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Willis v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 12, 2015

WINFIELD T. WILLIS,
v.
GREEN TREE SERVICING, LLC

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, Senior District Judge.

Pending before the Court is a Motion for Remand to State Court, ECF No. 10, filed by Plaintiff Winfield T. Willis and a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 7, filed by Defendant Green Tree Servicing, LLC (Green Tree). The motions are fully briefed, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and for the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's motion will be denied and Defendant's motion will be granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, acting pro se, brings this action under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq (Count II);[1] the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1592 (Counts X and XIII); the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 13-101 et seq (Counts I, III, IV, VIII, IX, and XII); the Maryland Mortgage Fraud Protection Act (MFPA), Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 7-401 et seq (Count VII); Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 7-105 (Counts XI and XIV); and various state common law claims (Counts V and VI) for Defendant's handling and servicing of his mortgage loan.

This case arises from a mortgage loan in the sum of $350, 000, obtained by Winfield Willis and Patricia Lewis, for real property located at 2816 Hillsdale Road, Baltimore, Maryland, 21207 (the Property). The loan is evidenced by a promissory note (the Note) and secured by a deed of trust ("Deed of Trust"). Only Plaintiff signed the Note but both Plaintiff and Ms. Lewis signed the Deed of Trust. Plaintiff has submitted two versions of these documents - one dated December 15, 2005, and one dated January 2, 2006. The December 15, 2005, Note and Deed of Trust - which Plaintiff claims are the true documents, as December 15 "is the only date the Plaintiff remembers signing any documents" - is witnessed but not notarized. ECF Nos. 2-9 and 2-10. The January 2, 2006, Note and Deed of Trust - which Plaintiff claims are a forgery - are witnessed and notarized.[2] ECF Nos. 2-5 and 2-6. Plaintiff also alleges that this Note was "robo signed" with three "Pay to the Order of" stamps. ECF No. 2 ¶ 31.

On June 6, 2013, the Deed of Trust was assigned to Defendant. ECF No. 2-1. On December 19, 2013, Defendant filed an Affidavit of Deed of Trust Debt and Right to Foreclose in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland. ECF No. 2-11. On February 14, 2014, Defendant assigned substitute trustees. Then, on February 28, 2014, Green Tree filed an Affidavit of Default and Mailing of Notice of Intent to Foreclose in Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland. ECF No. 2-2. As part of the foreclosure process, Defendant submitted the affidavit of Elaine Waterson, a Foreclosure Specialist, attesting that Defendant was unable to conduct a Final Loss Mitigation Analysis because there was no contact with the borrower. ECF No. 2-3. In its filings with the Circuit Court, Ms. Lewis is included as a Borrower along with the Plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that such inclusion constitutes material misrepresentations and deceptive trade practices in violation of MCPA. ECF No. 2 at 11-12.

Plaintiff alleges that the first time he received any notice of the foreclosure was on June 2, 2014, when Defendant's attorney, Samuel I. White, delivered a copy of the foreclosure documents. Id . ¶ 6. He claims not to have received a notice of Intent to Foreclose packet sent by Defendant on October 10, 2013. Id . ¶ 8. Plaintiff also claims that the first direct communication with Defendant was on September 19, 2014, when Defendant's employee Maria Alvarado stated that the address on file for Plaintiff was a location in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Id . ¶ 10. Plaintiff has no connection with Baton Rouge. Plaintiff alleges that all documents that Defendant was obligated to send under RESPA and Maryland law must have gone to this address. Id . ¶ 12-14.

Plaintiff filed this case in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on October 17, 2014. Defendant then removed to this Court on December 1, 2014. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand to send this action back to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City after Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss all claims.

II. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

Plaintiff makes three arguments to support his Motion to Remand to State Court: (1) that Defendant's removal of the action to this Court was untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 1446, ECF No. 10 ¶ 3; (2) that Plaintiff's claims raise "a novel or complex issue of State law" and that these State law claims "substantially predominate" over his Federal law claims such that the court should exercise its discretion to remand the case, id. ¶ 10; and (3) that diversity jurisdiction does not exist because a Maryland company is remotely attached to Defendant's ownership.[3] Id . ¶ 13. The Court finds none of these arguments persuasive and will maintain jurisdiction over this action.

First, Defendant timely removed to this Court on December 1, 2014. 28 U.S.C. § 1446 requires a defendant to remove a civil action from state to federal court within 30 days of being served with the complaint. Defendant was served on October 28, 2014. Plaintiff calculates the last day for removal as November 28, 2014, taking into account that the thirtieth day, November 27, 2014, was the Thanksgiving holiday. ECF No. 10 at 4-5. What Plaintiff does not take into account is that Friday, October 28 was a Court holiday in accordance with Local Rule 504.1. Therefore, the deadline for Defendant to remove was December 1, 2014. Defendant timely removed on that date.

Second, Plaintiff has not sufficiently articulated a reason why the Court should exercise its discretion to remand back to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Section § 1367(c) of Title 28 of the United States Code provides the Court with the discretionary authority to decline to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims if such claims "raise[] a novel or complex issue of State law" or "substantially predominate[] over the... claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction." Plaintiff argues that because he brought eleven claims under Maryland law and three under federal law, his state law claims are novel enough and so predominate over his federal claims that remand is warranted. He provides no further detail regarding the novelty of his claims, nor does he articulate "in terms of proof, of the scope of the issues raised, or of the comprehensiveness of the remedy sought, " United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs , 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966), why his Maryland claims predominate over his federal claims. To say simply that his Maryland claims are larger in number than his federal claim is insufficient ground to warrant wholesale remand. The Court, therefore, will exercise its original jurisdiction authority over Plaintiff's federal claims and supplemental jurisdiction authority over the Maryland law claims.

Finally, although the Court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, it will also reject Plaintiff's creative argument against diversity jurisdiction. A federal district court may exercise jurisdiction over a civil action when the "matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000... and is between citizens of different states." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). For the purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a corporation's citizenship is derived from either its state of incorporation or its principal place of business. 28 U.S.C. 1332(c). Defendant is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal office in Minnesota. Therefore, it can claim citizenship in Delaware and Minnesota, but not Maryland. Plaintiff attempts to assign Maryland citizenship to Defendant by stating that Walter Investment Management Corporation (Walter Investment), a Maryland corporation, somehow owns Defendant. ECF No. 10 ¶ 10. Walter Investment is removed from Defendant by eight layers of LLC ownership, [4] all eight layers of which are Delaware incorporated LLCs with a principal place of business in either Minnesota or Florida. It is an extreme stretch and inappropriate under diversity ...


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