United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
se Plaintiffs Daniel Asnake and Wacca Merid have lived
at 5727 16th Street, N.W., here in Washington, for over 23
years. For approximately the last ten of those years,
Defendants Deutsche Bank National Trust Company and
Specialized Loan Servicing were the mortgagee and servicer,
respectively, for a mortgage secured by the Property. After
Plaintiffs defaulted on the mortgage, Deutsche Bank commenced
foreclosure proceedings against them and, eventually,
obtained court authorization for their eviction. In an
attempt to remain in the Property, Plaintiffs brought this
suit claiming that the doctrine of adverse possession
protects their rights. Defendants now move to dismiss on
three grounds: standing, failure to state a claim, and claim
preclusion. Finding that Plaintiffs have standing, but do not
meet the statutory requirements for adverse possession, the
Court will grant the Motion.
must at this stage, the Court treats all facts in the pro
se Complaint and Opposition as true. See Graves v.
Callahan, 253 F.Supp.3d 330, 332-33 (D.D.C. 2017). The
Court may also take judicial notice of “public records,
” such as deeds and other court proceedings, without
converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment.
See Avila v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 45 F.Supp.3d 110,
117 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Kaempe v. Myers, 367 F.3d
958, 965 (D.C. Cir. 2004)).
husband and wife, have lived at the Property for at least 23
years. See Compl., ¶¶ 1-2. On January 13,
2006, Asnake conveyed his interest in the Property to Merid,
making her the sole owner. See MTD, Exh. 1 (Asnake
Deed). Ten days later, Merid refinanced an existing mortgage
for the amount of $675, 000 through a deed of trust.
Id., Exh. 2. In 2011, the deed of trust was assigned
to Deutsche Bank. Id., Exh. 3. At some point, Merid
defaulted on the loan, and in 2015, Deutsche Bank appointed
substitute trustees to begin foreclosure proceedings in the
Superior Court for the District of Columbia. Id.,
Exh. 4. In October of that year, the Bank sought foreclosure
by judicial sale pursuant to D.C. Code § 42-816.
Id., Exh. 5.
14, 2017 - two years later - the Superior Court granted
summary judgment in favor of Deutsche Bank, accompanied by an
order allowing it to proceed with a judicial sale.
Id., Exh. 6. One month later, Merid quitclaimed any
“right, title, interest, claim, or demand” that
she may have had in the Property to the Indigenous American
Land Trust backdated to October 28, 2015. Id., Exh.
7 (IAL Trust Deed). On August 2, 2107, Deutsche Bank
purchased the Property at a public foreclosure auction.
Id., Exh. 8. The Superior Court ratified the sale on
November 9, 2017, giving Merid 30 days to appeal.
Id., Exh. 9. She did not do so, and the Property was
conveyed to Deutsche Bank on December 14, 2017. Id.,
March 15, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a claim for adverse
possession in Superior Court. On April 10, Defendants removed
the matter to federal court and now move to dismiss.
challenge the jurisdiction of this Court to hear the claim as
well as the merits, invoking the legal standards for
dismissal under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and
12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1),
Plaintiffs bear the burden of proving that the Court has
subject-matter jurisdiction to hear their 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). A court has
an “affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting
within the scope of its jurisdictional authority.”
Grand Lodge of the 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, Fed. Practice & Procedure
§ 1350 (2d ed. 1987)) (alteration in original).
Additionally, unlike with a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), the Court “may consider materials outside the
pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss
for lack of jurisdiction.” Jerome Stevens Pharms.,
Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005);
see also Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Sciences, 974
F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992).
Rule of Civil Procedure 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.”
Although the notice-pleading rules are “not meant to
impose a great burden upon 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, [if] 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 and citation 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, ” and there must
be “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Id.
argue that this case should be dismissed because Plaintiffs
lack standing, do not meet the requirements for adverse
possession, and should be precluded from bringing this action
because the validity of their possession has already been
decided. The Court addresses the first two below and, finding
that Plaintiffs have not adversely possessed the Property,
declines to evaluate the third.
conducting its standing analysis, the Court assumes, as it
must, that Plaintiffs are, in fact, adverse possessors.
See In re Navy Chaplaincy, 534 F.3d 756, 760 (D. C.
Cir. 2008). Defendants contend that “[b]oth Plaintiffs
conveyed away their ‘interests' in the Property
long before a 15 year period of adverse possession could
accrue” and, consequently, have no standing to sue.
See MTD at 5. While their premise is correct, their
conclusion is not. Asnake did, indeed, convey his interest to
Merid in 2006, making her the sole owner. See Asnake
Deed. And, in 2017, Merid conveyed her interest to the IAL
trust. See IAL Trust Deed. Defendants thus claim
that “[t]he only party . . . with even theoretical
standing to raise a claim is the IAL trust.” Mot. at 6.
Such a conclusion, however, is antithetical to the doctrine
of adverse possession. That doctrine allows a person who
occupies, but does not own, real property to acquire valid
title. The entire idea of the doctrine is built on the
understanding that the claimant will not have deed
interest in the property, but is nonetheless a
possessor. See Auer Park Corp., Inc. v. Derynda, 601
N.W.2d 841, 843 (Wis. Ct. App. 1999) (“In an adverse
possession, the only parties who generally have standing are
the property's ...