United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge.
Ronnita Jewel Gunter, also known as Bouyea Khalilah
Y'ewel Amen-El, “obtain[ed] a $254, 308.00 mortgage
loan secured by Plaintiff's principal residence, ”
13119 Overbrook Lane, Bowie, MD 20715 (the
“Property”), and a Deed of Trust on the Property
in favor of the lender. Compl. ¶ 111, ECF No. 1. While a
foreclosure action (“Foreclosure Action”) was
pending against her in the Circuit Court for Prince
George's County with regard to the Property, based on a
default on the loan that Gunter contests, id. ¶
100, Plaintiff filed suit, pro se, against numerous
defendants, including PennyMac Loan Services, LLC
(“PennyMac”) and Mortgage Electronic Registration
Systems, Inc. (“MERS”). Id. at 1. She
claimed “lack of standing/wrongful foreclosure”
(Count 1), fraud in the concealment (Count 2), fraud in the
inducement (Count 3), intentional infliction of emotional
distress (Count 4), slander of title (Count 5), quiet title
(Count 6), violations of the Truth in Lending Act
(“TILA”) and the Home Ownership and Equity
Protection Act (“HOEPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§
1601-1693r (Count 8), and violations of the Real Estate
Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C.
§§ 2601-2617 (Count 9). Id. at 1, 13,
18-20, 22. Her seventh count was for declaratory relief, and
her tenth count was for rescission. Id. at
7, 2016, at which time the state court had awarded judgment
of possession in favor of PennyMac, Gunter had appealed, and
her appeal was pending, I issued an Order dismissing all of
Gunter's claims for equitable relief. ECF No. 7. I
reasoned that “[w]here equitable relief is sought
regarding property that is already the subject of an ongoing
in rem action in another court, the court
controlling the property for purposes of the earlier-filed
suit has exclusive jurisdiction over the property.”
have moved to dismiss the remaining claims, arguing that
Gunter's “claims, to the extent they challenge the
Foreclosure Action or PennyMac's standing to foreclose or
status as the holder of the Note, must fail as a matter of
law” under the doctrine of res judicata.
Def.'s Mem. 12. Gunter has not opposed Defendants'
motion,  and the time for doing so has passed.
See Loc. R. 105.2(a). A hearing is not necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6. Because I find that res
judicata precludes this litigation, I will grant
Defendants' motion and dismiss this case without reaching
Defendants' alternative grounds for dismissal.
move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under this
Rule, Gunter's Complaint is subject to dismissal if it
“fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). 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)(2), and must state “a plausible claim
for relief, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678-79 (2009). “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. Rule 12(b)(6)'s purpose “is to test the
sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Velencia v.
Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md.
Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). If
an affirmative defense “clearly appears on the face of
the complaint, ” however, the Court may rule on that
defense when considering a motion to dismiss. Kalos v.
Centennial Sur. Assocs., No. CCB-12-1532, 2012 WL
6210117, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 12, 2012) (quoting Andrews v.
Daw, 201 F.3d 521, 524 n. 1 (4th Cir. 2000) (citation
and quotation marks omitted)). One such affirmative defense
is res judicata.
is proceeding pro se, and her Complaint is to be
construed liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520 (1972). However, liberal construction does not
absolve Plaintiff from pleading plausible claims. See
Holsey v. Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122, 128 (D. Md. 1981)
(citing Inmates v. Owens, 561 F.2d 560, 562-63 (4th
at this stage of the proceedings, I accept the facts as
alleged in Gunter's Complaint as true, see Aziz v.
Alcolac, 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011), when
reviewing a motion to dismiss, I “may consider
documents attached to the complaint, as well as documents
attached to the motion to dismiss, if they are integral to
the complaint and their authenticity is not disputed.”
Sposato v. First Mariner Bank, No. CCB-12-1569, 2013
WL 1308582, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 28, 2013); see CACI
Int'l v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 566
F.3d 150, 154 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Fed. R. Civ.
P. 10(c) (“A copy of a written instrument that is an
exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all
purposes.”). Defendants cite state court documents, of
which I may take judicial notice, see Fed. R. Civ.
P. 201, 803(8)(a)(i), but they do not attach any to their
motion. Consideration of documents that the plaintiff
references and relies upon does not convert a motion to
dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See Sec'y
of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484
F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007).
judicata “bars a party from suing on a claim that
has already been litigated to a final judgment by that party
or such party's privies and precludes the assertion by
such parties of any legal theory, cause of action, or defense
which could have been asserted in that action.”
Reid v. New Century Mortg. Corp., No. AW-12-2083,
2012 WL 6562887, at *3 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting
Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal. v. Aracoma Coal Co., 556
F.3d 177, 210 (4th Cir. 2009)) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). When considering this defense,
“a court may take judicial notice of facts from a prior
judicial proceeding when the res judicata defense
raises no disputed issue of fact.” Kalos, 2012
WL 6210117, at *2 (quoting Andrews, 201 F.3d at 524
n.1). And, when a federal court litigant asserts res
judicata based on a state court judgment, “[the]
federal court must give to [the] state court judgment the
same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under
the law of the State in which the judgment was
rendered.” Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of
Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984). Under Maryland law,
res judicata, or claim preclusion, provides grounds
for dismissal if a defendant establishes that “(1) the
present parties are the same or in privity with the parties
to the earlier dispute, (2) the claim presented is identical
to the one determined in the prior adjudication, and (3)
there has been a final judgment on the merits.”
Capel v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., No.
WDQ-09-2374, 2010 WL 457534, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 3, 2010)
(citing Anne Arundel County Bd. of Educ. v.
Norville, 887 A.2d 1029, 1037 (Md. 2005)).
Foreclosure Action, Gunter was the defendant and Devan,
Gloth, Drexel and McNair, Substitute Trustee, was the
plaintiff. Here, Gunter sues Agents for International
Monetary Fund Internal Revenue Service, Century Lending
Company (“Century”), Government National Mortgage
Association (“Ginnie Mae”), PennyMac Loan
Services, LLC, and Mortgage Electronic Registration
System. Compl. 1. Defendants argue that “the
parties involved in this litigation are . . . exactly the
same, or in privity with the parties in the Foreclosure
Action.” Defs.' Mem. 12. According to Gunter,
Century, the lender, sold the loan to Ginnie Mae and assigned
the Deed of Trust to PennyMac. See Compl. Ex. 5, ECF
No. 1-5, at 9, 12. MERS acted “as a ‘nominee'
for the lender as the beneficiary of the [Deed of
Trust].” Id. at 13. According to Defendants,
“[t]he Deed of Trust named MERS as the beneficiary,
” and “MERS executed and recorded an assignment
of deed of trust . . ., which reflected that the Deed of
Trust had been assigned to PennyMac.” Defs.' Mem.
2-3. Then, “PennyMac retained the Substitute Trustees
to initiate the Foreclosure Action, as reflected in a May 12,
2014 Declaration of Substitution of Trustees, recorded among
the Land Records of Prince George's County, Maryland on
May 7, 2014 at Liber 35974, folio 269 et seq.”
Id. at 12. They also assert that “the
documents submitted by the Substitute Trustees in the
Foreclosure Action establish PennyMac's standing and
status as the holder of the Note.” Id. Gunter,
in failing to oppose Defendants' motion, does not argue
otherwise. I am satisfied that the litigation was between the
same parties or their privies.
Maryland law, courts apply the transaction test to determine
whether claims are identical. See Kent Cnty. Bd. of Educ.
v. Bilbrough, 525 A.2d 232, 238 (Md. 1987). “Under
the transaction test, a ‘claim' includes all rights
of the plaintiff to remedies against the defendant with
respect to all or any part of the transaction, or series of
connected transactions, out of which the claim arose.”
Boyd v. Bowen, 806 A.2d 314, 325 (Md. Ct. Spec. App.
2002) (citing FWB Bank v. Richman,731 A.2d 916, 928
(Md. 1999)). Notably, res judicata bars not only
claims from the original litigation, but also other claims
that could have been brought in the original litigation.
Id. (citing Gertz v. Anne Arundel Cnty.,661 A.2d 1157, 1161 (Md. 1995)). This Court consistently has
held that res judicata bars collateral attack on
foreclosure judgments. SeePrudencio v. Capital
One, N.A., No. PWG-16-2693, 2016 WL 6947016, at *3 (D.
Md. Nov. 28, 2016) (concluding that the second element was
satisfied because “all of Plaintiffs' present
claims” of violations of the FDCPA, the RESPA, and the
Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C.
§ 1961 et seq.; negligence; breach of fiduciary
duties; fraud and misrepresentation; civil conspiracy; and
intentional infliction of emotional distress “could
have been raised in the foreclosure action”); Jones
v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., No. RWT 09CV2904, 2011 WL
382371, at *5 (D. Md. Feb. 3, 2011) (holding that claims for
violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, breach