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Letke v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

November 27, 2013

KIMBERLY LETKE, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE, INC., JOHN STUMPF, and ADAM VELDE Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kimberly Letke, proceeding pro se, brings this action against Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc. ("Wells Fargo"), John Stumpf ("Stumpf"), and Adam Velde ("Velde") alleging sex and national origin discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq. By a consolidated motion (ECF No. 7), Defendants Stumpf and Velde moved to dismiss the Complaint, while Defendant Wells Fargo moved for a more definite statement. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and finds that no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7) is GRANTED; this action is DISMISSED as to the Defendants Stumpf and Velde; and the Plaintiff Letke must provide a more definite statement of her claims against Wells Fargo, stylized as an "Amended Complaint, " within the next thirty (30) days.

BACKGROUND

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be accepted as true and those facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). Moreover, a pro se litigant's complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that the litigant can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978).

Plaintiff Kimberly Letke filed this action pro se against Defendants Wells Fargo Home Mortgage ("Wells Fargo"), John Stumpf ("Stumpf"), and Adam Velde ("Velde") on December 27, 2012. See generally Compl., Dec. 27, 2012, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff is a single woman living in Baltimore City. Compl. ¶ 3. Plaintiff claims that Defendants engaged in sex and national origin discrimination when Wells Fargo denied her application for a residential home loan modification. Compl. ¶¶ 1-3. Plaintiff seeks relief under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 16 U.S.C. 1691 et seq.

The allegations in the Complaint indicate that Wells Fargo had a pre-existing subprime home loan with the Plaintiff. Compl. ¶¶ 1-8. In 2012, Plaintiff requested a home loan modification, but after months of transmitting documents, making payments, and contacting Wells Fargo, Plaintiff was denied a home loan modification. Compl. ¶¶ 4-18. Throughout this process, Velde served as an "Executive Mortgage Specialist." Compl. ¶ 7. The Complaint does not identify Stumpf or otherwise explain his involvement in this case.

On March 25, 2013, Defendants filed the pending Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7). Plaintiff subsequently filed two papers: (1) a "Response from Kimberly Letke April 4, 2013" (ECF No. 10), filed with the Court on April 5, 2013; and (2) a "Motion to Move Forward to a Jury Trial: Response to Motion to Dismiss from Kimberly Letke April 4, 2013" (ECF No. 12)-which, despite the paper's title, was not filed with this Court until April 16, 2013. Both papers contain a variety of new factual allegations. On May 3, 2013, Defendants filed their Reply (ECF No. 15).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

Under Rule 8(a)(2) of 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). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is "to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

The Supreme Court's recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court's decision in Twombly articulated "[t]wo working principles" that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim). In the context of pro se litigants, however, pleadings are "to be liberally construed, " and are "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted); accord Brown v. N.C. Dept. of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 724 (4th Cir. 2010).

Second, even a pro se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege "a plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (recognizing no pro se exception to the requirement to plead a "plausible claim for relief"); see also O'Neil v. Ponzi, 394 F.App'x. 795, 796 (2d Cir. 2010) (unpublished) ("We must dismiss pro se complaints that are frivolous or fail to state a claim."). Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although the plausibility requirement does not impose a "probability requirement, " id. at 556, "[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; see also Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Cos., 679 F.3d 278, 291 (4th Cir. 2012) ("A complaint need not make a case against a defendant or forecast evidence sufficient to prove an element of the claim. It need only allege facts sufficient to state elements of the claim." (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). In short, a court must "draw on its judicial experience and common sense" to determine whether the pleader has stated a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Finally, "[w]hile pro se complaints may represent the work of an untutored hand requiring special judicial solicitude, ' a district court is not required to recognize obscure or extravagant claims defying the most concerted efforts to unravel them.'" Weller v. Dep't of Social Servs. for City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985), cert denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986)).

II. Motion for a More Definite Statement Pursuant to Rule 12(e).

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a pleader to provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Pleading requirements are intended to ensure that an opposing party receives fair notice of the factual basis for an assertion contained in a claim or defense. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545. When a party has not complied with the requirements of Rule 8, the opposing party may file a Motion for a More Definite Statement under Rule 12(e). FED. R. CIV. P. 12(e) ("A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably ...


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