United States District Court, D. Maryland
DANIELA VANCO, et al. Plaintiffs,
J.P. MORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A. Defendant.
Lipton Hollander United States District Judge.
September 14, 2016, plaintiffs Daniela and Bohumil Vanco (the
“Vancos”) brought suit in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore County against defendant “J.P. Morgan Chase
Bank, National Association”
(“Chase”). ECF 2. The suit is rooted in a temporary
freeze on the proceeds of a cashier's check issued by
Chase and deposited into plaintiffs' joint account at
Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”). ECF 13. According
to plaintiffs, the hold was made at the direction of Chase.
Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint
in State court on or about October 7, 2016. ECF 3;
see ECF 1, ¶ 2. Thereafter, on November 10,
2016, Chase removed the case to this Court. ECF
moved to dismiss the case on November 11, 2016, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ECF 11. On November 22, 2016, while
the first motion to dismiss was pending, the Vancos filed a
Second Amended Complaint. ECF 13. In the Second Amended
Complaint, the Vancos assert two statutory counts against
Chase: breach of the Expedited Funds Availability Act
(“EFAA”), as amended, 12 U.S.C. § 4001,
et seq. (Count I), and breach of Md. Code (2013
Repl. Vol., 2016 Supp.), Titles 3 and 4 of the Commercial Law
Article (“C.L.”) (Count II). ECF 13, ¶¶
pending is Chase's second motion to dismiss (ECF 18),
which is supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 18-1
(collectively, “Motion”). The Vancos oppose the
Motion (ECF 19, “Opposition”) and Chase has
replied. ECF 24 (“Reply”).
Motion is fully briefed and no hearing is necessary to
resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons
that follow, I shall grant the Motion.
3, 3016, Chase issued a cashier's check (check no.
9590201040 “Check”) to Daniela Vanco in the
amount of $851, 552.00. ECF 13, ¶ 1; see ECF
13-1 (Check). The next day, June 4, 2016, the Check was
deposited into plaintiffs' joint checking account with
Bank of America. ECF 13, ¶ 2. June 4, 2016, was a
Saturday. Plaintiffs allege, id.: “After the
Plaintiffs deposited the Check into their BOA checking
account, BOA sent the Check to Chase for payment. Chase paid
the Check by transferring the funds to BOA.”
to plaintiffs, the Check was credited to the their joint
checking account at BOA on June 6, 2016. Id. ¶
3. That date was a Monday. Plaintiffs transferred “the
majority of the funds from their joint checking account to
their joint savings account” on June 13, 2016.
Id. Around that time, the Vancos became
“unable to access their funds as BOA had wrongfully
‘frozen' the money held in both the checking and
savings accounts.” Id. The Vancos claim that
the hold on the accounts “was at the demand of Chase or
as a result of information given by Chase to BOA about the
Standard of Review
defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by
way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Goines v.
Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir.
2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408
(4th Cir. 2010), aff'd sub nom. McBurney v.
Young, ___ U.S.___, 133 S.Ct. 1709 (2013); Edwards
v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999).
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a
defendant that, even if the well-pleading allegations are
true, the complaint fails as a matter of law “to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Whether a
complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference
to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It
provides that a complaint must contain a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” The purpose of the rule is to
provide the defendants with “fair notice” of the
claims and the “grounds” for entitlement to
relief. Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in
Twombly expounded the pleading standard for
‘all civil actions' . . . .” (citation
omitted)); see also Hall v. DirecTV, LLC, ___ F.3d
___, No. 15-1857, 2017 WL 361065, at *4 (4th Cir. Jan. 25,
2017). But, a plaintiff need not include “detailed
factual allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2).
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading
rules “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for
imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim
asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, ___ U.S.
___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).
the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere
speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see
Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342,
350 (4th Cir. 2013). If a complaint provides no more than
“labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” it
is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather,
to satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the
complaint must set forth “enough factual matter (taken
as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action,
“even if . . . [the] actual proof of those facts is
improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and
unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “‘must
accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in
the complaint'” and must “‘draw all
reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the
plaintiff.'” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011)
(citations omitted); see Semenova v. Maryland Transit
Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Belmora
LLC v. Bayer Consumer Care AG, 819 F.3d 697, 705 (4th
Cir. 2016); Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc.,
791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015); Kendall v.
Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir. 2011), cert.
denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011). But, a court is not
required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts.
See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).
“A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met
by separating the legal conclusions from the factual
allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual
allegations, and then determining whether those allegations
allow the court to reasonably infer” that the plaintiff
is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without
a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011),
cert. Denied, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1960 (2012).
general, courts do not “resolve contests surrounding
the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses” through a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Edwards
v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999).
The purpose of the rule is to ensure that defendants are
“given adequate notice of the nature of a claim”
made against them. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555- 56
(2007). But, “in the relatively rare circumstances
where facts sufficient to rule on an affirmative defense are
alleged in the complaint, the defense may be reached by a
motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6).”
Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th
Cir. 2007) (en banc); accord Pressley v. Tupperware Long
Term Disability Plan, 533 F.3d 334, 336 (4th Cir. 2009);
see also U.S. ex rel. Oberg v. Penn. Higher Educ.
Assistance Agency, 745 F.3d 131, 148 (4th Cir. 2014).
However, because Rule 12(b)(6) “is intended [only] to
test the legal adequacy of the complaint, ”
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v.
Forst, 4 F.3d 244, 250 (4th Cir. 1993), “[t]his
principle only applies . . . if all facts necessary to the
affirmative defense ‘clearly appear[ ] on the face of
the complaint.'” Goodman, 494 F.3d at 464
(quoting Forst, 4 F.3d at 250) (emphasis added in
limited exceptions, a court may consider documents outside
the complaint, without converting the motion to dismiss to
one for summary judgment. Goldfarb v. Mayor & City
Council of Baltimore, 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015).
In particular, a court may properly consider documents that
are “explicitly incorporated into the complaint by
reference and those attached to the complaint as exhibits . .
. .” Goines, 822 F.3d at 166 (citations
omitted); see U.S. ex rel. Oberg, 745 F.3d at 136
(quoting Philips v. Pitt Cty Memorial Hosp., 572
F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009)); Anand v. Ocwen Loan
Servicing, LLC, 754 F.3d 195, 198 (4th Cir. 2014);
Am. Chiropractic Ass'n v. Trigon Healthcare,
Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir. 2004), cert.
denied, 543 U.S. 979 (2004); Phillips v. LCI
Int'l Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999).
“before treating the contents of an attached or
incorporated document as true, the district court should
consider the nature of the document and why the plaintiff
attached it.” Goines, 822 F.3d at 167 (citing
N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of S.
Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 455 (7th Cir. 1998)). “When
the plaintiff attaches or incorporates a document upon which
his claim is based, or when the complaint otherwise shows
that the plaintiff has adopted the contents of the document,
crediting the document over conflicting allegations in the
complaint is proper.” Goines, 822 F.3d at 167.
Conversely, “where the plaintiff attaches or
incorporates a document for purposes other than the
truthfulness of the document, it is inappropriate to treat
the contents of that document as true.” Id.
Motion, Chase argues that each count of the Second Amended
Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. I review each, in turn.