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Roland v. Branch Banking & Trust Corp.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 14, 2015

BERNARD ROLAND Plaintiff,
v.
BRANCH BANKING & TRUST CORPORATION, et al., Defendants. Re Document No. 5

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND TRANSFERRING VENUE

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION

On January 12, 2015, pro se Plaintiff Bernard Roland filed this action against Defendant Branch Banking & Trust Corporation[1] (“BB&T”) and Defendant Samuel I. White P.C. (“White P.C.”) alleging various violations of the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq., and common law arising out of a foreclosure action concerning real property in Maryland. See Compl., ECF No. 1. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint on various grounds. See Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 5. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Complaint for insufficient service of process and improper venue and will transfer venue to the District of Maryland pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In February 2008, Mr. Roland executed a mortgage loan agreement with Liberty Mortgage Corporation (“Liberty”) against property located Fort Washington, Maryland. See Compl. ¶ 5; Note, Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss Ex. C, ECF No. 5-4.[2] Mr. Roland alleges that Liberty dissolved in 2011 and that BB&T subsequently “appeared claiming to be a note holder.” Compl. ¶ 5. On November 5, 2013, substitute trustees commenced a foreclosure proceeding against Mr. Roland in Maryland state court relating to the property. See Driscoll v. Roland, Case No. CAEF13-3386 (Md. Cir. Ct. Prince George’s Cnty.). Defendant White P.C. appears to have represented the substitute trustees in that action. See Id. After the commencement of the foreclosure proceeding, Mr. Roland filed for bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. See In re Roland, Case No. 14-21649-WIL (Bankr. D. Md.); Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss Ex. D, ECF No. 5-5 (docket sheet).

Mr. Roland commenced this action against Defendants on January 12, 2015, seeking to represent a class of similarly situated plaintiffs, [3] and claiming various violations of the Truth in Lending Act, breach of fiduciary duty, and common law fraud primarily arising from the foreclosure proceeding in Maryland state court. See Compl. On the same day, a process server hired by Mr. Roland served a summons on Valena Metcalfe, a legal assistant employed by White P.C., at White P.C.’s offices in Rockville, Maryland. See Return of Service Aff. at 2, ECF No. 4. According to the process server’s affidavit, Ms. Metcalfe was also an “authorized agent” of White P.C. for purposes of accepting service of process. Id. The next day, a different process server served a summons on Pam Adam-Motley, who, according to the process server’s affidavit, was designated by law to accept service of process on behalf of BB&T. See Id. at 1.

Defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), (3), (5), and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss.

III. ANALYSIS

Defendants move to dismiss Mr. Roland’s complaint on multiple grounds, including insufficient service of process, improper venue, res judicata, and various jurisdictional reasons. The Court first addresses the issue of service of process and finds that, on the record before the Court, it appears that service of process on both Defendants was valid. The Court then turns to the issue of venue. For the reasons explained below, though the Court finds that venue in this District is improper, the Court will deny Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Complaint on that ground and instead, in the interest of justice, transfer venue of this case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, where it is proper, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). In light of this ruling, the Court does not reach the remainder of Defendants’ arguments in its motion to dismiss.

A. Service of Process

Defendants argue that the Complaint should be dismissed or, in the alternative, service should be quashed, for insufficient service of process pursuant to Rule 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Defs.’ Mem. Supp. at 3-5.

1. Legal Standard

“Before a federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the procedural requirement of service of summons must be satisfied.” Omni Capital Int’l, Ltd. v. Rudolf Wolff & Co., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987).

The plaintiff has the burden of establishing the validity of service of process. “[T]o do so, he must demonstrate that the procedure employed satisfied the requirements of the relevant portions of Rule 4 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] and any other applicable provision of law.” Light v. Wolf, 816 F.2d 746, 751 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A signed return of service . . . constitutes prima facie evidence of valid service, which can be overcome only by strong and convincing evidence.” Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic, 646 F.Supp.2d 79, 85-86 (D.D.C. 2009) (citing O’Brien v. R.J. ...


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