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Williams v. Bank of New York Mellon

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 14, 2016

CELIA M. WILLIAMS, and MARIAN A. LASHER, Plaintiffs,
v.
BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

REGGIE B. WALTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

The pro se plaintiffs, Celia M. Williams and Marian A. Lasher, bring this civil action against the Bank of New York Mellon (“Mellon”), JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”), Albertelli Law, and several unidentified defendants, asserting, inter alia, claims under the federal Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1635, 1639, 1640 (2012), and for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, arising out of mortgage foreclosure proceedings in Florida state court. See Complaint (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 19-48. Currently before the Court is JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.’s Motion to Dismiss and Incorporated Statement of Points and Authorities (“Chase Mot.”), ECF No. 3, which seeks dismissal of the plaintiffs’ complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and alternatively for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Upon careful consideration of the parties’ submissions, [1] and for the reasons stated below, the Court grants Chase’s motion to dismiss the complaint.[2]

I. BACKGROUND

The relevant facts and procedural background, as much as can be gleaned from the often repetitive factual allegations in the complaint, documents referenced in the complaint, and court records, of which the Court takes judicial notice, are as follows: the plaintiffs were the owners and mortgagors of real property located at 19616 Gulf Boulevard, #202, Indian Shores, Florida. Compl. ¶ 3. The plaintiffs executed a June 22, 2007 promissory note, pursuant to which Chase loaned $530, 000 to the plaintiffs to purchase the property, and which was secured by the property under an accompanying mortgage instrument. Id. ¶ 9; Chase Mem., Exhibit (“Ex.”) 1 (Note) at 1; Chase Mem., Ex. 2 (Mortgage) at 3. After the plaintiffs defaulted on the note in October 2010, Mellon initiated foreclosure proceedings against the plaintiffs in the Circuit Court for the Sixth Judicial District in Pinellas County, Florida, in September 2011. See Chase Mem., Ex. 5 (Verified Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint (“Foreclosure Compl.”)) ¶ 5. In August 2013, the plaintiffs-as the defendants in the foreclosure case-filed an answer denying the allegations in the Foreclosure Complaint and asserting several affirmative defenses. See generally Chase Mem., Ex. 6 (Defendant[s’] Answer to Complaint and Affirmative Defense (“Foreclosure Answer”)). Following a February 2014 bench trial, the Florida state court found in favor of Mellon and allowed it to foreclose on the property. See Chase Mem., Ex. 7 (Uniform Final Judgment of Foreclosure (“Foreclosure Judgment”)) ¶¶ 5-6 (allowing the sale of the property to satisfy the debt). The Foreclosure Judgment included the court’s finding that “[Mellon] has standing to seek and receive the relief obtained herein.” Id. ¶ 14. The plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion in the Florida proceeding for relief from that court’s judgment, on the ground that “[Mellon] did not have standing, was not properly assigned the Note, and did not possess the Note, ” Chase Mem., Ex. 8 (Motion for Relief from Judgment (“Mot. for Relief”)) at 1, but the motion was denied in April 2014, Ex. 9 (Order on Mot. for Relief). Nine months later, the plaintiffs initiated this suit.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(1)

When a defendant moves for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), “the plaintiffs bear the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction.” Biton v. Palestinian Interim Self-Gov’t Auth., 310 F.Supp.2d 172, 176 (D.D.C. 2004); see also Khadr v. United States, 529 F.3d 1112, 1115 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (stating that the party invoking the court’s subject matter jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that such jurisdiction exists). A court considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion must “assume the truth of all material factual allegations in the complaint and ‘construe the complaint liberally, granting [the] plaintiff[s] the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.’” Am. Nat’l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d 970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005)). However, “the district court may consider materials outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.” Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (citing Herbert v. Nat’l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992)).

B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint “state[s] a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)], a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff[s] plead[ ] factual content that allows the court to draw [a] reasonable inference that the defendant[s] [are] liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While the Court must “assume [the] veracity” of any “well-pleaded factual allegations” in the complaint, conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. “In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached thereto or incorporated therein, and matters of which it may take judicial notice.” Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (quoting Stewart v. Nat’l Educ. Ass’n, 471 F.3d 169, 173 (D.C. Cir. 2006)). Among the documents “subject to judicial notice on a motion to dismiss” are “public records, ” Kaempe v. Myers, 367 F.3d 958, 965 (D.C. Cir. 2004), which includes records from other court proceedings, Covad Commc’ns Co. v. Bell Atl. Corp., 407 F.3d 1220, 1222 (D.C. Cir. 2005).

C. Pleadings by Pro Se Parties

The pleadings of pro se parties are “to be ‘liberally construed, ’ and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, even though a pro se complaint must be liberally construed, the complaint must nonetheless “present a claim on which the court can grant relief.” Chandler v. Roche, 215 F.Supp.2d 166, 168 (D.D.C. 2002) (citing Crisafi v. Holland, 655 F.2d 1305, 1308 (D.C. Cir. 1981)).

III. ANALYSIS

The main thrust of the complaint appears to be that there was no basis for the Florida foreclosure because the defendants did not establish that they had an enforceable interest in the note and mortgage that allowed them to seek foreclosure in that court. See Compl. ¶ 9 (alleging that the defendants “have acted as if they have powers to enforce the note even though they have not proven their ownership interest in the note and have not proven their possession of the original note”); id. ¶¶ 1-18 (setting forth allegations regarding Mellon’s lack of an enforceable interest in the note). In addition, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated the Truth in Lending Act by, inter alia, allegedly understating the financing charges associated with the plaintiffs’ mortgage. Id. ΒΆΒΆ 20-31. The plaintiffs also assert ...


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