A District Court judge in Michigan has denied a plaintiff’s motion to remand a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act case back to small claims court where it was originally filed and notified the plaintiff that he must file a more “definitive” statement of claims to provide the defendant with more information for its response.
The Background: The plaintiff claims that the defendant “willfully and negligently” reported information about a debt to the three major credit reporting agencies with “zero proof” that the debts were incurred by the plaintiff.
Stay Where You Are: Judge Terrence G. Berg of the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan agreed with the defendant that because the claims are based on federal law, then federal court is where the case should be heard. Even though Judge Berg conceded the plaintiff might be right about the defendant’s motives to remove the case to federal court — an attempt to force the plaintiff in abandoning his case because he will have to hire a lawyer and incur costs to prosecute that he would not have incurred if the case were heard in small claims court — the reasons do not preclude the defendant from having a legal right to remove the case to federal court.
Strike That, Reverse It: Judge Berg sided with the defendant that the claim being made by the plaintiff was too vague and that it would be impossible to mount a defense based on what was included in the complaint. For example, the complaint does not break down which sections of the FDCPA the defendant allegedly violated, and he could be arguing that the defendant either used his credit report for an impermissible purpose or failed to report a disputed account or failed to reasonably investigate a dispute. Judge Berg also had a word of advice for the plaintiff in his ruling.
The Last Word: “Given that it is possible to infer multiple possible bases for Berry’s claims, and that Berry likely will be easily able to clarify the nature of his claims by providing additional details of his claims, the Court concludes that a more definite statement would assist the Court in dealing more efficiently with this case and would also enable Afni to file a responsive pleading,” Judge Berg wrote. “The Court also recommends that Mr. Berry consult an attorney about this case.”