United States District Court, District of Columbia
TARA L. MEHRBACH, Plaintiff,
CITIBANK, N.A., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT CITIBANK'S
MOTION TO DISMISS
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Tara Mehrbach brings suit against Citibank, N.A., for
complying with a subpoena for her financial records that was
issued in a protracted custody dispute between her and her
former husband. Ms. Mehrbach contends that Citibank violated
Fla. Stat. § 655.059 by producing the records and
breached its duty of confidentiality by failing to take legal
action to resist the subpoena. Citibank has moved to dismiss
(or, in the alternative, for summary judgment) on the ground
that Ms. Mehrbach's complaint fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted because (1) Fla. Stat. §
655.059 does not provide for a private cause of action, and
(2) Florida law creates no duty requiring Citibank to
challenge, or to refuse to comply with, such a subpoena. For
the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Citibank's
motion and dismisses Ms. Mehrbach's complaint.
Mehrbach is a District of Columbia resident and a former
resident of Florida who has been involved in a protracted
custody dispute with her former husband for the past decade.
See Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. Dismiss
or in Alt. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”)
at 2-5, ECF No. 8. A large portion of the proceedings have
taken place in family court in the state of Florida. See
id.; Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1-1.
October 2016, as part of the continued litigation related to
the custody dispute, Ms. Mehrbach's former husband served
the Florida branches of Citibank and Bank of America with
subpoenas requesting financial information related to Ms.
Mehrbach's accounts. See Id. ¶¶ 5,
12. Ms. Mehrbach contends that she faced threats
from her former husband, who she feared planned to use the
requested records to track her activity and whereabouts.
See Id. ¶ 6. Ms. Mehrbach informed both banks
of her objection to the release of her financial records.
See Id. ¶¶ 6-9; Pl.'s Opp'n at
8-9. Bank of America challenged the subpoena, filing a motion
for a protective order in Florida family court that cited
provisions of Florida law that protect the confidentiality of
financial records. See Compl. ¶ 12; Pl.'s
Opp'n at 8. Citibank, by contrast, complied with the
subpoena, disclosing the requested information to Ms.
Mehrbach's former husband. See Compl. ¶ 9.
The disclosed information included all records relating to
Ms. Mehrbach's Citibank accounts dating from December
2013 to the time of the request in October 2016. See
Citibank disclosed the records, Ms. Mehrbach herself
attempted to obtain a protective order from a Florida court
to shield the subpoenaed information, but her order was
denied for procedural reasons. See Pl.'s Opp'n
at 9; see Order Denying Without Prejudice
Respondent/Former Wife's Mot. Protective Order Regarding
Financial Disclosures (“Order Denying Mot. Protective
Order”), Ex. 5, ECF No. 5-5. In October 2017, Ms.
Mehrbach brought suit against Citibank in District of
Columbia Superior Court, claiming that Citibank's
disclosure of her financial information violated privacy
protections guaranteed by both Article I, Section 23 of the
Florida Constitution and Fla. Stat. § 655.059. Compl.
¶¶ 10-11. Citibank removed the case to this Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446. See Notice of
Removal (“Notice”), ECF No. 1. Before the Court
is Citibank's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6), which argues that (1) Ms. Mehrbach fails to state a
claim because Fla. Stat. § 655.059 does not provide for
a private cause of action, and (2) Citibank had no duty to
take legal action to resist a facially valid subpoena.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Def.'s Mot.
Dismiss or in Alt. Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s
Mot.”) at 9-12, ECF No. 5. Citibank's motion is now
ripe for decision.
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)
does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of
success on the merits, but rather, whether a plaintiff has
properly stated a claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236
(1974) (alteration in original) (“When a federal court
reviews the sufficiency of a complaint . . . [t]he issue is
not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether
the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the
claims.”), abrogated on other grounds by Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982). A court considering a
motion to dismiss presumes the complaint's factual
allegations are true and must construe them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., United
States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135
(D.D.C. 2000). To survive a motion to dismiss a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,
” see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)), and a plaintiff's right to relief must
rise above the “speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56. “Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, ” are therefore
insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A court need not
accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true, see
id., nor must a court presume the veracity of the legal
conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. See
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Ms. Mehrbach's pro se status,  her complaint is
held to a “less stringent standard than formal
pleadings.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
106 (1976)). But pro se litigants must still comply
with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, see Jarrell v.
Tisch, 656 F.Supp. 237, 239 (D.D.C. 1987), and the Court
need not assume the role of the pro se
plaintiff's advocate. Davis v. Kelly, 160 F.3d
917, 922 (2d Cir. 1998); accord Sun v. D.C.
Gov't, 133 F.Supp.3d 155, 168 n.6 (D.D.C. 2015)
(“[I]t is not the Court's job to canvass the record
for documents supporting a pro se party's
position.”). A court considering a pro se
plaintiff's complaint should look to “all filings,
including filings responsive to a motion to dismiss, ”
Brown v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp., Inc., 789 F.3d 146,
152 (D.C. Cir. 2015), to discern whether the plaintiff has
“‘nudged [her] claim[s] across the line from
conceivable to plausible.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
Mehrbach appears to claim (1) that Citibank violated Fla.
Stat. § 655.059 by complying with the subpoena
requesting her financial records and (2) that, in light of
Florida law protecting bank records, Citibank negligently
disclosed her financial records by failing to take legal
steps to protect the information or to have the subpoena
quashed. Compl. ¶ 9-11; Pl.'s Opp'n at
7. With regard to the first claim, Citibank contends that no
private cause of action exists under Fla. Stat. §
655.059 and, thus, Ms. Mehrbach's claim should be
dismissed for failure to state a claim. Def.'s Mot. at
11. And with regard to the negligence claim, Citibank
maintains that the bank was under no legal obligation to
ignore or to mount a legal challenge to the subpoena in
question. Citibank argues that it did not breach any duty
owed to Ms. Mehrbach by releasing her financial information
to the requesting party pursuant to a subpoena. See
Id. at 11- 12; Def.'s Reply Supp. of Mot. Dismiss or
in Alt. Summ. J. (“Def.'s Reply”) at 5-7, ECF
No. 9. As explained below, the Court grants Citibank's
motion and dismisses Ms. Mehrbach's complaint.
Fla. Stat. § 655.059 Does Not Provide a Private Cause of
Mehrbach claims that Citibank released her bank records in
violation of Fla. Stat. § 655.059, which protects the
confidentiality of the books and records of financial
institutions. Compl. ¶ 11. Citibank asserts that Ms.
Mehrbach's claim should be dismissed because Fla. Stat.
§ 655.059 provides no private cause of action, thus, Ms.
Mehrbach has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. Def.'s Mot. at 11-12. Upon consideration of the
statute and relevant case law, the Court finds that ...