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Mua v. State

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 19, 2016

JOSEPHAT MUA, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         On May 12, 2016, plaintiffs Josephat Mua and Francoise Vandenplas, husband and wife who are self-represented, filed suit against the State of Maryland; California Casualty Indemnity Exchange (“CCIE”); and Marsden & Seledee, LLC, a law firm. See ECF 1. Plaintiffs also filed a “Motion for Ex Parte Emergency Injunctive Relief and Immediate Hearing.” ECF 2, “Motion.” The Motion is supported by a Memorandum (ECF 2) and several exhibits. See ECF 2-3-2-9.[1]

         According to plaintiffs, defendants have violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and Maryland law with respect to events that transpired following a vehicular accident that occurred in August 2011. ECF 1, ¶ 8.[2] The proverbial “kitchen sink” Complaint contains numerous causes of action, as follows: “Violation of Article 40 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights” (Count I; Count II); Common Law - Abuse (Count III); Retaliation (Count IV); Conspiracy (Count V); “Injunction Against Marsden & Seledee; California Casualty Indemnity Exchange for Unlawful Interference with the Administration and Enforcement of the Laws of Maryland” (Count VI); Breach of Duty (Count VII); Negligence (Count VIII); Discrimination and Unfair Termination Provisions (Count IX); Improper Termination Practice (Count X); Violation of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Lack of License in Maryland (Count XI); “(Legal Malpractice Against Defendants)” (Count XII); Breach of Fiduciary Duty Against Defendants (Count XIII); and Fraud (Count XIV). See ECF 1 at 11- 30.

         This Memorandum resolves only the pending Motion. No hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs’ Motion shall be denied.

         I. Background

         The lengthy Complaint is difficult to decipher. According to plaintiffs, this “matter arises out of a motor vehicle incident that occurred on August 26th, 2011, ” in which Vandenplas was involved. ECF 1, ¶ 8. Plaintiffs’ claims seem to arise from an insurance dispute with CCIE that followed the motor vehicle accident in 2011, and from alleged collection efforts used by Marsden & Seledee as a result of CCIE’s overpayment of insurance benefits to plaintiffs. Id. ¶¶ 8-21. Plaintiffs contend, inter alia, that CCIE “chose not to assist the Plaintiffs despite the obligations to do so according to Maryland law.” Id. ¶ 21.

         In particular, it appears that CCIE made two insurance payments to plaintiffs of $5, 128.83 each, over the course of approximately three months. Id. ¶¶ 23, 24. According to plaintiffs, CCIE issued the first check “without an explanation.” Id. ¶ 23. And, “[d]ue to the ambiguous purpose of the check, the Plaintiffs retained the check for 3 months, causing it to expire.” Id. Then, “[u]pon seeking counsel with an attorney, the attorney instructed Plaintiff Mr. Mua to cash the check for the purposes of recovering the car rental expenses and other incidentals.” Id. Thereafter, “Plaintiff Josephat Mua contacted the Defendant California Casualty Indemnity Exchange concerning the uncashed check and reimbursement of rental car expenses which totaled more than $1, 000 and the Plaintiff Mr. Mua was issued a new check for $5, 128.83 without any explanations and assumed it was towards the rental car expenses and other costs associated with the incident.” Id. ¶ 24.

         CCIE subsequently sought reimbursement in an amount equal to one of the checks it had issued to plaintiffs, claiming that it was a duplicate payment. Id. ¶¶ 23-33. Plaintiffs contested the reimbursement and litigation ensued.

         An electronic search in the Maryland Judiciary Case Search system yielded numerous results for State cases that involve the plaintiffs, CCIE, and Marsden & Seledee. See Maryland Judiciary Case Search Criteria, http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch//process Disclaimer.jis (searching by name: Mua, Josephat) (last visited May 18, 2016). And, in at least two of the State cases, CCIE is or was represented by Joel Seledee, Esquire, of the law firm of Marsden & Seledee, LLC. See Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Case No. 9124D (Closed April 29, 2016); Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Case No. 9381D (Filed May 2, 2016).

         In the District Court for Montgomery County, CCIE sued Mua and Vandenplas to recover the disputed overpayment. Mua and Vandenplas removed that case to federal court, where it was assigned to Judge Messitte. See PJM-15-0060; see also Id. at ECF 35-1 at 2; ECF 40 (both citing the State action as case number “060200053402014”). Notably, the underlying facts of the federal case appear largely the same as those set forth in the case sub judice.

         Moreover, on February 4, 2015, Judge Messitte remanded the case to State court, finding that it was untimely removed and that, in any event, Mua and Vandenplas had failed to set forth a valid basis for subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at ECF 38 at 2-3; ECF 39; ECF 40. In his Memorandum Opinion (id. at ECF 38), Judge Messitte noted that there had already been a trial on the merits in State court, and that “judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff.” See Id. at ECF 38 at 2; see also PJM-15-0060, ECF 35, ¶¶ 5, 6; ECF 35-1 at 2; ECF 35-2.[3] Judge Messitte cited ECF 35-2, which is a copy of the Judgment in the District Court of Maryland, entered against both Mua and Vandenplas, jointly and severally, dated December 10, 2014, in the amount of $5, 128.83, plus costs of $118.

         Notably, when Mua and Vandenplas removed the State case to federal court (PJM-15-0060), they filed a notice (id. at ECF 33) indicating that the removed case was related to a pending federal case that they had initiated, captioned Mua and Vandenplas v. California Casualty Indemnity Exchange and Marsden & Seledee, LLC, PJM-14-3810. In that case, Judge Messitte dismissed the amended complaint (id. at ECF 30; ECF 31) and the Fourth Circuit affirmed. Id. at ECF 37; ECF 41.[4] The 2015 case also appears to have involved largely the same claims asserted in the case sub judice, as well as the same parties, with the exception of the addition of the State of Maryland.

         Plaintiffs now aver, inter alia, that the matter is urgent because Vandenplas has been subject to illegal wage garnishment in connection with the contested obligation to reimburse CCIE. See, e.g., ECF 1 at 9, 11, 13, 27. Plaintiffs also contend that defendant Marsden & Seledee was hired by CCIE to collect the outstanding payment. See, e.g., ECF 1 at 2. Plaintiffs take issue with the debt collection practices used by Marsden & Seledee. Id. And, as to the State of Maryland’s involvement in the suit, plaintiffs allege the following (id.): “The state of Maryland agents engaged in white collar crimes in order to advance the illegal scheme and awarded Defendant CCIE using the violation of the law to the detriment of the Plaintiffs. Defendant CCIE and Marsden & Seledee engaged in bribery and interfered with the Maryland State personnel to advance their illegal agenda in Maryland in violation of the constitution.”

         In the Motion (ECF 2), plaintiffs ask the Court, inter alia, to “stop the garnishment of wages of Francoise Vandenplas . . . and to allow the complaints filed in this court, the appeal currently pending in Maryland Court of Appeals [sic] and in the Court of Appeals for U.S [sic] Fourth Circuit . . . .” Id. at 1-2. The Motion also appears to expand the scope of alleged misconduct by defendants (i ...


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