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Fowler v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 29, 2016

WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE, INC., et al., Defendants.


          GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Sandra Fowler ("Fowler" or "Plaintiff”) brought this action against Defendants Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc. and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (collectively "Wells Fargo" or "Defendants"), alleging that Defendants' failure to respond to Plaintiffs loan modification applications violated federal and Maryland laws, and led to Plaintiffs inability to qualify for mortgage relief opportunities. Fowler requests injunctive relief to stop the sale of her home, as well as monetary damages. This Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order address Defendants1 Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 57. A hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On March 30, 2006, Plaintiff purchased a home in Prince George's County, Maryland located at 2410 Moores Plains Boulevard, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, 20774. See ECF No. 55 ¶¶ 5, 13. Plaintiff paid $91, 437.00 at closing and obtained two mortgages totaling $952, 130.32 from Southern Trust Mortgage Company, Inc. ("Southern Trust") and Dennis Sullivanl Id. ¶ 21. Immediately after closing and the Plaintiffs first mortgage payment, Southern Trust transferred Plaintiffs mortgage to Wells Fargo.[2] ld. ¶ 27. Wells Fargo then sold Plaintiffs loan to a Mortgage Backed Security ("MBS"). Id. ¶ 28. [n her Second Amended Complain,, Plaintiff alleges that Wells Fargo and Defendants named in Plaintiffs original Complaint engaged in a predatory lending scheme specifically targeting minorities "that would eventually strip minority buyers of their down payments, mortgage payments and ultimately their home." ld. ¶ 15.

         On September 28, 200,, Plaintiff lost her job when the company where she was employed ceased operations. ld. ¶ 29. After exhausting $300, 000.00 of her personal savings, Plaintiff fell behind on her mortgage payments. ld. ¶ 30. As a result, Plaintiff "made Application for Loan Modifications approximately 26 times to Defendant, Wells Fargo" and Defendant's "grossly ignored its responsibility to respond." ld. ¶¶ 31, 68. Plaintiff alleges she submitted at least three completed loan modification applications in 2012, at least two completed applications in 2013, and at least five completed applications in 2015. Id. ¶¶ 34, 35, 38.

         Plaintiff acknowledges receiving responses from Wells Fargo for two of her loan modification applications. On February 27, 2012, Wells Fargo sent Plaintiff a letter offering her a "piggy back" loan modification, which the Plaintiff rejected and argues was a ruse to cover Defendants' practice of making predatory loans. Id. ¶ 32. Additionally, on December 18, 2014, Plaintiff received a call from a Wells Fargo representative who, again, informed Plaintiff that she only qualified for a "piggy back" loan modification and that she did not qualify for a government backed mortgage modification. ld. ¶¶ 39-41. Plaintiff filed for bankruptcy in October 2013 and then again in March 2014. Id. ¶ 37. Both bankruptcy claims were dismissed because Plaintiff was not able to make the monthly payments to the bankruptcy trustee. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff now alleges damages including damaged credit, legal fees, severe insomnia, anxiety, and sleeplessness. ld. ¶ 45

         In her Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA") and multiple Maryland state laws, when it failed to respond to her loan modification applications. Id. ¶ 24. On February 4, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim and Plaintiffs response to the Motion was due by February 22, 2016. ECF No. 57. To date, Plaintiff has not responded to the Motion?[3]


         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that "may not exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis, " Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005), and "have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party challenges it, " Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010). Under the "well-pleaded complaint" rule, the facts showing the existence of subject matter jurisdiction "must be affirmatively alleged in the complaint." Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178 (1936)). The Court must "presume, therefore, that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to be proper"' United Slales v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).

         This case originated in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County and was removed to this Court on April 16, 2015 based on federal question jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. In Count I, Plaintiff asks the Court for injunctive relief to prevent the sale of her home. ECF No. 55 ¶ 47. The Plaintiffs federal question is found in Count II, violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act as defined by 15 U.S.C. § I691(d)(1)-(2). ECF No. 55 ¶¶ 59-75. The additional counts, including violation of the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (Count III), violation of Maryland's Consumer Protection Act (Count IV), and violation of Maryland Mortgage Fraud Protection Act (Count V), arise under Maryland state law. ECF No. 57 at 21-24. The Court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to present a motion to dismiss for failure to state a clam upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009)(citation omitted); see also Conn. Gen. Life Ins. Co. v. Advanced Surgery Ctr. of Bethesda, LLC, No. DKC 14-2376, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91689, at *13 (D. Md. July IS, 20IS) ("At this stage, all well-pled allegations in a complaint must be considered as true and all factual allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff"). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         When assessing a motion to dismiss, courts refer to the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) to determine if the complaint adequately states a claim for relief. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-55 (2007). Rule 8(a)(2) requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if the "actual proof of those facts is improbable and recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal quotation marks omitted). For a motion to dismiss, courts are required to assess "the sufficiency of the complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City o/Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

         However, "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a 'showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3. That showing must consist of more than "labels and conclusions, " "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " or "naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement - Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "In evaluating the complain,, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted." Revene v. Charles Cty. Comm'rs,882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Similarly, "[L]egal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events " Conn. Gen. Life Ins. Co., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91689 at * 13-14 (internal citations omitted). If the "well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to ...

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