United States District Court, D. Maryland
THOMAS ALSTON, CAREY VAUGHN, TAVARIS PITTMAN, SHAWANDA PITTMAN and BRANDON PITTMAN, Plaintiffs,
FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, SETERUS, INC. and SERVICELINK FIELD SERVICES, LLC,  Defendants.
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiffs Thomas Alston, Carey Vaughn, Tavaris Pittman,
Shawanda Pittman, and Brandon Pittman (collectively,
"Plaintiffs") have filed this action against
Defendants Federal National Mortgage Association
("Fannie Mae"), Seterus, Inc.
("Seterus"), and ServiceLink Field Services, LLC
("ServiceLink"), alleging trespass and conversion
arising from an unauthorized entry onto a residential
property and the removal of personal property belonging to
each of the Plaintiffs. Presently pending before the Court is
a Motion to Dismiss filed by Fannie Mae and Seterus
(collectively, "the Moving Defendants"). Having
reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no
hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For
the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART
and DENIED IN PART.
Ross, a non-party in this case, owns a residential property
located at 12603 Old Chapel Road, Glenn Dale, Maryland
("the Property"), which is subject to a mortgage
loan ("the Mortgage"). The Mortgage is owned by
Fannie Mae and serviced by Seterus. The Mortgage is subject
to a Deed of Trust, which allows for entry onto the Property
by Fannie Mae or its agents:
Lender or its agent may make reasonable entries upon and
inspections of the Property. If it has reasonable cause,
Lender may inspect the interior of the improvements on the
Property. Lender shall give Borrower notice at the time of or
prior to such an interior inspection specifying such
Trust ¶ 7, Joint Record ("J.R.") 8, ECF No.
The Deed of Trust further provides that in the event of a
"legal proceeding that might significantly affect [the]
Lender's interest in the Property and/or rights under
this Security Instrument, " "[a]ny amounts
disbursed by Lender . . . shall become additional debt of
Borrower secured by this Security Instrument."
Id. ¶ 9, J.R. 8-9.
to Plaintiffs, Ross allowed Alston and Vaughn to store
"work material and equipment" on the Property,
including personal property and "work material and
equipment relating to [a] real estate investment
business" and a "real estate contractor
business." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13-17, ECF No. 21.
Separately, Ross rented the Property to Tavaris and Shawanda
Pittman beginning in early 2017.
February 2017, Seterus instructed ServiceLink to enter the
Property. ServiceLink entered the Property and removed
"work material and equipment" and unspecified
"personal property" belonging to Plaintiffs.
Id. ¶ 28. The Amended Complaint alleges that
ServiceLink "broke into" the Property, stole
Plaintiffs' property, and "changed all the locks,
" presumably referring to a house or structure on the
Property. Id. ¶ 38. No. Defendant provided
advanced notice of these actions. At the time of the
intrusion, Ross was not in default on the mortgage.
August 14, 2017, Plaintiffs, along with Ross, filed a pro
se lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's
County, Maryland, but the Complaint was signed by Alston
only. On September 1, 2017, Alston sent a copy of the summons
and the Complaint to (1) Timothy J. Mayopoulos, the President
of Fannie Mae; and (2) to "The Corp Trust, " the
registered agent for Seterus in Maryland, by United States
Postal Service ("USPS") certified mail, a service
that allows a sender to verify delivery of the item to its
destination. See Insurance & Extra Services,
United States Postal Service, https://www.usps.com
/ship/insurance-extra-services.htm (last visited May 23,
2018); Timothy J. Mayopoulos, President and Chief
Executive Officer, Fannie Mae,
(last visited May 23, 2018); Seterus, Inc., Maryland
Business Express, https://egov.maryland.gov/
(last visited May 23, 2018).Neither mailing was sent by USPS
"Restricted Delivery, " a separate service that
allows a sender to restrict delivery to a specific
individual. See Insurance & Extra Services,
United States Postal Service,
/insurance-extra-services.htm (last visited May 23, 2018).
Neither Alston nor any other Plaintiff filed a service
affidavit or other proof of service.
removed this case to this Court on October 4, 2017. Since the
original Complaint was signed by Alston only, the Court
ordered Plaintiffs to resubmit the Complaint with signatures
by all Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs then filed an Amended
Complaint signed by each Plaintiff with the exception of
Ross, who was removed as a Plaintiff.
their Motion to Dismiss, the Moving Defendants argue that (1)
service of process was insufficient; (2) the Amended
Complaint should be dismissed for failure to join Ross as a
party; (3) Plaintiffs fail to allege sufficient facts to
state a claim for trespass; and (4) Plaintiffs fail to allege
sufficient facts to state a claim for conversion. In their
Memorandum in Opposition to the Motion, Plaintiffs offer to
file a Second Amended Complaint that would provide additional
details on the allegedly stolen personal property.
extent that the Moving Defendants seek dismissal of the
Amended Complaint on the basis of insufficient service of
process, the Motion is construed as a Motion to Dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5). In such
a Motion, Plaintiffs bear the burden to demonstrate that
service was adequate. Dickerson v. Napolitano, 604
F.3d 732, 752 (2d Cir. 2010); Danik v. Housing Auth. of
Bait. City,396 Fed.Appx. 15, 16 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing
Dickerson). In ruling on such a motion, the Court
may consider evidence outside of the pleadings. Urquhart