United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge.
Ywuana Peden obtained a mortgage secured by her principal
residence, 219 Dateleaf Avenue, Capitol Heights, Maryland
20743 (the “Property”), and executed a Deed of
Trust on the Property in favor of a lender, M-Point Mortgage
Services. Order to Docket 5, ECF No. 13-1. PennyMac
Corporation (“PennyMac”) acquired title to the
Property and in July 2014 appointed Substitute Trustees for
the purposes of bringing a foreclosure action
(“Foreclosure Action”). While the Foreclosure
Action was pending against her in the Circuit Court for
Prince George's County,  based on a default on the loan
that Peden contests, see Compl. ¶ 47, ECF No.
1, Peden filed for bankruptcy. Following the termination of
the bankruptcy proceeding, the Property was sold, and the
state court ratified the sale and entered an order of
judgment awarding possession of the Property. State Ct.
Docket 16, 24, 38. Peden now brings this litigation, pro
se, against Defendants PennyMac; BWW Law Group, LLC
(“BWW”); Carrie Ward and Howard Bierman, two of
the Substitute Trustees in the Foreclosure Action; and Brian
Puchalski, as well as Claudia Menjivar and Joseph Delozier
for their alleged involvement in Peden's eviction from
the Property and as “instrumentalit[ies]” of BWW.
Compl. 1, ¶¶ 39-42. She alleges that Defendants
committed fraud on the court by using forged documents in the
Foreclosure Action, fraudulently created the Deed of Trust,
and violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, and that
Defendants lacked a promissory note and were not the real
party in interest during the Foreclosure Action. Id.
¶¶ 65-82. Lastly, Plaintiff requests that this
Court void the cognovit note. Id. ¶¶ 83-86.
moved to dismiss Peden's claims, ECF No. 13, and the
motion has been fully briefed, ECF Nos. 20, 28. PennyMac also has
moved to dismiss her claims, ECF No. 11, and the parties have
fully briefed the motion, ECF Nos. 11-2, 21, 29. Lastly,
Brian Puchalski has moved to dismiss her claims, ECF No. 27,
and the motion has been fully briefed, ECF Nos. 33,
Collectively, Defendants argue that Peden's claims are
barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and the bankruptcy code.
See PennyMac Mem. 8-14; BWW Mot. 10-15; Puchalski
Mot. 1-2. Defendants also argue that Peden fails to allege
adequate facts to support the claims brought against them.
PennyMac Mem. 14-18; BWW Mot. 15-21; Puchalski Mot. 1-2.
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, Peden'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
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, Peden was the defendant and the
Substitute Trustees were the plaintiffs. Here, Peden sues
Substitute Trustees Ward and Bierman, as well as BWW (the
Substitute Trustee's employer), PennyMac, Delozier,
Menjivar and Puchalski. Compl. 1. According to PennyMac, it was
“the holder of a note secured by a deed of trust from
Plaintiff, ” which was a “derivative of a deed
dated January 30, 2007 and was recorded among the Land
Records of Prince George's County.” PennyMac Mem.
3. Then, PennyMac appointed Ward, Bierman, and four other
members of BWW as the Substitute Trustees to initiate the
Foreclosure Action on September 2, 2014. Id. On this
basis, PennyMac insists that it is in “privity with the
Substitute Trustees.” Id. at 11. Peden does
not dispute these assertions in her Oppositions, only
addressing whether she believes Defendants are debt
collectors. See Pl.'s Opp'ns. And, Peden
acknowledges that PennyMac “purchased or obtained the
alleged debt” from her. Compl. ¶ 37. Also, Peden
contends that Menjivar, Ward, Bierman, Delozier, and Puchalik
“were mere instrumentalit[ies] of BWW.” See
Id. ¶¶ 35-36, 39-43, 48. 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.
Boyd, 806 A.2d at 325 (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. See Prudencio
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 Influenced 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 of fiduciary duty, and fraud
could not be brought in this Court, as the claims could have
been raised in the foreclosure proceeding); Anyanwutaku
v. Fleet Mortg. Group, Inc., 85 F.Supp.2d 566, 571 (D.
Md. 2000) (concluding that plaintiff's claims for,
inter alia, illegal foreclosure, fraud and
misrepresentation, and conspiracy were barred by res
judicata as the claims concern the same transaction).
crux of Peden's suit in this Court, which underlies each
of her five claims, is that Defendants “filed falsified
documents with the courts in an attempt to illegally use this
Court as an indirect debt collector, ” Compl. ¶
72, and that Defendants were not the real party in interest
with the right to bring a foreclosure action. Id.
¶¶ 77; see also Id. ¶¶ 73-74,
80-82, 98-99. In the introductory paragraph of her Complaint,
she also asserts that she seeks damages for
“intentional inflection of emotional distress,
negligent infliction of mental distress and for the creation
of forged and fraudulent Promissory and Deed of Trust
Notes”; but she fails to plead any counts setting forth
those claims. See Id. ¶ 2. Peden
contends that the Foreclosure Action was fraudulent and a
violation of the FDCPA. Id. ¶¶ 65-105.
state court Foreclosure Action and the present case clearly
relate to the same transaction or occurrence: the Note and
Deed of Trust on the Property and the Foreclosure Action that
resulted when Peden failed to make payments. Therefore, all
of Peden's present claims could have been raised in the
Foreclosure Action. See Prudencio, 2016 WL 6947016,
at *3; Bullock v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, No.
PJM-14-3836, 2015 WL 5008773, at *5 (D. Md. Aug. 20, 2015)
(finding that plaintiff's FDCPA and RESPA
“statutory claims [we]re premised on [plaintiff's]
contention that the Defendants lacked the legal authority to
enforce the note and deed of trust” and therefore
“the statutory claims ar[o]se out of the same series of
transactions” as the state foreclosure action and were
barred under res judicata); McCreary v.
Benificial Mortg. Co. of Maryland, No. AW-11-CV-01674,
2011 WL 4985437, at *4 (D. Md. Oct. 18, 2011) (dismissing on
res judicata grounds plaintiff's claims,
inter alia, for fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation,
and intentional infliction of ...