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Smith v. Athenahealth, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 14, 2018

CHARMANE SMITH, Plaintiff
v.
ATHENAHEALTH, INC., Defendant

          RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER REVIEW PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)

          JOHN C. NIVISON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         In this action, Plaintiff alleges Defendant sent Plaintiff bills for medical services Plaintiff did not receive and did not eliminate the debt after Plaintiff disputed the debt. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.)

         Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), which application the Court granted. (ECF No. 6.) In accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         Following a review of the complaint, I recommend the Court dismiss Plaintiff's complaint.

         Standard of Review

         The federal in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, is designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal courts for those persons unable to pay the costs of bringing an action. When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, however, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines, ” inter alia, that the action is “frivolous or malicious” or “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). “Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such complaints.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).

         When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Although a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), this is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim, Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980). To allege a civil action in federal court, it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that a defendant acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively allege facts that identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a remedy. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Factual Background [1]

         According to Plaintiff, Defendant sent three bills for podiatry services Plaintiff did not receive. Plaintiff called Defendant twice and mailed two dispute letters, but Defendant did not eliminate the debt. Defendant threatened to send the bills to collections, and Plaintiff is concerned the referral to collections could damage Plaintiff's credit rating. (Complaint at 5.)

         Plaintiff cites four statutes as the bases for the claim: (1) Fair Credit Billing Act; (2) Fair Credit Reporting Act; (3) Americans with Disabilities Act; and (4) False Claims Act (alleging Medicaid billing fraud). (Id. at 4.)

         Discussion

         1. Fair Credit Billing Act

         Through the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), Pub. L. No. 93-495, 88 Stat. 1511 (1974) (codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 1666 - 1666j), Congress amended the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) to “protect the consumer against inaccurate and unfair credit billing and credit card practices.” 15 U.S.C. § 1601(a); Krieger v. Bank of Am., N.A., 890 F.3d 429, 433 (3d Cir. 2018). The FCBA applies only to “open-end consumer credit plans.” 15 U.S.C. § 1666 (referencing TILA § 1637). Lyon v. Chase Bank USA, N.A., 656 F.3d 877, 880 (9th Cir. 2011); Stroman v. Bank of Am. Corp., 852 F.Supp.2d 1366, 1374 (N.D.Ga. 2012). Plaintiff ...


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