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Minson v. Citimortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

May 29, 2013

ERIN MINSON,
v.
CITIMORTGAGE, INC.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this consumer lending action is motion to dismiss filed by Defendant CitiMortgage, Inc. (ECF No. 12). The issues are fully briefed and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, no hearing being deemed necessary. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Background

Plaintiff Erin Minson, proceeding pro se, commenced this action on June 25, 2012, by filing a complaint against Defendant CitiMortgage, Inc., in the Circuit Court for Charles County, Maryland. The complaint, which is inartfully drafted, relates to Defendant's alleged failure to respond, or to respond adequately, to Plaintiff's "Qualified Written Request" and "Request for First & Second Admissions" concerning a mortgage on her home. According to Plaintiff, Defendant asserted that it had "no contractual obligation to produce and/or disclose and/or comply" with these requests; therefore, there is "no contractual obligation between Plaintiff and Defendant" and "Defendant has no legal right to continue any collection activities [and/or] foreclosure[] against Plaintiff." (ECF No. 4 ¶ 7). Plaintiff "demands the court to compel Defendant to... comply" with these requests or "to give [her] a full deed of release" from her debt. ( Id. ). She further alleges, in conclusory fashion, that "Defendant has no legal authority to proceed with collection activities (including foreclosure)." ( Id. at ¶ 10).

Plaintiff attaches to the complaint a document entitled "Qualified Written Request/Validation of Debt, " dated April 24, 2012, citing "12 USC § 2605(e) of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA') and... 15 USC § [1692g] of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA'), " referencing a loan in connection with property she owns in Waldorf, Maryland. (ECF No. 4-1, at 1). Also attached is a document entitled "Plaintiff Request for First and Second Admissions, " dated May 15, 2012, which demands a response within ten days in light of the fact that Defendant allegedly "failed to fully respond to the Qualified Written Request' and ha[s] not produced legal assignment documents and transfers showing that CitiMortgage has been given authorization from the lender' to collect [and/or] foreclose[.]" (ECF No. 4-2, at 1).

Observing that the complaint appears to rely on federal statutes, Defendant removed to this court on July 27, 2012, on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Soon thereafter, Defendant filed a motion for more definite statement, asserting that "because of the vagueness of Plaintiff's pleading[], [it was] unable to decipher sufficient information from the [c]omplaint to comprehend what Plaintiff is claiming, thus rendering a proper response... impossible." (ECF No. 9-1, at 2). That motion was denied by a memorandum opinion and order issued November 9, 2012, and Defendant was directed to file either a motion to dismiss or an answer to the complaint within fourteen days.

On November 26, 2012, Defendant filed the pending motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 12).[1] Plaintiff opposed that motion on December 6 (ECF No. 16), and Defendant replied on December 26 (ECF No. 17).

II. Standard of Review The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n. 3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or "naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted. Revene v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not show[n]... that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Thus, "[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

III. Analysis

In denying Defendant's prior motion for more definite statement, the court construed Plaintiff's complaint as "raising claims under the RESPA and FDCPA provisions identified in [her] Qualified Written Request/Validation of Debt.'" (ECF No. 10, at 4). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to investigate and respond promptly to a Qualified Written Request ("QWR") under RESPA, as required by 12 U.S.C. § 2605(e), and a request for validation of debt under the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692g. Defendant contends that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under either provision.

A. Qualified Written Request under RESPA

As the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia recently explained:

RESPA mandates good faith estimates and disclosure of settlement terms and interest rates from lenders in order to allow consumers to evaluate whether they can afford all aspects of their loan. See 12 U.S.C. § 2601(a)-(b). Regarding Plaintiff's purported requests under RESPA, 12 U.S.C. § 2605(e) states that "[i]f any servicer of a federally related mortgage loan receives a qualified written request from the borrower... for information relating to the servicing of such loan, the servicer shall provide a written ...

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