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Caires v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 9, 2018




         For pro se Plaintiff Richard Caires, it might feel like Groundhog Day. Caires, who has been trying to avoid repayment of a $5.5 million loan he obtained from Washington Mutual Bank in 2005, has filed, reworked, and re-filed several markedly similar lawsuits in four different courts over the past ten years. Each time he loses - whether on the merits or because of a jurisdictional bar - he tries again. This time around, Plaintiff has filed suit against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation seeking a declaratory judgment on the current ownership of the loan and damages for a bevy of alleged injuries. The FDIC, in response, has now filed a Motion to Dismiss. Unfortunately for Plaintiff, the Court finds that he is once again barred by jurisdictional limitations; for the purposes of this suit, his Day is now finally over.

         I. Background

         Like many others on the eve of the financial crisis, Caires took a gamble to purchase, remodel, and hopefully sell an “exclusive property . . . at the top of the market.” ECF No. 1 (Complaint), ¶¶ 12-13. Unfortunately for him, he defaulted on his loan, which has resulted in over eight years of litigation. The story begins in 2006 with Caires's purchase of a $1.4 million house in Greenwich, Connecticut, financed primarily by a $1 million loan from WaMu. See Compl., Exh. L (2016 Proof of Claim), ¶ 3.10. In August 2007, he obtained an additional $5.5 million construction loan from WaMu, which he used, in part, to pay off his initial acquisition loan. Id., ¶ 3.20.

         While Caires was going about the business of remodeling his property, the financial crisis brought WaMu to its knees. On September 25, 2008, the Office of Thrift Supervision declared the Bank insolvent and appointed the FDIC as its Receiver. See ECF No. 7-2 (Declaration of Donald G. Grieser), ¶ 3. That same day, the FDIC-Receiver entered into a Purchase and Assumption Agreement with JPMorgan Chase Bank for the sale of all the assets and certain liabilities of WaMu. Id., ¶ 5. The FDIC published a Notice to Creditors and Depositors of WaMu - online and in three national newspapers - informing them that all administrative claims against the Bank had to be submitted to the FDIC by the administrative bar date of December 30, 2008. See ECF No. 7-4 (FDIC Website Notice); Grieser Decl., ¶ 7. It is uncontested that Plaintiff did not comply with this deadline. Id., ¶ 8; Compl., ¶ 6. Although Caires did end up submitting an administrative claim to the FDIC, he did not do so until October 17, 2016. See Proof of Claim, ¶ 1.20.

         On March 3, 2009, Caires received a notice of default - on WaMu letterhead - regarding his failure to comply with the terms of his loan agreement. See Compl., Exh. G (Notice of Default and Renegotiation Agreement). But, on May 5, 2009, he apparently negotiated and signed a loan-modification agreement with JPMC that extended his deadline to comply to September 1, 2009. Id. Notably, the agreement specifically recites that JPMC acquired Caires's loan from WaMu through the 2008 P&A agreement with the FDIC. Id. Caires was, nonetheless, seemingly unable to satisfy this modified loan agreement, as he sued JPMC in Connecticut state court on December 3, 2009. See Caires v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, 745 F.Supp.2d 40, 42 (D. Conn. 2010) (describing original complaint).

         If Plaintiff has not successfully vindicated his claims, he has surely had his day in court. His first suit - against JPMC in the Superior Court of Connecticut - alleged claims for fraud in the inducement, equitable estoppel from foreclosure, and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Id. JPMC removed the complaint to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Id. at 43-44. After several rounds of motions and a counterclaim by JPMC seeking to foreclose on Plaintiff's property, the court ultimately dismissed all of Caires's suit and remanded the counterclaim to state court. See ECF No. 7 (Def. Motion to Dismiss) at 7. Notably, when Caires subsequently sought to dismiss JPMC's foreclosure counterclaim by alleging that his loan had never been transferred from WaMu to JPMC through the P&A Agreement, the court found that JPMC “had established that [JPMC] or its duly authorized agents had possession of the [2007 WaMu note].” Caires v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 2017 WL 2541858, at *2 (Conn. Super. Ct. Apr. 5, 2017). That suit is ongoing.

         While simultaneously litigating that state action, Caires sued the FDIC in the Southern District of New York on April 8, 2016. See Compl., ¶ 1. In an attempt to clarify whether JPMC had actually purchased his loan from WaMu, Plaintiff sought a declaration from the court as to whether WaMu had his loan on its books or records, or as part of its assets and liabilities, at the time the FDIC was appointed as the Bank's Receiver on September 25, 2008. Caires v. FDIC, 2017 WL 1393735, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 18, 2017). In response to a motion to dismiss filed by the FDIC, that federal court found that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Caires's claims because he had failed to exhaust the administrative-claims process mandated by the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), Pub. L. No. 101-73, 103 Stat. 183 (1989). Id. at *4. The court further held that even if Caires had exhausted that claims process, it would lack subject-matter jurisdiction, as § 1821(d)(6(A) of FIRREA limits post-exhaustion review to the District Court for the District of Columbia and the federal court where WaMu's principal place of business was located - namely, the District Court for the Western District of Washington. Id. at *5.

         This brings the Court to the present case. Presumably under the impression that the dispositive weaknesses of his SDNY suit were his failure to file an administrative FIRREA claim and his improper choice of venue, Plaintiff resolved to address both issues. He first filed a claim with the FDIC on October 17, 2016. See Proof of Claim. When this claim was summarily rejected on March 23, 2017, for lack of timeliness, see ECF No. 7-17 (FDIC Rejection Notice), Caires followed with this pro se Complaint on May 22, 2017. Although that pleading is somewhat difficult to parse, his claims appear to belong in three separate buckets: (1) claims seeking a declaration as to whether WaMu did or did not have his loan on its books or records, or as part of its assets and liabilities, on September 25, 2008, see Compl., ¶ 51; (2) claims seeking damages for misrepresentation, fraud, and “losses of millions of dollars” to his property, id., ¶ 12, the FDIC “having taken part i[n] what seems like a scheme, ” id., ¶ 33, and acting with “post-closing willful blindness to the malicious prosecution by [JPMC] against the Plaintiff, ” id., ¶ 36; and (3) claims for violations of “the Plaintiff[']s right under the 14th amendment.” Id., ¶¶ 43, 48.

         The FDIC has moved to dismiss, and Caires, now represented by counsel, opposes.

         II. Legal Standard

         Defendant's Motion invokes the legal standards for dismissal under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). When a defendant brings a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the Court indeed has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear his claims. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); U.S. Ecology, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 231 F.3d 20, 24 (D.C. Cir. 2000). “Because subject-matter jurisdiction focuses on the court's power to hear the plaintiff's claim, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion [also] imposes on the court an affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority.” Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). For this reason, “‘the [p]laintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Id. at 13-14 (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (2d ed. 1987)) (alteration in original). In policing its jurisdictional borders, the Court must scrutinize the complaint, treating its factual allegations as true and granting the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be derived from the alleged facts. See Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). The Court need not rely “on the complaint standing alone, ” however, but may also look to undisputed facts in the record or resolve disputed ones. See Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Sci., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

         Rule 12(b)(6), conversely, provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When the sufficiency of a complaint is challenged under Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations presented in it must be presumed true and should be liberally construed in the plaintiff's favor. Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993). Although the notice-pleading rules are “not meant to impose a great burden on a plaintiff, ” Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “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) (internal quotation marks omitted). The plaintiff must put forth “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Though a plaintiff may survive a 12(b)(6) motion even if “recovery is very remote and unlikely, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)), the facts alleged in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. In evaluating the sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may consider “the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [the Court] may take judicial notice.” EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).

         III. ...

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