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Date: 01-25-2023

Case Style:

Tammy Brake v. Slochowsky & Slochowsky LLP, et al.

Case Number: 1:19-cv-00280

Judge: Eric N. Vitaliano

Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Kings County)

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: Anthony D. Green for Slochowsky & Slochowsky LLP

ov Ber Medinets for East 22nd Street Towers LLC

Description: Brooklyn, New York consumer law lawyers represented Plaintiff, who sued Defendants on Fair Debt Collection Act violation theories.

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Plaintiff Tammy Brake initiated this action against her landlord corporation, affiliated officers and agents, and the corporation's former attorneys for alleged violations of federal, state, and local law in connection with rent demands and repeated housing court actions for purported nonpayment of rent. She asserts claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. , and N.Y. Judiciary Law § 487 ("Judiciary Law"), against the law firm Slochowsky & Slochowsky, LLP ("Slochowsky"), as well as a claim under N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 27-2005(d), against East 22nd Street Towers LLC ("East 22"), Yossel Lichtman, Sara Lichtman, and Mayer Waldman (collectively, "landlords"). Further, plaintiff claims all defendants violated New York General Business Law § 349 ("GBL"). Defendants move to dismiss the complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Alternatively, defendants seek an order declining supplemental jurisdiction, and severing and remanding non-federal claims, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). For the reasons set forth below, Slochowsky's motion to dismiss is granted with respect to plaintiff's claims under FDCPA § 1692d, Judiciary Law § 487, and GBL § 349, but denied with respect to plaintiff's claims under FDCPA §§ 1692e and 1692f. The landlords’ motion to dismiss with respect to plaintiff's claims under GBL § 349 is granted, but denied with respect to plaintiff's N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 27-2005(d) claim.

* * *

Plaintiff is the rent-stabilized tenant of 596 East 22nd Street, Apt. 4B, in Brooklyn, where she has resided for over 30 years. Dkt. 1 ("Compl.") ¶ 12. The apartment building is owned by East 22. Compl. ¶ 8. Defendants Yossel Lichtman, Sara Lichtman, and Mayer Waldman are officers and agents affiliated with East 22. See Compl.

¶¶ 9–11. On or around January 11, 2018, plaintiff received a "five-day notice" from East 22, advising her that she owed $2130.81 total in past due rent for the months of November 2017, December 2017, and January 2018. See Compl. ¶ 15.1 On February 13, 2018, the Urban Justice Center, acting as plaintiff's attorney, responded by letter to East 22 that plaintiff had already paid rent for the noticed months and even provided relevant canceled checks as proof. Id. ¶ 17. Moving quickly, however, Slochowsky had already commenced a housing court action on East 22's behalf, seeking $2130.81 in rent arrears and $272.00 in legal fees. Id. ¶¶ 18-19.

Both parties appeared in housing court on February 21, 2018, where a Slochowsky associate provided a rent ledger from East 22, showing that plaintiff had paid rent for all months between February 2016 and 2018. See id. ¶ 20. But, the ledger also listed an unspecified "carried balance" of $637.54 from prior to February 2016. Id. ¶ 21. Because of the carried balance, Slochowsky declined to discontinue the proceeding. Id. The proceeding was adjourned until March 13, 2018, for Slochowsky to substantiate the carried balance, but the firm was unable to do so. Id. ¶¶ 21–22. With the absence of any proof, the parties signed a stipulation discontinuing the action with prejudice through February 2018. Id. ¶ 22. Then, on or around June 4, 2018, plaintiff received another five-day notice from East 22, again alleging she owed $2130.81 in past due rent. Id. ¶ 23. Slochowsky commenced a second housing court action on East 22's behalf, seeking $1711.75 in rent arrears and legal fees. Id. ¶ 24. The parties again appeared in housing court on August 6, 2018, where a Slochowsky associate again produced a rent ledger from East 22. Id. ¶ 25. The ledger did not appear to have been updated to reflect the prior action, as the original carried balance still appeared. Id. The proceeding was adjourned until October 3, 2018, for the parties to review ledger. Id. ¶ 26. Immediately after the August 2018 hearing and again in September, the Urban Justice Center emailed Slochowsky with an attached copy of the March 13 stipulation requesting the firm discontinue the action. Id. ¶¶ 27–28. Slochowsky responded that they would not discontinue because of rent owed by plaintiff prior to 2018. Id. ¶ 28. Presumably, rather than come up empty again before the housing court judge, the landlords affirmed and the parties signed, on October 3, 2018 (the day before the scheduled hearing), a stipulation discontinuing the action. Id. ¶¶ 30–32.

Outcome: 01/25/2023 63 CLERK'S JUDGMENT: ORDERED and ADJUDGED that Defendants' Cross Motion to Dismiss and Decline Supplemental Jurisdiction is granted as stated on the record at the 01/13/2023 hearing. Ordered by Jalitza Poveda, Deputy Clerk on behalf of Brenna B. Mahoney, Clerk of Court on 1/20/2023. (JT) (Entered: 01/25/2023)

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