Hyman v. Capital One Auto Fin.

Decision Date23 January 2018
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:17–89
Parties Angela HYMAN, Plaintiff, v. CAPITAL ONE AUTO FINANCE, Commonwealth Recovery Group, Inc., Pennsylvania State Police, Col. Tyree C. Blocker, Michael Morris, Bryan Devlin, John Doe Troopers 1–10, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania

306 F.Supp.3d 756

Angela HYMAN, Plaintiff,
CAPITAL ONE AUTO FINANCE, Commonwealth Recovery Group, Inc., Pennsylvania State Police, Col. Tyree C. Blocker, Michael Morris, Bryan Devlin, John Doe Troopers 1–10, Defendants.


United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania.

Signed January 23, 2018

306 F.Supp.3d 759

Andrew M. Milz, Cary L. Flitter, Jody T. Lopez–Jacobs, Flitter Milz, P.C., Narberth, PA, for Plaintiff.

Andrew K. Stutzman, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP, Eitan D. Blanc, Pro Hac Vice, Zarwin, Baum, Devito, Kaplan, Schaer & Toddy, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, Eric M. Hurwitz, Michelle Badolato, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP, Cherry Hill, NJ, Jessica K. Albert, Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, LLC, J. Eric Barchiesi, Office of Attorney General, Pittsburgh, PA, Ray Hughes, Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, Lisle, IL, James F. Logue, Zarwin, Baum, Devito, Kaplan, Schaer Toddy, Harrisburg, PA, for Defendants.



I. Introduction

Pending before the Court are two motions to dismiss. The first motion was filed

306 F.Supp.3d 760

by Defendants Commonwealth Recovery Group, Inc. ("Commonwealth Recovery") and Capital One Auto Finance ("Capital One"), who move to dismiss Counts III and IV of the Amended Complaint and to strike Plaintiff's punitive damages claim. (See ECF No. 41.) The second motion was filed by the Pennsylvania State Police, Col. Tyree C. Blocker, Trooper Michael Morris, Trooper Bryan Devlin, and John Doe Troopers 1–10 (collectively the "Commonwealth Defendants"), who move to dismiss Counts V and VI of the Amended Complaint. (See ECF No. 39.)

The motions have been fully briefed (see ECF Nos. 40, 43, 52, 53) and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Capital One and Commonwealth Recovery's motion to dismiss in its entirety (ECF No. 41). The Court will grant in part, and deny in part, the Commonwealth Defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 39).

II. Jurisdiction

The Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction over her related state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because a substantial portion of the events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims occurred in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

III. Background

A. Factual Background1

This case involves the repossession of a car. In 2014, Plaintiff purchased a new Toyota Corolla. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 19.) Capital One financed Plaintiff's purchase and obtained a security interest in the vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 20.) In 2016, Plaintiff was hospitalized because of an unspecified illness and requested that Capital One defer her auto payments. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Capital One considered Plaintiff's request but did not inform Plaintiff whether it would approve it. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Ultimately, and without notice to Plaintiff, Capital One "ordered" Commonwealth Recovery to repossess Plaintiff's automobile. (Id. at ¶ 23.)

The repossession occurred the evening of October 5, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Plaintiff and her partner, Shyree, heard a truck pulling up to Plaintiff's house. (Id. ) When they peered out the window, they saw "a repo man" in the driveway attempting to repossess Plaintiff's car. (Id. at ¶ 25.) The driveway is part of Plaintiff's property. (Id. )

Plaintiff went outside and "told the repo man to get off her property." (Id. at ¶ 30.) Shyree believed that the "repo man" was about to illegally repossess Plaintiff's vehicle and, in an attempt to prevent him from succeeding, got into Plaintiff's car and closed the door. (Id. at ¶ 31.) Plaintiff "demanded repeatedly" that the "repo man" vacate her property and told him he was "trespassing." (Id. at ¶ 32.) Despite Plaintiff's demands, the "repo man" remained on Plaintiff's property and attempted to repossess her vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 34.)

At some point, the "repo man" called the Pennsylvania State Police. (Id. at ¶ 40.) Shortly thereafter, multiple Pennsylvania State Troopers arrived at Plaintiff's residence, including Defendants Bryan Devlin and Michael Morris. (Id. at ¶ 41.)

The Pennsylvania State Troopers "assisted" the "repo man" in repossessing Plaintiff's vehicle (id. at ¶ 43), even though they "knew" that that neither Capital One

306 F.Supp.3d 761

nor the "repo man" had received a court order or writ authorizing them to seize Plaintiff's car. (Id. at ¶ 44.) In fact, at the time these events unfolded, "[n]o legal determination had been sought or made regarding entitlement to seize [Plaintiff's] car." (Id. at ¶ 45.) But this did not prevent "[o]ne of the troopers, believed to be Defendant Bryan Devlin[,]" from informing Plaintiff that "the repo man had the right to repossess the vehicle." (Id. at ¶ 46.)

At this juncture, Shyree was still inside the car, while Plaintiff, Trooper Devlin, and the "repo man" stood outside the vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 47.) Plaintiff called her daughter Makiba for advice. (Id. ) Makiba, a law student, "politely told Trooper Devlin that his actions were in violation of the law, and that this was a purely civil matter." (Id. at 48.)

One of the Troopers2 stated that "if she [Shyree] does not willingly come out [of the car] we are going to have to remove her."3 (Id. at ¶ 50.) After Makiba, speaking over the cellphone, told the Troopers that the "police cannot enforce a civil contract" and that they were inappropriately taking sides between private parties in a civil dispute, one of the Troopers stated that "what's going to happen here today is we already spoke with the tower [and] they have to get the vehicle tonight, okay?" (Id. ) One of the Troopers then said to Makiba, "[m]aam, maam, okay—if you're talking with the young lady in the car, okay, if you would please tell her to get out so these men can do their job." (Id. ) Makiba told the Troopers that he was acting "unlawfully." (Id. ) One of the Troopers responded, "[o]kay, you can file a complaint on me later. That's okay." (Id. )

Makiba told one of the Troopers "[s]ir[,] you cannot ask her to get out of the car."4 (Id. ) One of the Troopers responded by threatening to "break the window" and remove Shyree from the car if she did not

306 F.Supp.3d 762

exit on her own. (Id. ) Makiba informed one of the Troopers that she was recording him. (Id. ) The Trooper responded "[i]t's okay[,] you can record it, I'm telling you what's going to happen. She is going to be removed, she is going to be arrested for disorderly conduct and the car is still going to get taken." (Id. )

Makiba again told one of the Troopers that he was "breaking the law," to which the Trooper responded "[t]hat's okay."5 (Id. ) One of the Troopers asked if Makiba was going to ask Shyree to exit the vehicle. (Id. ) Makiba stated that Shyree would comply with the Trooper's command but reiterated that the Trooper was unlawfully enforcing a civil contract in the absence of a court order. (Id. ) One of the Troopers told Makiba that she could "contact the state police, talk to my sergeant, [and that] I am the shift supervisor tonight, [so] you can file a complaint against me." (Id. ) After more back and forth between Makiba and one of the Troopers, the Trooper instructed Makiba "to call her [Shyree] and tell her to [comply with my order] and once I know that she is going to get out [of the car] we'll be okay." (Id. )

Makiba hung up her call with the Trooper and called Shyree, who was still sitting inside Plaintiff's vehicle.6 (Id. ) One of the Troopers, standing outside the car, stated "I'm not going to wait all day." (Id. ) The Trooper then told Shyree "[y]ou got about 30 more seconds [sic]." (Id. ) Shortly thereafter, one of the Troopers informed Shyree "[y]ou've got 30 seconds to come out or we breaking the window and coming in [sic ], how long have we been dealing with this? I asked nicely, I explained to you what is going to happen, okay?" (Id. ) One of the Troopers then informed Shyree that "[i]f you refuse to come out we are going to have to remove you and I do not want to do that for a repossessed vehicle." (Id. )

Shyree complied with the Trooper's command and exited the vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 51.) Once Shyree had exited the vehicle, the Trooper "directed" Plaintiff to "surrender her vehicle to the repo man." (Id. )

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed her Complaint before this Court on May 30, 2017 (see ECF No. 1), followed by an Amended Complaint on August 4, 2017 (see ECF No. 27). Plaintiff asserts six counts in her Amended Complaint: (1) a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Claim against Commonwealth Recovery (id. at ¶¶ 83–87); (2) a claim under the Pennsylvania Uniform Commercial Code against Capital One (id. at ¶¶ 88–91); (3) a conversion/trespass to chattels claim against Capital One and Commonwealth Recovery (id. at ¶¶ 92–96); (4) a trespass claim against Capital One and Commonwealth Recovery (id. at ¶¶ 97–100); (5) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the Pennsylvania State...

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