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Ransom v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 19, 2016

ALLEN RANSOM, JR. and BRENDA B. RANSOM, Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE LLC and EQUIHOME MORTGAGE CORP., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending is a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) filed by Defendant Nationstar Mortgage, LLC. The issues are fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied, as moot, in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 26, 2006, Brenda Ransom executed an Adjustable Rate Note in the amount of $386, 314.00 to Defendant EquiHome Mortgage Corporation (“EquiHome Mortgage”). ECF No. 29-5. The Note was secured by a Deed of Trust executed on the same date by Brenda and Allen Ransom (“Plaintiffs”) to EquiHome Mortgage and which was recorded among the Land Records of Charles County, Maryland. ECF No. 29-6. The Deed of Trust, signed by Plaintiffs, named Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) the beneficiary under the security interest as the nominee for EquiHome Mortgage, its successors, and assigns. ECF No. 29-6 at 2. In August 2013, MERS, executed and recorded a Corporate Assignment of Deed of Trust in the Land Records of Charles County, Maryland, which granted all beneficial interest under the Deed of Trust to Defendant Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (“Nationstar”). ECF No. 29-7.

         On February 19, 2014, Nationstar's substitute trustees filed a foreclosure action against Plaintiffs in the Circuit Court for Charles County. See Clarke v. Ransom, No. 08-C-14-000397. The substitute trustees sold the property on November 7, 2014 and filed a Report of Sale. ECF No. 29-11. The circuit court entered a final order ratifying the foreclosure sale on February 23, 2015. ECF No. 29-12.

         Plaintiffs made numerous attempts to stop the foreclosure both before and after the Circuit Court's final order. On October 6, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an Emergency Motion to Dismiss the Foreclosure Proceeding in Circuit Court. ECF No. 29-9. Plaintiffs also filed an Application for Temporary Restraining Order on September 16, 2015, ECF No. 29-15, and on March 1, 2016, they filed a Motion to Immediately Dismiss Foreclosure/Eviction Proceedings for Bank Fraud. ECF No. 29-18. In each, Plaintiffs requested that the Circuit Court set aside its foreclosure decision. All of their motions were denied. See ECF Nos. 29-17, -18, -20.

         On April 20, 2015, Plaintiffs initiated this pro se action against Nationstar and EquiHome Mortgage in the Charles County Circuit Court. See ECF Nos. 1, 2. Although not labeled as such, Plaintiffs sought an action to quiet title, claiming violation of the National Bank Act of 1864, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, fraud, and violations of the Uniform Commercial Code. See ECF No. 2. Additionally, Plaintiffs' Complaint requested that this Court declare that Plaintiffs hold clear and clean title to the Property, declare the assignment of the Deed of Trust as invalid and unenforceable against Plaintiffs, and vacate the prior foreclosure decision. See Id. at 2.

         A summons was issued by the Circuit Court for Charles County, Maryland as to Nationstar on April 22, 2015, addressed to “Nationstar Mortgage” at “350 Highland Dr. Lewisville. TX 75067.” ECF No. 3. Although the docket in the state court proceeding suggests that a summons was issued as to EquiHome Mortgage, nothing confirms that EquiHome Mortgage was served prior to removal. See Ransom v. EquiHome Mortgage Corp., No. 08-C-15-000996.

         On June 5, 2015, Defendant Nationstar filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446, to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. On July 2, 2015, Nationstar filed its Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for improper service of process under Rule 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6). See ECF 13-1. On March 14, 2016, the Court denied the motion in light of Plaintiff's pro se status, but instead quashed service on Nationstar to allow Plaintiffs the opportunity to effect proper service on the Defendants. ECF No. 21. The Court also ordered Plaintiffs' to show cause within fourteen (14) days of the issuance of that Order why the Complaint should not be dismissed as to EquiHome Mortgage pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id.

         On April 27, 2016, Plaintiffs attempted to serve Nationstar in the exact manner the Court had previously found deficient. They also attempted to serve EquiHome Mortgage by sending a copy of the Complaint and a summons to “EquiHome Mortgage Corporation, et al” at “150 Morristown Road Suit 101, Bernardsville, New Jersey, 07924.” ECF No. 26. The Court notes that the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation lists EquiHome Mortgage's resident agent as “National Registered Agents, Inc. of Md.” located at 836 Park Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, [1] and that EquiHome Mortgage is a forfeited business entity in Maryland. Id. Additionally, Plaintiffs never responded to the Court's April 27th show cause Order.

         On May 24, 2016, Nationstar renewed its motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(5). ECF No. 29. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Strike (ECF No. 29) and Nationstar responded to that motion. ECF No. 38. The parties have agreed that the Court should construe Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike as their opposition to Nationstar's motion to dismiss and Nationstar's response to the Motion to Strike as its reply to Plaintiffs' opposition. See ECF No. 41. For the following reasons, Nationstar's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied as moot in part.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Whether the Court retains subject matter jurisdiction remains a threshold matter properly addressed before reaching the merits of the case. Jones v. Am. Postal Workers Union, 192 F.3d 417, 422 (4th Cir. 1999). When a defendant challenges subject matter jurisdiction, “the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). Moreover, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Id.

         III. ...


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