November 30, 2016
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CAR-3095-10) (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge)
Coburn, with whom Lloyd Liu was on the brief, for appellant.
C. Zinsner, with whom S. Mohsin Reza was on the brief, for
Glickman, Associate Judge, and Washington and Steadman,
Senior Judges. [*]
Steadman, Senior Judge.
Barbara Harrison Pyles alleges that she was duped by her
husband, appellee John C. Pyles III, into subjecting her
formerly separately owned property, the family home, to a
deed of trust to secure a bank loan, made to her husband
alone. Now threatened with foreclosure on the deed of trust,
she seeks to set aside the transaction and restore her
position as the sole owner of the property free and clear of
the deed of trust. The trial court dismissed her complaint as
to all parties under Super. Ct. Civ. R. 12 (b)(6) for failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We
conclude that the complaint was sufficient to survive
dismissal under that rule as to Mr. Pyles and remand for
Factual and Procedural Background
the death of her former husband in 1992, appellant became the
sole owner of the family home located at 2812 Chesterfield
Place, N.W., Washington, D.C. The acquisition of the property
in 1985 had been financed in part by a mortgage on the home.
In 1995, appellant married John C. Pyles III. He with his
four minor children moved into the home but she resisted
several attempts he made to change the ownership to joint
title. He knew that she wanted to provide for her
retirement and her children's future by
maintaining sole ownership of the home. The two generally
kept their finances separate, but Mr. Pyles made the mortgage
payments on the home.
Pyles was a real estate developer and president of Washington
Management & Development Company. For a number of years,
he had enjoyed credit arrangements with the
without being required to provide secured collateral.
However, in early 2007, the Bank approached Mr. Pyles to
"restructure certain of his business debts" and
insisted that a loan of $3.6 million be on a secured basis.
Otherwise, the Bank threatened to call Mr. Pyles's
outstanding debt of approximately $15 million. The Bank
"pressured" Mr. Pyles to use the Chesterfield home
as collateral, although it knew that he had no ownership
interest in the home at that point. Originally, the Bank
requested that Mr. Pyles include appellant on the application
for the loan. However, subsequently, the Bank said that the
application should be in Mr. Pyles's name alone;
otherwise, the loan would not be eligible for approval. It
was agreed that Mr. Pyles would provide the home as
collateral and the transaction would be structured as a
refinancing of the mortgage. According to the complaint, all
of the loan-related documents describe the loan "as or
pertaining to a residential mortgage transaction" and
state that "the purpose of the loan was to refinance Mr.
Pyles's primary residence. The deed of trust provided for
equal monthly payments for a period of thirty years. At the
"request" of or as "instructed" or
"directed" by the Bank, Mr. Pyles set out to obtain
appellant's signature to the relevant
plan led to the crucial event in this appeal. On April 25,
2007, appellant worked three broadcasts, requiring her to
leave her home at 3:30 a.m. Just as she was rushing to leave,
Mr. Pyles asked her to sign "some documents related to
his business, " without further explanation. Two of the
documents were a deed transferring title to appellant and Mr.
Pyles as tenants by the entirety and a deed of trust securing
a loan for $3.6 million. Mr. Pyles presented only the
signature pages of these documents to appellant. She also
signed a disclosure statement under the Truth in Lending Act,
the entire text of which was presented to her. As she states
in her complaint, "because Ms. Pyles trusted in and
relied upon her husband, she signed the documents as he
requested." She previously had relied without incident
on Mr. Pyles's representations as to the contents of
certain documents on which he requested her signature. Both
the deed and the deed of trust bore the signature of a
witness and a notarization, which were subsequently falsely
added by assistants to Mr. Pyles. The deed of trust bore Mr.
Pyles's initials on each of its fourteen pages but not
those of appellant. The deed of trust, the crucial document
in its litigation, and the Truth in Lending Act disclosure
form name appellant as a "borrower" or
"applicant" along with her husband. The loan
transaction then proceeded as agreed to by Mr. Pyles and the
this entire period, no communication of any kind ever took
place between appellant and the Bank concerning the documents
or the loan itself. Appellant did not become aware of the
nature of the documents that she had signed until late 2008,
in connection with a threatened suit involving other business
debts of her husband's company. Appellant apparently took
no action at that point, but on January 8, 2010, the Bank
commenced foreclosure proceedings under the deed of trust on
the home. On January 15, through counsel, appellant sent a
letter to the Bank disputing the validity of the deed of
trust. In a second letter on February 1, she asserted her
right to rescind under the Truth in Lending Act.
Subsequently, she commenced litigation challenging the
validity of the documents. The version of the complaint now
before us, her third amended complaint filed on April 6,
2012, sought declaratory relief voiding the deed and deed of
trust, an injunction against any action thereon by the Bank,
damages for statutory violations and otherwise, and
attorney's fees. The trial court granted the Bank's
12 (b)(6) motion on February 14, 2014. A motion for
reconsideration was denied on June 19, 2015, and a timely
appeal taken to this court.
us is a challenge to a dismissal under Super. Ct. Civ. R. 12
(b)(6) for failure to state a claim in the complaint. We
fairly recently en banc set forth the standard for review of
such a dismissal, which is de novo. "[W]e
accept the allegations of the complaint as true, and construe
all facts and inferences in favor of the plaintiff . . .
[t]he only issue on review of a dismissal made pursuant to
Rule 12 (b)(6) is the legal sufficiency of the complaint and
a complaint should not be dismissed because a court does not
believe that a plaintiff will prevail on [his] claim. Indeed
it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is
very remote and unlikely but that is not the test."
Grayson v. AT&T Corp., 15 A.3d 219, 228-29 (D.C.
2011) (en banc) (citations omitted). A complaint "must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."
Family Fed'n for World Peace & Unification
Int'l v. Hyun Jin Moon, 129 A.3d 234, 245 (D.C.
2015) (citation omitted). See also Poola v. Howard
Univ., 147 A.3d 267, 276 (D.C. ...