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Doe v. Gormley

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 17, 2016

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN GORMLEY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT

          A. David CopperthiteWthW United States Magistrate Judge.

         On July 27, 2015, Jane Doe ("Plaintiff") tiled an action in this court under the False Claims Act ("FCA"), the Maryland Consumer Protection Act ("MCPA"), and Maryland common law. See ECF No. 1 ("the Complaint"). After consideration of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Complaint or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiffs Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion (ECF Nos. 21, 29), the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). In addition, for the reasons that follow. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Complaint (ECF No. 21) is DENIED.

         Statement of the Facts

         From on or about September 3, 2010 through May 1. 2013, Jane Doe ("Plaintiff") rented a residential property owned by Brian Gormley ("Defendant"). The home was located at 126 N. Milton Avenue (the "Property"). The Property was rented to Plaintiff pursuant to the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program ("HOPWA"), a federally regulated rent subsidy program which was implemented by die United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") and administered through the local grantee, the Mayor's Office of Human Services - Homeless Service Program ("MOHS-HSP").

         On September 3, 2010. Plaintiff and Defendant executed a lease agreement (the "Lease") wherein Plaintiff agreed to rent the Property from Defendant at a rate of $1, 289.00 per month. Under the terms of the Lease, "[t]he initial rent to owner may not exceed the amount approved by the PHA in accordance with HUD requirements." ECF No. 1 at 41. Additionally, the lease provided that "Tenant shall pay all charges for gas, electricity, water, heat, and security alarm accrued in connection with said premises during the term of this tenancy, and in the event that Tenant fails to make such payments, then the amount thereof, in the discretion of the Landlord. may be added to and be deemed part of the rent due." ECF No. 1 at 33. Plaintiff was also responsible for "contacting BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric) to insure that all gas and electric utilities are activated for said premises (...)." Id.

         On September 17, 2010, Plaintiff and Defendant executed a Housing Assistance Payment Contract (the "HAP Contract") which reflected the MOHS-HWP approved monthly rental rate of $1, 289.00. Under the terms of the HAP Contract, Plaintiff would pay $0 per month and HAP would subsidize the remaining $1, 289.00. In addition, the HAP Contract provided that "[d]uring the HAP Contract terms, the rent to owner may at no time exceed the reasonable rent for the contract unit as most recently determined or redetermined by the HA in accordance with HUD requirements." ECF No. 1 at 21. Plaintiff was not required to make any direct rent payments to Defendant under the terms of the HAP Contract.

         After signing the Lease and the HAP Contract. Defendant advised Plaintiff that he would need to collect an additional $411.00 monthly payment from Plaintiff. Plaintiff agreed and paid the extra money. Plaintiff continued to pay Defendant the additional $411.00 per month until October 2012 when she was advised by a MOHS-HSP representative to stop making such payments.

         Procedural Background

         On July 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this Court alleging that Defendant: (1) knowingly presented, or caused to be presented false or fraudulent claims for payment in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1)(A) of the False Claims Act: (2) knowingly made, used, or caused to be made or used, false records or statements material to false or fraudulent claims in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1)(B) of the False Claims Act; (3) engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practice in violation of Md. Code, Comm. Law§ 13-101 et seq. of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act; (4) Fraud in violation of Maryland Common Law; (5) Unjust Enrichment in violation of Maryland Common Law; and (6) Money Had and Received in violation of Maryland Common Law.[1] On June 15, 2016. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Points and Authorities and Request for Hearing ("Defendant's Motion"). On July 5, 2016. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Complaint or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. This matter is now fully briefed and the Court has reviewed Defendant's Motion as well as Plaintiffs Response.

         Defendant's Arguments Raised

         Turning to the case at issue. Defendant contends that Plaintiffs claim should be dismissed, or, in the alternative, that he is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Defendant raises several affirmative defenses in support of dismissal of the Complaint: (1) that Plaintiff did not have standing to bring a claim under the False Claims Act (Counts 1 and 2); (2) that each of Plaintiffs state law claims are time-barred by Maryland's three-year statute of limitations (Counts 3, 4, 5, and 6); and (3) that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted on each of the six (6) counts in the Complaint. Each of Defendant's arguments lack merit and are addressed below.

         Standard of Review

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). a court is required to "accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true" and "construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 474, 474 (4th Cir. 1997); Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com. Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009) ("in evaluating a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff in weighing the legal sufficiency of the complaint.") The purpose of a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is to test "the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of North Carolina v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). Accordingly, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion should only be granted if, after accepting all well-pled allegations in the plaintiffs complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiffs favor, it appears certain that the plaintiff "cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim entitling him to relief." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cit. 1999): Harrison v. United States Postal Serv., 840 F.2d 1149, 1152 (4th Cir.1988) ("[a court] must not dismiss the complaint unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any legal theory which might plausibly be suggested by the facts alleged.").

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but Rule 8(a)(2) does call for sufficient factual matter to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged claims. Id. at 556. However, "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. Legal conclusions, while they may provide the framework for a plaintiffs complaint, must be supported by factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) provides for a heightened standard for claims of fraud. Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). Plaintiffs alleging fraud claims are required to do so with sufficient particularity. Harrison v. Wesiinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (1999) Particularity under Rule 9(b) includes "the time, place, and contents of the false representations. as well as the identity of the person making the misrepresentation and what he obtained thereby." Id.

         In determining whether a complaint has met either standard, a court is not permitted to look at matters outside of the complaint in deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). If the Court does so, it must convert the motion into a motion for summary judgment and all parties should be given a reasonable opportunity to present material pertinent to such a motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) ("[i]f... matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion [to dismiss] shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion."); see also Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1471 (4th Cir. 1991).

         Defendant's Motion alleges several grounds for dismissal based on the pleadings in the Complaint. Thus, the Court shall treat Defendant's Motion as a Motion to Dismiss and shall consider only ...


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