United States District Court, D. Maryland
PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.
DeAlva Graves and her son, Rodney Graves, who are proceeding pro se, claim that Defendant OneWest Bank, FSB ("OneWest") is liable for defamation, constructive fraud, fraud, and unjust enrichment because it sought payments on a mortgage loan on Plaintiffs' real property and initiated foreclosure proceedings on Plaintiffs' property based on Plaintiffs' alleged default on the Loan when, in their view, OneWest has no rights or interest in the loan or in the note that memorializes it. Edited First Am. Compl., ECF No. 25. Defendant moves to dismiss,  arguing that Rodney Graves lacks standing to bring this suit and that the state court decided the issue of Defendant's standing to enforce the loan documents already. Because Mr. Graves lacks standing, I will dismiss his claims with prejudice. Further, given that the state court resolved the issue of whether Defendant had standing to initiate foreclosure proceedings and concluded that it did, collateral estoppel precludes the relitigation of the issue, and I will dismiss Ms. Graves's claims with prejudice.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
At the time they filed their Edited First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs resided at 1005 Heather Avenue, Takoma Park, Maryland 20912 ("the Property"), real property that DeAlva Graves purchased using down payment money that Rodney Graves provided. Edited First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11; see Pls.' Opp'n 13. In conjunction with a "Construction to Permanent Loan" (the "Loan") that DeAlva Graves obtained from IndyMac Bank, FSB ("IndyMac"), memorialized by a promissory note that Ms. Graves executed in favor of IndyMac (the "Note"), Ms. Graves granted IndyMac a Deed of Trust to the Property in 2006. Edited First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30-31. According to the Graveses, IndyMac sold the Loan later that year, along with "all its rights and interest held in Plaintiff['s] Note, " such that "IndyMac no longer had any legal right to collect payments, enforce the Deed of Trust, resell or to modify Plaintiff['s] note as the holder' and owner' of Plaintiff['s] loan." Id. ¶¶ 33-34, 37.
OneWest acquired IndyMac in 2009. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiffs claim that the acquisition included residential loans but not construction loans, and specifically not Ms. Graves's Loan or the Note memorializing it. Id. ¶¶ 38-39. Plaintiffs allege that, notwithstanding Defendant's asserted failure to acquire Ms. Graves's Loan,
Plaintiffs have been hounded by OneWest as an alleged creditor against Plaintiffs for some time. OneWest is alleging it is the proper holder of Plaintiffs['] mortgage note pursuant to an FDIC takeover of Indy Mac Bank and subsequent endorsement of the note to OneWest. The Plaintiffs ha[ve] objected to OneWest's claim as the creditor and holder of the mortgage note, based on the endorsement and transfer of the note containing a material defect. As a result of the material defect in the transfer and endorsement of the note, the OneWest had no standing or authority to initiate foreclosure and pursue Plaintiffs on any claim arising from the note.
Id. ¶ 5. On that basis, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County on April 17, 2014, ECF No. 2, and Defendant removed to this Court, ECF No. 1. In their four-count Edited First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs lodge claims of defamation, constructive fraud, fraud, and unjust enrichment, as well as including a "DeAlva Discrimination Claim" before Count I, in which Ms. Graves alleges that "if she was not up in age OneWest would not have misled her to believe that OneWest was a real party of interest" and "perpetuate[d] a scheme to steal Plaintiff['s] real property." Edited First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 204-05.
This is not the parties' first time facing each other in court. Initially, Ms. Graves filed a quiet title action in in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County in 2011, which the court dismissed, with prejudice, Case No. 348123V (Cir. Ct. Montgomery Cnty. 2011); and Defendant initiated foreclosure proceedings in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County in 2013 (the "Foreclosure Action"), in which the court ultimately entered an order of final ratification of sale on April 10, 2015, Case No. 376661V (Cir. Ct. Montgomery Cnty. 2013). Meanwhile, the Graveses filed suit in this Court in 2013, seeking injunctive relief from the state foreclosure proceeding, and this Court dismissed their claim, sua sponte. No. DKC-13-3343 (D. Md. Nov. 15, 2013). They filed an adversary proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland in 2013, which the bankruptcy court dismissed, No. 13-779 (Bankr. D. Md. 2013). There, Plaintiffs alleged fraud, defamation and unjust enrichment, based on OneWest's attempts to enforce the Note, which Plaintiffs argued, as they do here, that OneWest was not entitled to enforce. Also, Ms. Graves has appealed bankruptcy court orders to this Court twice, No. PWG-14-3475 (D. Md. 2014), which still is pending, and RWT-14-935 (D. Md. 2014), which Ms. Graves withdrew.
The Graveses raised the issue of OneWest's standing, not only in the adversary proceeding, but in the Foreclosure Action as well. Relevantly, in the Foreclosure Action, the Graveses challenged Defendant's standing to bring the action. They moved to dismiss, arguing that OneWest "failed to establish ultimate facts to prove that [it was] entitled to bring forth an in rem foreclosure proceedings regarding the case at bar, " because "[t]here is no evidence that OneWest Bank FSB is the holder in due course of Defendant's note." Graves Mot. to Stay & Dismiss ¶¶ 16, 45, Def.'s Mem. Ex. L, ECF No. 28-16. The state court held a hearing on the motion and then entered an order denying the motion. See Foreclosure Action Docket Entries 27, 29, Def.'s Mem. Ex. B, ECF No. 28-3. The Graveses asked the court to reconsider its ruling, and the court denied that motion, id. Entries 37, 39, and they appealed the order and then dismissed their appeal, id. Entries 40, 45.
Plaintiffs are proceeding pro se and their complaint is to be construed liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, liberal construction does not absolve Plaintiffs from pleading a plausible claim. See Holsey v. Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122, 128 (D. Md. 1981) (citing Inmates v. Owens, 561 F.2d 560, 562-63 (4th Cir. 1977)). As stated by the Fourth Circuit,
It is neither unfair nor unreasonable to require a pleader to put his complaint in an intelligible, coherent, and manageable form, and his failure to do so may warrant dismissal. Corcoran v. Yorty, 347 F.2d 222, 223 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 382 U.S. 966 (1965); Holsey v. Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122, 128 (D. Md. 1981). District courts are not required to be mind readers, or to conjure questions not squarely presented to them. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986).
Harris v. Angliker,
955 F.2d 41, 1992 WL 21375, at *1 (4th Cir. ...