In a ruling this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected the stricter pleading standard adopted by the United States Supreme Court. This means that lawsuits will be more difficult to dismiss-- at least through an early motion to dismiss from defendants. The Court's holding is below:
we now decline to engraft the plausibility standard from Twombly and Iqbal onto our traditional interpretation of Minn. R. Civ. P. 8.01. We decline to do so despite the fact that the relevant text of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) is identical to the text of Minn. R. Civ. P. 8.01. The similarities between the federal rule and our rule make Twombly and Iqbal “instructive,” but not binding. See T.A. Schifsky & Sons, Inc. v. Bahr Constr., LLC, 773 N.W.2d 783, 787 n.3 (Minn. 2009) (“Where the language of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is similar to language in the Minnesota civil procedure rules, federal cases on the issue are instructive.”). We are not bound because we have the power to “regulate the pleadings, practice, procedure, and the forms thereof in civil actions in all courts of this state.” Minn. Stat. § 480.051 (2012). In our view, the plain language of Rule 8.01, its purpose and history, and its procedural context make clear that the rule means today what it meant at the time Olson and Franklin were decided. A claim is sufficient against a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim if it is possible on any evidence which might be produced, consistent with the pleader’s theory, to grant the relief demanded.
HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" has found its unique and successful variation of the news comedy routine: rather than spending 2 minutes here or 5 minutes there on every hot topic of the day in quick succession, à la John Stewart or Stephen Colbert, Oliver dedicates the bulk of each weekly broadcast to a single issue. Recent weeks have covered the Indian general elections, capital punishment, the perils of native advertising, and the United States' astronomical incarceration rate. This week: the payday lending industry.
When folks literally working paycheck-to-paycheck need emergency money that can't wait until next Tuesday, and it is beyond the capacity of any friend or relative to lend the money themselves, they often turn to payday lending. Payday loans, for those who are fortunate enough to exist outside their grinding cycle, are short-term loans that become due on the borrower's next payday. The interest rates are generally in the hundreds of percents, though sometimes the thousands. Often times, the interest on these loans increases so fast that the eventual paycheck doesn't cover it, and the borrower is forced to take out yet another loan to cover the one already owed. The self-stated business plan of many of these companies, as Oliver reveals, is intentionally cyclical.
Regulation has proved difficult. Take Texas, for example, which recently attempted to crack down on the predatory, usurious practices of many of its payday lenders. The regulatory bill in question faced stiff opposition from Rep. Gary Elkins, owner of 12 payday loan branches. Rep. Vicki Truitt, a representative seen slamming Rep. Elkins on the Texas House floor for his conflict of interest in the Oliver segment linked above, went on to lobby for a payday lender herself just over than two weeks after leaving office. Even the Texas Finance Commission, the regulatory agency overseeing the industry, is chaired by William J. White, vice president of one of the largest payday lenders in the country. Cyclical, indeed.
Last month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a complaint against Hanna & Associates, a Georgia-based "debt collection lawsuit mill that uses illegal tactics to intimidate consumers into paying debts they may not owe."
According to the Wall Street Journal, "the CPFB's case, filed in federal court in Georgia, accused Hanna & Associates of churning out more than 350,000 credit card collection complaints against consumers, some of whom may owe nothing or owed less than was claimed. Lawyers for the firm typically spend less than a minute reviewing each suit, the CPFB alleged."
What sayeth Hanna & Associates in its defense?
Now more than ever [we] will work increasingly hard to ensure that H.R. 2982 and Senate 2328 are passed.
And what are these bills?
Senate 2328: Fair Debt Collection Practices Technical Clarification Act of 2014. Amends the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to exclude from the definition of "debt collector" any law firm or licensed attorney: (1) serving, filing, or conveying formal legal pleadings, discovery requests, or other documents pursuant to the applicable rules of civil procedure; or (2) communicating in, or at the direction of, a court of law or in depositions or settlement conferences, in connection with a pending legal action to collect a debt on behalf of a client.
"Now more than ever [we] will work increasingly hard to ensure that H.R. 2982 and Senate 2328 are passed." Yeah, I bet.
Bennett Hartz is an associate attorney at Drewes Law, PLLC who specializes in defending against debt collection and foreclosure. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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