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Butler v. Citizens One Home Loans

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 11, 2018

KIEMONI BUTLER., Plaintiff,
v.
CITIZENS BANK, N.A., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Kiemoni Butler (“Plaintiff” or “Butler”) brings this action against Defendant Citizens Bank, N.A., [1] (“Defendant” or “the Bank”) alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq., and the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (“MCDCA”), Md. Code Ann., Com. Law § 14-201, et seq.[2] Currently pending before this Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 14) and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16).[3] The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 14) is DENIED and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16) is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court “accept[s] as true all well-pleaded facts in a complaint and construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Wikimedia Found. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). Further, as a pro se Plaintiff, this Court has “liberally construed” Butler's pleadings and held them to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept., No. 17-1249, 698 Fed.Appx. 141, 2017 WL 4415771 (4th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017).

         Liberally construing Butler's pleadings, he obtained a mortgage loan from Defendant Citizens Bank, N.A., doing business as Citizen One Home Loans. (Compl., ECF No. 2.) He alleges that on October 29, 2016, he sent Defendant a written dispute of his alleged outstanding balance on his mortgage loan. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Subsequently, he also sent a “Notary Certificate of Dishonor and Non-Response.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that although Citizens Bank did not validate his debt, the Bank continued to send him collection notices. (Id. at ¶ 5.) He further asserts that he sent a money order for $50.00 to the Bank that conspicuously contained the phrase “Satisfaction of all claims.” (Id. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that despite sending the money order, which the Bank received on January 5, 2017, the Bank issued him notices of default and intent to sue and demanded payment. (Id. at ¶¶ 9-10.) On October 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland. (ECF No. 2.) Defendant timely removed the action to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (ECF No. 1.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I. Motion to Remand

         A defendant in a state civil action may remove the case to federal court only if the federal court can exercise original jurisdiction over at least one of the asserted claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)-(c). Once an action is removed to federal court, the plaintiff may file a motion to remand the case to state court if there is a contention that jurisdiction is defective. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction in the federal court. Johnson v. Advance America, 549 F.3d 932, 935 (4th Cir. 2008). On a motion to remand, this Court must “strictly construe the removal statute and resolve all doubts in favor of remanding the case to state court.” Richardson v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 950 F.Supp. 700, 701-02 (D. Md. 1997) (citation omitted); see also Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811, 815-16 (4th Cir. 2004).

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) 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.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). While a complaint need not include “detailed factual allegations, ” it 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.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff cannot rely on bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         In 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); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from those facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pro se plaintiff's pleadings are “to be liberally construed” and are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept., No. 17-1249, 698 Fed.Appx. 141, 2017 WL 4415771 (4th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017). However, even a pro se litigant's complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a “plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Motion to Remand

         On December 5, 2017, Butler filed a Motion to Remand this case back to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland. (ECF No. 14.) Plaintiff's Motion, however, confuses this United States District Court for the District of Maryland with the Baltimore City District Court. Accordingly, his Motion addresses the jurisdictional distinctions between Baltimore City's Circuit Court and District Court. (Id.) Under the “well-pleaded complaint rule” which governs the presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction, this Court clearly has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425 (1987); Pinney v. Nokia, Inc., 402 F.3d 430, 442 (4th Cir. 2005). The Complaint asserts that Defendant violated three federal statutes: the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., and the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq. Because Plaintiff's claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act is “so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or ...


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