United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Traci Brown, proceeding pro se, commenced this
action and another nearly identical action in the Superior
Court for the District of Columbia against several banking
and mortgage institutions, seeking damages and injunctive
relief relating to an allegedly “predatory” loan
agreement and other allegedly unlawful
practices. See Dkt. 1-1; Brown v.
Americus Mort. Corp., No. 17-cv-2102, ECF No. 1-1. Both
cases were removed to this Court, and, pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a), the Court consolidated the two
actions. See Minute Order (Dec. 5, 2017).
before the Court are Brown's motion to remand, Dkt. 16,
and Defendants Nationstar Mortgage LLC, MetLife Inc., MetLife
Home Loans LLC, MetLife Bank, N.A., and First Tennessee Bank
National Association's (“Nationstar
Defendants'”) motion to dismiss, Dkt. 12. Brown
contends that the cases were improperly removed because the
removal petition in Civil Action No. 17-2101 was not timely
filed, Dkt. 16 at 4-7, and because the removing defendants
failed to obtain the consent of the other defendants in
either case, id. at 7-9. The Nationstar Defendants
oppose the motion, Dkt. 21, and contend that the cases should
be dismissed for a variety of reasons, including for lack of
standing because Brown filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2009
without disclosing her potential, pre-petition claims, Dkt.
12-1 at 13-14. In their view, that omission means that any
such causes of action remain the property of the bankruptcy
estate and, as a result, Brown lacks standing to pursue them.
reasons explained below, the Court is unpersuaded by
Brown's contention that the removing defendants failed to
comply with the procedural requirements of 28 U.S.C. §
1446(b) and thus declines to remand the actions. In contrast,
the Court agrees with the Nationstar Defendants that Brown
lacks standing to pursue her pre-petition claims. Brown, for
her part, does not meaningfully dispute that contention, but
requests that the Court stay the consolidated action to allow
her to seek appropriate relief in the bankruptcy court. The
Court will grant her a limited period of time to attempt to
do so and will, accordingly, stay the action until further
order of the Court and will direct that Brown file a status
report with the Court every 60 days regarding the status of
the bankruptcy court proceeding. Finally, the Court notes
that Brown contends that some of her claims relate to
post-petition conduct. Defendants correctly observe that the
complaint, as currently pled, fails to set forth any such
distinct claims with sufficient clarity to satisfy Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). The Court will postpone
addressing how best to address that deficiency, however,
until after Brown has had the opportunity to seek relief in
the bankruptcy court proceeding.
purposes of the pending motions to dismiss for lack of
jurisdiction, the Court takes the allegations of the
complaint as true but also considers the “undisputed
facts evidenced in the record” relating to Brown's
standing. Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974
F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992); see also Arora v.
Buckhead Family Dentistry, Inc., 263 F.Supp.3d 121, 126
(D.D.C. 2017); Achagzai v. Broad. Bd. of Governors,
170 F.Supp.3d 164, 173 (D.D.C. 2016).
the complaint is not entirely clear, it appears to allege
that Brown obtained a home mortgage loan from First Horizon
Home Loan Corporation (“First Horizon”) in July
2004 and that First Horizon was owned by First Tennessee Bank
National Association (“First Tennessee”) at that
time. Dkt. 1-1 at 3. She further alleges that her mortgage
broker, Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corporation,
“referred” her to First Horizon, id. at
4-5, and that she entered into a loan modification in 2015,
id. at 23. A number of intervening acquisitions and
transfers further complicate matters. According to the
complaint, First Tennessee sold First Horizon to MetLife
Bank, N.A. (“MetLife”) in 2008, and, in 2012,
MetLife sold its banking unit to G.E. Capital and its
mortgage servicing business to JPMorgan Chase. Id.
at 3. But, even before MetLife sold its mortgage
servicing business to JPMorgan Chase, yet another company,
Nationstar Mortgage Company, began servicing the loan.
Id. Brown concedes that she defaulted on the loan in
2015. Id. at 24.
alleges that the loan was a “predatory and toxic
subprime loan;” that Defendants made “false
representation[s]” and failed to disclose material
information in order to “induce” her to
“accept” an adjustable rate mortgage; and that
Defendants “steered” her toward the subprime loan
even though she would have qualified for a “prime
loan” at the time. Id. at 7. She further
alleges that Defendants' unlawful conduct continued over
a period of eleven years; that she received “erroneous
mortgage statements;” that she was “repeatedly
assessed improper and excessive late fees;” and that
she was repeatedly provided false or incomplete information.
Id. at 20-21, 30. Much of this conduct, she further
alleges, was the product of racial discrimination.
Id. at 35-36.
December 2009, Brown filed a petition for voluntary Chapter 7
bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of
Columbia. See Dkt. 12-2. In the required Summary of
Schedules, she recorded $601, 224.00 in total assets and $1,
060, 233.73 in total liabilities. Id. at 2. As
relevant here, “Schedule B” instructed Brown to
list “contingent and unliquidated claims of every
nature, ” and Brown indicated that she had none.
Id. at 5. After the initiation of this lawsuit,
Brown sought, and was granted, leave to reopen her bankruptcy
proceedings. See Dkt. 28; Dkt. 29. Brown has since
amended her Summary of Schedules to include her interest in
the current lawsuit, Dkt. 30 at 17, but no further action has
yet occurred in the bankruptcy court.
26, 2017, Brown filed her original complaint in D.C. Superior
Court, seeking damages from First Horizon, First Tennessee,
and a number of other allegedly related banking and mortgage
institutions. Dkt. 1-1. She also filed an Application for a
Temporary Restraining Order and Motion for a Preliminary
Injunction. See Dkt. 1-2 at 96. The D.C. Superior
Court referred Brown's case to mediation, where the
parties reached a consent agreement under which Brown agreed
to dismissal of her pending applications for a temporary
restraining order and preliminary injunction. Id.
Following the mediation, on June 15, 2017, the Superior Court
dismissed Brown's case “in its entirety without
prejudice, ” but all agree that it did so in error.
Id. In response, Brown moved to reopen the case and
sought leave to amend her complaint, and she simultaneously
filed her proposed amended complaint as a new action, naming
two additional defendants. Dkt. 9 at 2; see also
Dkt. 1-2 at 28; Brown, No. 17-cv-2102, ECF No. 1-1.
October 3, 2017, the Superior Court reopened Brown's
first action. See Dkt. 96. A week later, the
Nationstar Defendants removed both the first and second
actions to this Court. See Dkt. 1; Brown,
No. 17-cr-2102, ECF No. 1. Because the actions were removed
before the Superior Court had the opportunity to act on
Brown's motion for leave to amend, the operative
complaints remain the initial complaint filed in the first
action and the complaint, adding the additional defendants,
filed in the second action. In all respects relevant to this
motion, the operative complaints are identical. Those
complaints allege claims under the Fair Housing Act, 42
U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.; the Equal Credit
Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq.; the
Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982;
the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et
seq.; the Federal Home Ownership and Equity Protection
Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1639 et seq.; the Federal Fair
Debt Collection Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.;
the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. §
2601 et seq.; the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, 12
U.S.C. § 2801 et seq.; the D.C. Mortgage Lender
and Broker Act, D.C. Code § 26-1101 et seq.;
the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedure Act, D.C. Code §
28-3901 et seq.; the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C.
Code § 1-2501 et seq.; and D.C. common law,
Dkt. 1-1 at 11-39; Brown, No. 17-cv-2102, ECF No.
1-1 at 13-39.
the actions were removed, Brown moved to consolidate the
cases, Dkt. 9, and the Court granted her motion after
Defendants were given an opportunity to respond, see
Minute Order (Dec. 5, 2017). The Nationstar Defendants then
moved to dismiss, arguing that Brown's claims are
untimely because she entered into the loan agreement in 2004;
that Brown lacks standing because she filed for bankruptcy
after her claims, if any, accrued; and that Brown's
complaints fail to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. See Dkt. 12. Brown, in turn,
opposed that motion, Dkt. 23, and moved to remand on three
grounds: (1) the removal petition in Civil Action 17-2101 was
not timely; (2) all of the named defendants did not consent
to removal; and (3) the D.C. Superior Court has concurrent
jurisdiction to hear the case. See Dkt. 16.