United States District Court, District of Columbia
July 28, 2015
OLLIE HALL, Plaintiff,
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendant.
EMMET G. SULLIVAN, District Judge.
On August 19, 2014, Plaintiff Ollie Hall ("Hall") filed a complaint against Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Wells Fargo") alleging claims related to the foreclosure of his home in Michigan. Compl., ECF No. 1. Wells Fargo moves to dismiss Hall's lawsuit on the basis of res judicata (claim and issue preclusion) and for failure to state a claim. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 4. Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, Wells Fargo's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.
On February 11, 2011, Hall secured a home loan for $87, 718.00 to purchase a house in Roseville, Michigan. Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("Def.'s Mem. Supp."), ECF No. 4, Ex. A at 2. The mortgage was assigned to Wells Fargo on August 29, 2012. Id. In 2012, Hall defaulted on the mortgage and the property was foreclosed and sold at a sheriff's sale on September 13, 2013. Id.
Hall filed a lawsuit in the Macomb County Circuit Court in Michigan on March 10, 2014, three days before Michigan's statutory right of redemption expired. Id. at 3. Defendant removed the suit to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on diversity jurisdiction on March 27, 2014. Id. In that case, the court granted the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim on June 4, 2014. Id. at 15.
Hall subsequently filed this suit, pro se, on August 19, 2014. See Compl., ECF No. 1. Although the complaint is difficult to understand, Hall seems to be alleging that Wells Fargo is not the proper owner of the mortgage, that the Defendant took advantage of Hall's ignorance of the law in issuing the loan, and that the Wells Fargo is engaged in counterfeiting. Id. at 2-4. The Civil Cover Sheet filled out by Hall indicates the cause of action as "26 USC 7609 For independent State Audit and Federal Investigation on defendants for accounting fraud." Id. at 1-1. The relief requested by Hall is $86, 079.20. Id. at 1.
Wells Fargo moves to dismiss this action on the basis of res judicata and for failure to state a claim. Def.'s Mem. Supp. at 1-2. Wells Fargo asserts that, to the extent any cognizable claims can be construed from Hall's complaint, they are barred by res judicata in light of the Eastern District of Michigan's ruling on the merits in the related case, Hall v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 4:14-cv-11267 (E.D. Mich. June 4, 2014). Id. at 2. Moreover, to the extent Hall seeks to plead any claims not already adjudicated, Wells Fargo maintains that Hall had the opportunity to plead such claims in the related case, and regardless, any new claims are insufficiently pled and thus Hall has failed to state a claim. Def.'s Mem. Supp. at 9. Hall does not directly respond to Wells Fargo's arguments. See Aff. Supp. Pl.'s Claims ("Pl.'s Response"). Rather, Hall asserts what appear to be 24 irrelevant affirmative defenses. Id. at 10-11.
"The doctrine of res judicata provides that when a final judgment has been entered on the merits of a case, the effect of that final judgment would be preserved and applied to subsequent cases that arise out of the same set of facts and transaction." Johnson v. Chase Manhattan Mortg. Corp., No. 04-cv-344 (EGS), 2006 WL 2506598, at *2 (D.D.C. Aug. 28, 2006) (citing Nevada v. U.S., 463 U.S. 110 (1983)). The doctrine of res judicata is divided into issue and claim preclusion. Issue preclusion will apply in a case if: (1) "the issue decided in the prior adjudication [was] identical with the one presented in the action at question, " (2) there was a "final judgment on the merits, " in the previous action, and (3) "the party against whom the plea is asserted [was] a party or in privity with a party to the prior adjudication." Blonder-Tongue Labs. v. Univ. of Ill. Found., 402 U.S. 313, 323-24 (1971).
Claim preclusion prevents parties from "relitigat[ing] any ground for relief which they already have had an opportunity to litigate-even if they chose not to exploit that opportunity- whether the initial judgment was erroneous or not." Page v. United States, 729 F.2d 818, 820 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (quotation marks omitted). "Res judicata bars not only claims that actually were litigated, but also claims that could have been litigated in the previous action." Ivey v. Paulson, 574 F.Supp.2d 141, 142 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980)). A prior judgment "bars any further claim based on the same nucleus of facts.'" Page, 729 F.2d at 820. This is determined by "whether the facts are related in time, space, origin, or motivation, whether they form a convenient trial unit, and whether their treatment as a unit conforms to the parties' expectations or business understanding or usage." Stanton v. D.C. Court of Appeals, 127 F.3d 72, 78 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 24(2) (1982)).
Halls' claims are barred under the principles of both issue and claim preclusion. With respect to issue preclusion, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has already ruled on the Hall's quiet title and fraud claims, which Hall seems to be raising again in this is lawsuit. See Hall v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 4:14-cv-11267 (E.D. Mich. June 4, 2014). Because the Eastern District of Michigan issued a final judgment on the merits, issue preclusion prevents Hall from relitigating these claims.
Claim preclusion also bars several of the Plaintiff's claims. To the extent Hall seeks to raise an accounting fraud claim and other IRS-related claims not adjudicated in Hall's Michigan case, such claims are barred because they are based on the same nucleus of operative fact as the prior adjudication, namely the foreclosure and sale of his home. Because the same facts are being used to support the current cause of action, this lawsuit and the related Michigan suit are undoubtedly "related in time, space, origin, [and] motivation" such that claim preclusion bars this action.
For the foregoing reasons, Wells Fargo's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED and Hall's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUEDICE.