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Alston v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 4, 2016

THOMAS ALSTON Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Thomas Alston, pro se, filed suit against Defendants Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”) and Capital One, N.A. (“Capital One”), alleging that Defendants charged him undisclosed fees on one occasion when he withdrew cash from a Wells Fargo automated teller machine (“ATM”). Against Capital One alone, he alleged he was improperly charged a $2 fee on another occasion for purportedly exceeding the $5000 monthly limit on cash deposits. On the basis of these two incidents, he brought five claims as a purported class action, including state law breach of contract and tort claims, as well as a claim under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1693 et seq. While both Defendants moved to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim, Alston has moved for summary judgment as to Wells Fargo only. Subsequently, Alston and Capital One stipulated to Capital One’s dismissal from the case.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT Wells Fargo’s Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 14, which the Court has converted into a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. It will then DENY Alston’s Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 21 and ENTER FINAL JUDGMENT in favor of Wells Fargo and against Alston as to all remaining claims.

         I.

         Alston alleges in his Amended Complaint that in December 2014, he withdrew $200 from a Wells Fargo ATM in Virginia, using his Capital One debit card. Am. Compl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 6. He was charged a $7 fee for the transaction but submits that “[t]he ATM screen indicated that only $4 or $5 would be the total amount charged for the transaction.” Id. ¶¶ 5-6. He further alleges that the $7 charge included an overcharge by “Capital One and/or Wells Fargo of $2 or $3, ” such that one Defendant or both Defendants charged all or a portion of the $2 or $3 overcharge. Id. ¶¶ 9, 17. Alston admits that his checking account agreement permitted Capital One to assess fees during transactions at a non-Capital One ATM, id. ¶¶ 39-40, but he denies that other charges would apply given that he did not make a balance inquiry during his transaction, which would result in an additional fee. Id. ¶ 13.

         The Amended Complaint goes on to explain that Alston spoke with a Wells Fargo representative who was “unhelpful and suggested he call Capital One.” Id. ¶ 11. He then contacted several Capital One representatives, two of whom told him that he was charged $4 for the transaction, while another one said Capital One only charged him $2. Id. ¶¶ 12-16. One of the representatives who said he was charged $4 mentioned that Capital One had received complaints about “illegal charges for balance inquiries.” Id. ¶ 12. Another Capital One representative said that “the extra charge(s) may have come from Wells Fargo.” Id. ¶ 16.

         As to Capital One only, Alston alleges that in a separate incident in June 2015, he was incorrectly charged a $2 fee for going over the $5000 cash deposit limit by $2000. He maintains that he did not deposit $7000 in cash in June 2015. Id. ¶¶ 18-24.

         On the basis of these two incidents, Alston sought to bring the suit as a class action with two distinct classes: an ATM Fee Class related to the first incident, and a Cash Deposit Fee Class related to the second incident. He alleged five counts as follows: (1) Count 1: Violation of Electronic Funds Transfer Act (“EFTA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1693 (ATM Fee Class); (2) Count 2: Breach of Contract (ATM Fee Class); (3) Count 3: Unjust Enrichment (ATM Fee Class); (4) Count 4: Breach of Contract (Cash Deposit Fee Class); (5) Count 5: Conversion (both classes). Alston only brings Counts 1, 3, and 5 against Wells Fargo.

         Alston filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County on October 6, 2015, alleging only state law claims. After Wells Fargo filed a Motion to Dismiss in that court, relying on the EFTA, Alston amended his complaint to add a violation of the EFTA as Count 1. In consequence, on January 4, 2016 Wells Fargo, with permission from Capital One, removed the suit to this Court, and, on that same day, filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, which is currently before the Court. ECF No. 14. In Alston’s response in opposition, he also moved for summary judgment. ECF No. 21.

         On January 29, 2016, Capital One likewise moved to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim. ECF No. 25. Attached as an exhibit to the motion was a copy of a December 2014 account statement for Alston, [1] showing the December 24, 2014 ATM withdrawal at issue. See ECF No. 25-3, Ex. 2. The statement shows that a withdrawal was made from an ATM in Arlington, Virginia in the amount of $203 (presumably the $200 Alston withdrew, plus a $3 fee charged by Wells Fargo), with an additional $4 in fees charged by Capital One. See id. Alston opposed the motion to dismiss and sought leave to amend his complaint. ECF No. 28.

         On June 24, 2016, while these motions were pending, Alston and Capital One entered into a joint stipulation that dismissed all claims against Capital One with prejudice, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a). ECF No. 31. Since Capital One’s Motion to Dismiss is now moot, Alston’s request for leave to amend his complaint will be denied.[2]

         The Court now takes up the remaining claims against Wells Fargo addressed in their Motion to Dismiss, as well as Alston’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II.

         Wells Fargo moves to dismiss the suit pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), but does, in part, rely on the account statement provided by Capital One. See ECF No. 27 at 5. Where a motion for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) relies on matters outside the pleadings, the Court treats it as a motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) (“If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . matters outside the pleadings are ...


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