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Sewell v. American Education Services/Pheaa

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 24, 2016

STARSHA SEWELL
v.
AMERICAN EDUCATION SERVICES/ PHEAA

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.

         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this case is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant American Education Services/Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency ("Defendant"). (ECF No. 7). Also pending are several motions filed by Plaintiff Starsha Sewell ("Plaintiff"). (ECF Nos. 11; 13; 15; 17). The relevant issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted. Plaintiff's motions will be denied.

         I. Background[1]

         On February 1, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application to consolidate her student loans with the United States Department of Education. (ECF No. 1-1). Attached to Plaintiff's application was an addendum indicating that Plaintiff applied for a "Special Direct Consolidation Loan." (Id. at 13-17). The addendum included the terms and conditions governing a Special Direct Consolidation Loan. It noted that, if certain requirements are met, the following loan types may be consolidated: Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans; Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans; Federal PLUS Loans; Subsidized Federal Consolidation Loans; Unsubsidized Federal Consolidation Loans; Federal Insured Student Loans; Guaranteed Student Loans; Federal Supplemental Loans for Students; and Auxiliary Loans to Assist Students. (Id. at 16). Defendant became the servicer of Plaintiff's consolidated loan. According to Plaintiff, one of her loans, a loan with Nova Southeastern University (the "Nova loan"), was not consolidated. (ECF No. 1, at 1).[2] Plaintiff was unaware that the Nova loan was not consolidated, and the loan went into default.

         On October 9, 2015, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint to commence this action. (ECF No. 1). Along with her complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, which was granted. (ECF Nos. 2; 3). Plaintiff's exact claims are not entirely clear, but it appears that she is asserting claims of: breach of contract; discrimination based on race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the "FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.; and "fraudulent obstruction of [j]ustice" in violation 18 U.S.C. § 1519 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX"), 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (ECF No. 1, at 2).

         On November 18, Defendant filed the pending motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 7). Plaintiff was provided with a Roseboro notice, which advised her of the pendency of the motion to dismiss and her entitlement to respond within 17 days. (ECF No. 9); see Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975) (holding that pro se plaintiffs should be advised of their right to file responsive material to a motion for summary judgment). In response, Plaintiff filed a "Motion to Strike and Dismiss Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [and] a Motion for Declaratory Judgment" (ECF No. 11), and Defendant responded in opposition (ECF No. 12).[3] Plaintiff also filed a "Second Motion to Strike and Dismiss Response in Opposition [and] a Second Motion for Declaratory Judgment" (ECF No. 13), to which Defendant responded (ECF No. 14).[4] Plaintiff then filed a "Motion for Default Judgment" (ECF No. 15) and a "Motion for Ruling on Plaintiff's [Prior Motions]" (ECF No. 17).[5]

         II. Standard of Review

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or "naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted).

         At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); Brockington v. Boykins, 637 F.3d 503, 505-06 (4th Cir. 2011). In evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted. Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not ‘show[n] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Thus, "[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         Generally, pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Liberal construction means that the court will read the pleadings to state a valid claim to the extent that it is possible to do so from the facts available; it does not mean that the court should rewrite the complaint to include claims never presented. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1132 (10th Cir. 1999). Even when pro se litigants are involved, the court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts that support a viable claim. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990); Forquer v. Schlee, No. RDB-12-969, 2012 WL 6087491, at *3 (D.Md. Dec. 4, 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted) ("[E]ven a pro se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a plausible claim for relief.").

         III. Analysis

         A. Breach of Contract

         Plaintiff asserts that Defendant "refused to remove the loan from default in violation of the contractual agreement in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981." (ECF No. 1, at 2). It is not clear if Plaintiff attempts to assert a separate common-law breach of contract claim or solely a § 1981 claim. Construing the complaint liberally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant breached a contract by not consolidating the Nova loan despite the fact that Plaintiff listed it on her consolidation application. Defendant counters that Plaintiff has not plausibly stated that she had a contract with Defendant. Rather, Defendant argues that Plaintiff only references her application for consolidation, which was submitted to the Department of Education, not Defendant.

         "To prevail in an action for breach of contract, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a contractual obligation and that the defendant breached that obligation." Jaguar Land Rover N. Am., LLC v. Manhattan Imported Cars, Inc., 738 F.Supp.2d 640, 649 (D.Md. 2010) (citing Taylor v. NationsBank, N.A., 365 Md. 166, 175 (2001)). Here, Plaintiff has not put forth facts alleging that Defendant owed her a contractual obligation. Plaintiff listed the Nova loan on her application for consolidation with the Department of Education, but she makes no factual assertions that Defendant entered into a ...


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