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Poblete v. Rittenhouse Mortgage Brokers

December 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document Nos. 3, 18




This matter is before the court on the motion to dismiss filed by defendant Aurora Loan Services, LLC ("Aurora") and the motion to withdraw filed by the plaintiff's attorney. The plaintiff is a dissatisfied mortgagor who seeks to hold the defendants liable for fraud and violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act ("RESPA"), 12 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq. Defendant Rittenhouse Mortgage Brokers ("Rittenhouse") assisted the plaintiff with obtaining the initial mortgage on his property and defendant Aurora provided first and second lien loans to the plaintiff on the property. Because the plaintiff failed to plead fraud with particularity, the court grants Aurora's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's fraud claim. Because the plaintiff fails to respond to Aurora's arguments in favor of dismissing the plaintiff's RESPA claim, the court grants that part of the motion as conceded. Furthermore, because the withdrawal of the plaintiff's attorney would not have a disruptive impact, the court grants the motion to withdraw filed by the plaintiff's attorney.


The plaintiff owns property located in Washington, D.C. Compl. at 1;*fn1 Def. Aurora's Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mot.") at 3. Rittenhouse assisted the plaintiff in obtaining financing and Aurora provided the first and second lien loans on the property. Def.'s Mot. at 3; Compl. at 2-3. It is unclear from the plaintiff's complaint and the parties' submissions what role defendant Closeline, LLC ("Closeline") played in the process. The plaintiff alleges that the "[d]efendants carried out a systematic scheme that affected minorities and individuals who lacked the full knowledge of real estate fees and true cash flow expectations." Compl. at 3. More specifically, the plaintiff alleges that he "was to receive a market interest rate and did not get the rate as quoted by the mortgage brokers," and that the "Bank failed to pay taxes causing [him] $10,000.00 in late fees and costs to avoid a tax sale of his home." Id.

The plaintiff filed his complaint, through his then-attorney William Bach, on May 6, 2008, in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, see generally Compl., and on May 22, 2008, Aurora removed the case to this court, see generally Notice of Removal. Aurora filed its motion to dismiss on May 30, 2008. See generally Def.'s Mot. Bach, on the plaintiff's behalf, filed an opposition to the motion on June 12, 2008, see generally Pl.'s 1st Opp'n, to which Aurora replied on June 19, 2008, see generally Def.'s 1st Reply.

In March 2009, however, the court learned that Bach would be disbarred effective March 28, 2009. See In re Bach, 966 A.2d 350 (D.C. 2009). Accordingly, the court stayed the case until May 25, 2009, to provide the plaintiff with an opportunity to retain a new attorney or decide to proceed pro se. See Minute Order (Mar. 19, 2009). The plaintiff failed to respond to that order and, on June 22, 2009, the court ordered the plaintiff to show cause, on or before July 6, 2009, why Aurora's motion should not be granted. See Order (June 22, 2009). On July 7, 2009, the plaintiff, through his new counsel Christopher Porco, filed a response to the court's order to show cause, see Response to Order to Show Cause, based upon which the court extended the stay until August 7, 2009, and gave the plaintiff until that date to file an opposition to Aurora's motion, see Minute Order (July 13, 2009). The plaintiff filed his opposition on August 7, 2009, see generally Pl.'s 2d Opp'n to Aurora's Mot. to Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp'n")*fn2 , to which Aurora replied on August 14, 2009, see generally Aurora's 2d Reply in Support of Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Reply"). On November 18, 2009, Porco moved to withdraw his appearance in this case. See generally Mot. to Withdraw.


A. The Court Grants Aurora's Motion to Dismiss

1. Legal Standard for a Rule 9(b) Motion to Dismiss

Rule 9(b) requires that a pleader state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake. FED. R. CIV. P. 9(b). Rule 9(b)'s particularity requirement ensures that the opponent has notice of the claim, prevents attacks on his reputation where the claim for fraud is unsubstantiated and protects him against a strike suit brought solely for its settlement value. Shields v. Wash. Bancorp., 1992 WL 88004, at *4 (D.D.C. Apr. 7, 1992); see also Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1279 n.3 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (observing that Rule 9(b) aims to prevent a claim filed as a "pretext for the discovery of unknown wrongs" (citation omitted)); Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merch. Servs., 20 F.3d 771, 777-78 (7th Cir. 1994) (recognizing that Rule 9(b) is largely designed to give each opponent notice of his purported role in the alleged fraud); DiVittorio v. Equidyne Extractive Indus., Inc., 822 F.2d 1242, 1247 (2d Cir. 1987) (same).

Because the rule is chiefly concerned with the elements of fraud, the circumstances that the claimant must plead with particularity include matters such as the time, place, and content of the false misrepresentations, the misrepresented fact and what the opponent retained or the claimant lost as a consequence of the alleged fraud. United States ex rel. Totten v. Bombardier Corp., 286 F.3d 542, 551-52 (D.C. Cir. 2002); United States ex rel. Joseph v. Cannon, 642 F.2d 1373, 1385 (D.C. Cir. 1981). In other words, Rule 9(b) requires that the pleader provide the "who, what, when, where, and how" with respect to the circumstances of the fraud. DiLeo v. Ernst & Young, 901 F.2d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 941 (1990) (requiring the pleader to provide the equivalent of a "first paragraph of any newspaper story"). Following the same line of reasoning, a pleading subject to Rule 9(b) scrutiny may not ...

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