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Barilone v. Onewest Bank, FSB

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

December 31, 2013

MARJORIE J. BARILONE, Plaintiff,
v.
ONEWEST BANK, FSB, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.

Marjorie Barilone, the self-represented plaintiff, filed a "Complaint To Quiet Title" against OneWest Bank, FSB, d/b/a Financial Freedom (the "Bank"); FANNIE MAE[1]; "John Doe 1-10"; and "Jane Doe 1-10.[2] See Complaint, ECF 2. Plaintiff asserts that she holds "the Remaindement [sic] of the Life Estate" of property located on King Avenue in Baltimore County, Maryland (the "Property"), which was previously owned by her late parents, Albert and Margaret Karczmarek. Id. ΒΆ 3. In her suit, plaintiff seeks the imposition of a constructive trust over the Property; a declaration that she is the rightful holder of title to the Property; a judgment enjoining defendants from claiming any right, title, or interest in the Property; and other relief. Id. at 5.

Bank and Federal National Mortgage Association have responded with a Motion to Dismiss ("Motion, " ECF 10), pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), supported by a Memorandum ("Memo, " ECF 10-1). Ms. Barilone filed an opposition to the Motion (ECF 17), and the defendants replied (ECF 18). Thereafter, Ms. Barilone filed an additional response. Surreply, ECF 23. No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the Motion.

Standard of Review

A motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) constitutes an assertion by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by the plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It provides that a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and the "grounds" for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 n.3 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

A plaintiff need not include "detailed factual allegations" in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Id. at 555. But, the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Id .; see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). To satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the complaint must set forth "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action, "even if... [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and... recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. In other words, the complaint must contain facts sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570; see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684; Simmons v. United Mortg. and Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 768 (4th Cir. 2011).

In reviewing such a motion, a court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, '" and must "draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.'" E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___ , 132 S.Ct. 402 (2011); Monroe v. City of Charlottesville, 579 F.3d 380, 385-86 (4th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___ , 130 S.Ct. 1740 (2010). However, a complaint that provides no more than "labels and conclusions, " or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Similarly, the defendant's motion will be granted if the "well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted). Moreover, the court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986); Monroe, 579 F.3d at 385-86.

"A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer" that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy he or she seeks. A Society Without A Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___ , 132 S.Ct. 1960 (2012). "Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory.'" Hartmann v. Calif. Dept. of Corr. & Rehab., 707 F.3d 1114, 1122 (9th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted); accord Commonwealth Prop. Advocates, LLC v. Mortg. Elec. Reg. Sys., Inc., 680 F.3d 1194, 1201-02 (10th Cir. 2011) ("When reviewing a 12(b)(6) dismissal, we must determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.' Dismissal is appropriate if the law simply affords no relief.") (internal citation omitted).

A motion asserting failure of the complaint to state a claim typically "does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses, " Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted), unless such a defense can be resolved on the basis of the facts alleged in the complaint. See Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007). "This principle only applies, however, if all facts necessary to the affirmative defense clearly appear [ ] on the face of the complaint, '" or in other documents that are proper subjects of consideration under Rule 12(b)(6). Id. (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. v. Forst, 4 F.3d 244, 250 (4th Cir. 1993)) (emphasis in Goodman ).

In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court ordinarily "may not consider any documents that are outside of the complaint, or not expressly incorporated therein...." Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville, 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013). In considering a challenge to the adequacy of plaintiff's pleading, however, the court may properly consider documents "attached or incorporated into the complaint, " as well as documents attached to the defendant's motion, "so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic." Philips v. Pitt County Memorial Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009); see also E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 637 F.3d at 448. To be "integral, " a document must be one "that by its very existence, and not the mere information it contains, gives rise to the legal rights asserted.'" Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal Sparrows Point, LLC, 794 F.Supp.2d 602, 611 (D. Md. 2011) (citation omitted) (emphasis in original).

Additionally, facts and documents subject to judicial notice may be considered by a court, without converting the motion under Rule 12(d) to one for summary judgment. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); Katyle v. Penn Nat'l Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 466 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___ , 132 S.Ct. 115 (2011). Therefore, I may take judicial notice of relevant pleadings filed in a State court action. See Colonial Ins. Co. v. Coil, 887 F.2d 1236, 1239 (4th Cir. 1989). Moreover, the deed to the Property is integral to plaintiff's claims. It is a legal instrument whose "very existence'" has an operative effect on the rights at issue in the suit. Id. (citation omitted). Accordingly, it is a proper subject of consideration under Rule 12(b)(6), and there is no dispute as to the authenticity of the copies submitted by defendants.

Factual Background

On August 23, 1989, Albert S. Karczmarek and Margaret M. Karczmarek (collectively, the "Karczmareks"), conveyed to themselves by deed, as tenants by the entirety, a life estate in the Property. See Deed, ECF 12-1. The Deed, recorded in the land records for Baltimore County, granted the Karczmareks

full power... to sell, lease, mortgage and otherwise dispose of... or encumber the whole and entire estate hereby granted...; it being the intention that the powers aforesaid when exercised shall operate not only upon the life estate hereby granted unto [the Karczmareks], but also upon the remainder as hereinafter set forth, to the end and intent that the grantee or mortgagee under the instrument executed in exercise of the powers herein granted unto [the Karczmareks ] shall obtain the whole and entire estate, ...

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