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Samuel v. Wells Fargo & Co.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 1, 2018

TIBEBE F. SAMUEL, Plaintiff
v.
WELLS FARGO & COMPANY, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This lawsuit centers on the alleged decision of Defendants Wells Fargo & Company and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (collectively, “Wells Fargo”) to deny a Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”) application filed by Genet Damtie in 2010. This case has been brought by Tibebe F. Samuel, an individual who allegedly represented Ms. Damtie in her dealings with Wells Fargo. Plaintiff claims that Wells Fargo treated him unfairly during Ms. Damie's HAMP application process.

         On April 27, 2018, this Court granted in part and denied in part a prior Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants. Order, ECF No. [16]; Memorandum Opinion, ECF No. [17]. The Court concluded that Plaintiff's contract claims and statutory claims were dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Id. at 7, 11-12. Plaintiff's fraud claim was dismissed without prejudice due to a failure to plead with particularity. Id. at 11. And, Plaintiff's defamation and related interference with business relations claims, which were based on statements allegedly made in 2016, were dismissed with prejudice as barred by the statute of limitations. Id. at 13-14.

         But, Plaintiff was allowed to file a Second Amended Complaint setting forth his defamation and related interference with business relations claims based on statements allegedly made by Defendants in March 2017, as those allegations were not barred by the statute of limitations. Id. at 14-16. Plaintiff's claims based on Defendants' alleged March 2017 statements had not been raised in his first Amended Complaint. Instead, these claims were raised only in his Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. [14], 10. Accordingly, Plaintiff was allowed to file a Second Amended Complaint including these claims. Memorandum Opinion, ECF No. [17], 14-16.

         Similar to his initial Complaint and his first Amended Complaint, Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint is not a model of clarity or specificity. Plaintiff has asserted claims for tortious interference with prospective business relationships, defamation, and related interference with business relations. Within these claims, Plaintiff includes grounds for relief which the Court previously dismissed with prejudice.

         Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, alternatively, to Strike Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as it currently stands, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion. The Court will not strike Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint or any part thereof, but all claims which were previously dismissed with prejudice remain dismissed with prejudice. The Court also dismisses with prejudice Plaintiff's claim for interference with prospective business relationships as Plaintiff has failed to adequately plead the elements of the offense. However, Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied as to Plaintiff's new claims for defamation and interference with business relations as those claims are based on Defendants' March 2017 statements and are not time barred.

         I. BACKGROUND

         For the purposes of the motion before the Court, the Court accepts as true the well-pleaded allegations in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. The Court does “not accept as true, however, the plaintiff's legal conclusions or inferences that are unsupported by the facts alleged.” Ralls Corp. v. Comm. on Foreign Inv. in the United States, 758 F.3d 296, 315 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

         The factual background of this case is discussed in the Court's April 27, 2018 Memorandum Opinion. See Memorandum Opinion, ECF No. [17]; see also Samuel v. Wells Fargo & Co., 311 F.Supp.3d 10, 14-17 (D.D.C. 2018). The Court does not repeat that discussion but assumes familiarity with it and expressly incorporates it herein.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a complaint on the grounds that it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint does not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that, if accepted as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Claims Previously Dismissed with Prejudice

         In its April 27, 2018 Memorandum Opinion granting in part and denying in part Defendants' prior motion to dismiss, the Court explicitly instructed Defendant to file a Second Amended Complaint setting forth Plaintiff's claims for defamation and interference with business relations based only on Defendants' alleged March 2017 statements and “omit[ting] claims that the Court has dismissed with prejudice.” Memorandum Opinion, ECF No. [17], 16. Despite this clear statement, Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint still requests relief for claims which the Court previously held to be dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiff continues to assert nebulous allegations based on unspecified “misrepresentations, ” “deceptive” and “false statements, ” unfulfilled “promises” and the general history of Ms. Damtie's HAMP application. Additionally, rather than making a claim for defamation and interference with ...


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