United States District Court, D. Maryland
RONDA L. SHORT EVANS, Plaintiff,
HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CORP. III, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Xinis, United States District Judge.
before the Court in this fair debt collection action are two
motions to dismiss, the first filed by Defendants Household
Finance Corporation III and Beneficial Financial I Inc. (ECF
No. 11), and the second filed by Defendants Caliber Home
Loans, Inc., Volt 2012 NLP2 Group, LSF8 Master Participation
Trust, and U.S. Bank Trust, N.A. (ECF No. 16). The matter is
fully briefed and no hearing is necessary. See D.
Md. Loc. R. 105.6. Upon consideration, the Court GRANTS
Defendants' motions and dismisses the Complaint with
Ronda L. Short Evans (“Evans”), proceeding
pro se, brings this action seeking declaratory
relief related to her alleged payment of a mortgage debt.
Central to the action is the foreclosure on real property
located at 503 Cretia Place, Upper Marlboro, Maryland (the
“Property”). This is not Evans' first case
related to the foreclosure on the Property. In a previous
action before Judge Chasanow, Evans brought claims against
three of the Defendants in this case for breach of contract,
fraudulent misrepresentation, and violations of the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq.
(“FDCPA”). See Evans v. Beneficial Financial
I, Inc., No. DKC-14-1994, 2015 WL 535718, at *1 (D. Md.
Feb. 9, 2015). The basic facts surrounding the foreclosure
remain the same. See Evans, 2015 WL 535718, at *1;
Short Evans v. Fisher Law Grp., PLLC, No.
DKC-14-1994, 2015 WL 8606422, at *1 (D. Md. Dec. 14, 2015).
previous action, Judge Chasanow found that Evans failed to
state a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation, and that her
breach of contract claim based on a “vapor money”
theory was frivolous. See Evans, 2015 WL 53571, at
*5-*6. Judge Chasanow also granted summary judgment in favor
of the defendants on Evans' FDCPA claims, finding in
relevant part that nothing in the defendants'
communications with Evans was false, deceptive, or
misleading. See Short Evans, 2015 WL 8606422, at *5.
now brings suit against Defendants Household Finance
Corporation III (“Household”), Beneficial
Financial I Inc. (“Beneficial”), Caliber Home
Loans, Inc. (“Caliber”), Volt 2012 NLP2 Group
(“Volt”), LSF8 Master Participation Trust
(“LSF8”), U.S. Bank Trust, N.A. (“US
Bank”), and BP Fisher Law Group, LLP
(“Fisher”). Relevant to her claims in this case,
Evans' Complaint alleges that in 2015 and 2016 Evans
received additional notices of foreclosure, and that Evans
received a payoff quote for her mortgage which she paid using
“legal tender of the United States.” ECF No. 2 at
5, ¶ 39. Evans also alleges that an Order to Docket Suit
regarding the Property is “fraudulent” because it
“impl[ies] Beneficial Financial I Inc. is a
‘Secured Party' via succession of merger, ”
ECF No. 2 at 4, ¶¶ 44-46, which Evans contends is
not the case, see ECF No. 2 at ¶¶ 41, 45.
seeks a declaration that: (1) she is a consumer under the
FDCPA; (2) Defendants are debt collectors under the FDCPA;
(3) the Order to Docket Suit is fraudulent; and (4) she
discharged her debt using “legal tender of the United
States.” ECF No. 2 at 24. For the reasons below, the
Court dismisses this case with prejudice.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be granted when a
complaint fails to include sufficient factual allegations to
render the plaintiff's claims facially plausible, or to
permit reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for
the alleged misconduct. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). To assess a motion to dismiss, the
Court takes as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and
makes all reasonable inferences in the favor of the
plaintiff. Phillips v. Pitt Cty. Mem. Hosp., 572
F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). The Court may consider
materials attached to the Complaint when reviewing a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id.
assessing whether the plaintiff has stated a claim, the Court
does not credit conclusory statements or legal conclusions
even when couched as allegations of fact. See Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678-79; Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d
298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). Where, as here, factual allegations
in a complaint conflict with an attached written instrument,
“the exhibit prevails.” Fayetteville
Inv'rs v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462,
1465 (4th Cir. 1991); see Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs.
Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 167 (4th Cir. 2016).
Evans is proceeding pro se, the Court must construe
her Complaint liberally to allow for the development of a
potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe, 449
U.S. 5, 9 (1980). Liberal construction requires that if the
Court can reasonably read the Complaint to state a valid
claim, it must do so; however, the Court cannot ignore a
clear failure to allege facts setting forth a cognizable
claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901
F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (“The ‘special
judicial solicitude' with which a district court should
view such pro se complaints does not transform the court into
an advocate. Only those questions which are squarely
presented to a court may properly be addressed.”). The
Court is not “required to recognize obscure or
extravagant claims defying the most concerted efforts to
unravel them.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). Neither should the Court “conjure up
questions never squarely presented . . . . Even in the case
of pro se litigants, [district courts] cannot be
expected to construct full blown claims from sentence
fragments.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775
F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
requests that the Court declare that: (1) Evans is a
“consumer” under the FDCPA; (2) Defendants are
“debt collectors” under the FDCPA; (3) Defendants
“knowingly filed or caused to be filed” the Order
to Docket Suit that Evans claims is fraudulent; and (4)
Evans' “legal tender of the United States was
lawful, thus discharging the debt to the amount of the
tender.” ECF No. 2 at 24. The Court construes
Evans' claims as brought pursuant to the Declaratory
Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a).
Declaratory Judgment Act provides that “[i]n a case of
actual controversy within [the district court's]
jurisdiction” the court “may declare the rights
and other legal relations of any interested party seeking
such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could
be sought.” Id. “Declaratory judgment is
available when there is a dispute creating a ‘case or
controversy' within the meaning of Article III of the
United States Constitution and the Declaratory Judgment
Act.” Hollis v. Lexington Ins. Co., 180
F.Supp.3d 422, 428 (E.D. Va. 2016). “Declaratory relief
may be appropriate where a dispute is (1) definite and
concrete, i.e., affecting the legal relations of
parties with adverse interests; and (2) real and substantial,
i.e., amenable to specific, conclusive ...