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Harris v. Britto

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 2, 2018

LYNETTE M. HARRIS Plaintiff,
v.
GREGORY N. BRITTO ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 28, 2017, Lynnette Harris, pro se, filed a Complaint against Gregory Britto of Shapiro & Brown LLP (“Shapiro & Brown”), Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”), the Secretary of Housing & Urban Development (“HUD”), and TZ 101, LLC (“TZ 101”) (hereinafter, collectively “Defendants”) alleging that Defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., and committed common law fraud in connection with the foreclosure of her property located at 1703 Pine Cone Court, Bowie, Maryland 20721 (the “Property”). She seeks, among other things, actual and punitive damages, reversal of the foreclosure proceeding, and a declaratory judgment stating that Shapiro & Brown did not have legal or equitable interest that allowed them to foreclosure on the Property.

         Three Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss. On December 11, 2017, Wells Fargo filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 4. On January 24, 2018, TZ 101 filed a Motion to Dismiss, EDC No. 8, followed by Britto, who filed a Motion to Dismiss on January 29, 2018, ECF No. 10.

         For the following reasons, the Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On or about November 30, 2007, Harris borrowed $313, 635.00 from Gateway Funding Diversified Mortgage Services L.P. (the “Note”) to purchase the Property. Exhibit B, Britto's Motion to Dismiss; ECF No. 10-3. She secured the Note with a deed of trust, which was recorded in the Lands Records of Prince George's County, Maryland on December 19, 2007 (the “Deed of Trust”). Exhibit C, Britto's Motion to Dismiss; ECF No. 10-4.

         Between the time when Harris took out the mortgage in 2007 and November of 2012, the Note and Deed of Trust were assigned to Wells Fargo. See Exhibit D, Britto's Motion to Dismiss; ECF No. 10-5. On November 2, 2012, Wells Fargo filed an Appointment of Substitute Trustees with the Land Records of Prince George's County, naming the law firm of Shapiro & Brown, at which Britto is a partner, as Trustees on the Deed of Trust. Id. Harris subsequently defaulted on her Note, and on December 14, 2012, Wells Fargo, through Shapiro & Brown, initiated foreclosure proceedings in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, captioned as Brown, et al., v. Lynette M. Harris, Case No. CAE12-38886. Exhibit E, Britto's Motion to Dismiss; ECF No. 10-6. Although the foreclosure case was stayed as a result of multiple bankruptcy filings by Harris, [1] the Property was eventually sold on April 22, 2014, and the sale was ratified by the Prince George's County Circuit Court on November 3, 2014. Id.

         On May 2, 2016, Harris filed a Motion in the Circuit Court to Reopen the Case and Void Judgment, which the Circuit Court denied. Id. On February 7, 2017, Harris filed a Second Motion to Reopen the case with that court, which was also denied. Id.

         Rather than appeal the Circuit Court's judgment, on September 28, 2017, Harris filed the present Complaint in federal court, alleging that Shapiro & Brown, through Britto, violated the FDCPA by making false statements to her in an attempt to collect on the Note, and that their communications to her constitute common law fraud. ECF No. 1. She seeks, among other things, a declaratory judgment that Shapiro & Brown had no legal standing or interest in either the Note or Deed of Trust and therefore could not have properly executed the foreclosure proceeding, a reversal of the foreclosure decision, damages “for the slander of Plaintiff's title to land” and “for libel to Plaintiff's credit, ” and compensatory damages for emotional distress. Id.

         On October 11, 2017, summonses were issued for Britto, Wells Fargo, the Secretary of HUD, [2] and TZ 101. ECF No. 3. While Britto, Wells Fargo and TZ 101 have entered appearances in the case, the Secretary has not, nor has any proof of service upon him been filed.

         On December 11, 2017, Wells Fargo filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the Complaint fails to assert any allegations regarding either it or its representatives, nor does it allege with appropriate specificity that Wells Fargo committed fraud or violated the FDCPA. ECF No. 4. On December 14, 2017, the Clerk of this Court mailed Harris a Rule 12/56 letter advising her that the Motion had been filed and providing her instructions as to the filing of an Opposition. ECF No. 6. When Harris failed to respond in timely fashion, the Court issued a letter directing her to respond within fifteen (15) days or risk having the Motion considered without the benefit of her arguments. ECF No. 7.

         Before Harris responded, Defendants TZ 101 and Britto filed their own Motions to Dismiss. ECF Nos. 8 & 10. TZ 101 argues that the Complaint is devoid of any factual allegations against it, while Britto argues that the allegations against him and Shapiro & Brown are entirely conclusory in nature and fail to articulate an actionable claim. Id. Copies of both Motions were mailed to Harris with Rule 12/56 letters, again advising Harris of her right to respond to the Motions. ECF Nos. 9 & 11.

         On February 12, 2018, Harris responded to all three Motions, asking for a seventeen (17) day extension of time to file oppositions and to seek counsel, as well as for leave to file an amended pleading, which the Court received and docketed on February 14, 2018. ECF No. 14. On March 9, 2018, the Court granted Harris' Motion and gave her thirty (30) additional days from February 14, 2018 (i.e. by no later than March 14, 2018) to file responses to the pending Motions, and seventeen (17) days from February 12, 2018 (i.e. by no later than March 1, 2018) to file an amended pleading and find representation. ECF No. 17.

         On March 9, 2018, rather than file responses to the Motions or an amended pleading, Harris again requested an extension of time to file her responses to the Motions and for leave to file an amended complaint. ECF No. 18. The Court, recognizing that Harris may not have received a copy of its Order granting her first request, consented to giving her an additional seventeen (17) days to file an amended complaint, and thirty-one (31) days to file any responses to Defendants' outstanding Motions. ECF No. 20. Harris's responses were due on April 23, 2018.

         As of the date of this Opinion, May 2, 2018, Harris has filed neither responses nor amended pleadings either with the Court or Defendants. Accordingly, the Court considers the arguments that are on the ...


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