639833 (C.D.Cal. 2011) Judge Nguyen found a consumer collaterally estopped from pursuing an FDCPA case in federal court based on the improper filing and prosecution to judgment of a state court collection action. The district court found that the plaintiff was collaterally estopped to challenge the state court action, and that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear an FDCPA case challenging the state court judgment under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. As to collateral estoppel, Judge Nguyen explained the facts, and the collateral estoppel issue as follows:
On or about April 29, 2010, on behalf of FIA Card Services, N.A., Defendants, acting as debt collectors, filed a credit card collection action against Plaintiff in the Los Angeles County Superior Court styled, FIA Card Services, N.A. v. Judith E. Green-berg, et al., Case No. 10E05131 (“the FIA Action”), seeking to recover a credit card balance owed by Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 7.) The FIA Action asserted a single cause of action for common counts based on (1) open book account; (2) account stated; (3) money lent; (4) money paid at the special interest and request, and (5) unjust enrichment. (Compl., Ex. A at 5.) FN1 On May 16, 2011, the action was tried. (Opp’n 3.) Following the court trial, judgment was entered in favor of FIA in the amount of $19,636.61. (Opp’n, Ex. C.) The court found that FIA “has proven the elements of its common count cause for an account stated.” After the close of evidence, FIA made a motion to amend its complaint in order to add a breach of contract cause of action. However, the court found the motion moot as a result of the entry of judgment in favor of FIA. (Id.) ¶ . . . By the instant action, Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendants liable for violating the FDCPA by proceeding in a debt collection lawsuit with the knowledge that there was no written credit card agreement to justify the debt claimed. (Compl. ¶ 14.) Whether a debt collector can sue a debtor for an unpaid credit card debt by asserting common counts is an issue that has already been addressed in the FIA Action, and the state court entered judgment against Plaintiff. (Reply 4–5; Opp’n, Ex. C.) Therefore, Plaintiff is barred by collateral estoppel from relitigating this same issue now against Defendants.
As to the FDCPA claim, Judge Nguyen held that she could not hear it under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine:
Plaintiff’s FDCPA claim effectively seeks review of the state court’s decision to allow FIA to collect the debt Plaintiff owed to FIA based on a common count theory. While Plaintiff’s FDCPA claim is predicated on a purported violation of duty imposed by the statute on Defendants, in substance, what Plaintiff is essentially asking is for this Court to overturn the decision of the state court by making a finding that FIA cannot collect credit card debt absent a written agreement. Under the Rooker–Feldman abstention doctrine, “a party losing in state court is barred from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United States district court, based on the losing party’s claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser’s fed-eral rights.” Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005–1006 (1994). Pursuant to that doctrine, the Court has no authority to sit as an appellate court and review the state court’s decision. ¶ Based on the foregoing, even if the Court were to allow Plaintiff to amend her Complaint to plead the missing elements of the FDCPA raised by Defendants, amendment would be futile because Plaintiff’s FDCPA claim is barred by collateral estoppel and the Rooker–Feldman Doctrine. Therefore, Defendants are entitled to judgment on the pleadings with respect to the FDCPA Claim.