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Mizell v. SunTrust Bank

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 18, 2014

ISADORE MIZELL, Plaintiff,
v.
SUNTRUST BANK, Defendant

Page 81

For Suntrust Bank, Defendant: Tiffany Murray Releford, WHITEFORD, TAYLOR & PRESTON, LLP, Washington, DC, USA.

Page 82

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Isadore Mizell (" Mizell" ), who is proceeding pro se, filed the instant complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on June 18, 2013. Mizell alleges that Defendant SunTrust Bank (" Defendant" or " SunTrust" ) improperly closed the bank account for Mizell's travel agency business without first notifying him, (Complaint (" Compl." ), ECF No. 1-1, ¶ 4), and maintains that Defendant is liable for defamation (Count I), and breach of contract (Count II). ( Id. ¶ 14.) On July 15, 2013, Defendant removed the case to this Court. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Three days later, on July 18, 2013, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Mizell's complaint on the grounds that Mizell's claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitation. ( See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (" Def.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 3, at 1-2.) Mizell subsequently filed a motion to remand the case to Superior Court on August 16, 2013. (Pl.'s Mot. to Remand (" Pl.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 8, at 1.)

Both motions are currently before the Court. Because the Court concludes that Defendant appropriately removed the case to federal court, and that both of Mizell's claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitation, Plaintiff's motion to remand is DENIED and Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED. An order consistent with this opinion will follow.

Page 83

I. BACKGROUND

Mizell is a businessman who resides in the District of Columbia. (Compl. ¶ 2.) He is the owner of the Mizell Travel Agency (" Travel Agency" ), which is also located in D.C. (Compl. ¶ 4.) The Travel Agency had maintained an account with SunTrust, or its predecessor banks, since September 14, 1981. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 5, 10.) According to the complaint, SunTrust closed the Travel Agency account on June 1, 2009, because two checks written on the account were returned as a result of insufficient funds. ( Id. ¶ 4.) The complaint alleges that SunTrust sent no notification of the account's closure either to Mizell personally or the Travel Agency. ( Id. ¶ 5.) The complaint further states that, for three weeks after the closure of the account, SunTrust continued to accept deposits (totaling more than $40,000), while at the same time refusing to honor any checks written on the account. ( Id. ¶ 6.) In addition, the complaint maintains that SunTrust told other Travel Agency creditors--including credit card issuer CitiCorp--that the Travel Agency's bank account was " frozen," which resulted in those other creditors canceling their credit accounts with the Travel Agency. ( Id. ¶ 7.) Mizell alleges that, in total, four of the Travel Agency's credit cards, representing a total of $110,000 in lines of credit, were cancelled. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Moreover, Mizell contends that, because of his " frozen" bank account, the Travel Agency lost the services of one of its major business partners, American Airlines, which " severely hamper[ed]" the Travel Agency's ability to do business. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Finally, Mizell asserts that, when he requested that Defendant remit to him the money that was on deposit in the SunTrust bank account at the time that it was closed without notice, Defendant made him wait " another 10 days" before remitting the deposits, which further injured his ability to do business and damaged his reputation. ( Id. ¶ 12.)

Almost exactly four years later, on June 18, 2013, Mizell filed the instant complaint in D.C. Superior Court. Based on the facts as alleged above, the complaint identifies two discrete claims. The first is a defamation claim, based upon the allegation that Defendant used the word " frozen" to describe the bank account to Mizell's various creditors, and thereby caused him significant injury. ( Id. ¶ 14.) The second is a claim for breach of contract, based upon the allegation that under the contract between Mizell and SunTrust, the bank was required to notify Mizell prior to closing the Travel Agency account. ( Id. ) Mizell seeks $500,000 in damages stemming from these two claims. ( Id. ¶ 15.)

On July 15, 2013, Defendant removed the case to this Court, basing the removal on diversity between the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Notice of Removal at 2.) Three days later, on July 18, 2013, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that the applicable statutes of limitation bars both of Mizell's claims. (Def.'s Mot. at 1-2.) On August 6, 2013, this Court issued an order to show cause why the case should not be remanded to Superior Court, based upon the fact that Defendant's Notice of Removal had failed to establish adequately that the parties are indeed diverse, because the Notice stated only that Mizell was a " resident" of the District of Columbia. (Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 5, at 1.) Defendant responded to the Court's order to show cause on August 16, 2013, and Court issued an order discharging the order to show cause on August 21, 2013. ( See Def.'s Response to Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 6; Minute Order of August 21, 2013.)[1]

Page 84

Defendant subsequently filed an amended Notice of Removal, which properly stated Mizell's citizenship, on August 28, 2013. (Amended Notice of Removal, ECF No. 11.) In the interim, however, Mizell filed his own motion to remand the case to Superior Court, essentially arguing that allowing the case to remain in federal court would unfairly prejudice him. (Pl.'s Mot. at 1.) Consequently, there are two motions currently before the Court: Mizell's ...


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