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Ruiz v. Deutsche Bank Trust Co.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

February 1, 2019

Ysola Ruiz, Plaintiff,
v.
Deutsche Bank Trust Co., Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ysola Ruiz seeks a declaration establishing that she remains the owner of a residential property in Silver Spring, Maryland, which has twice been the subject of foreclosure proceedings. See Compl. 2-3, 8, ECF NO... Deutsche Bank Trust Company ("Deutsche Bank"), the sole remaining defendant in the suit, has filed an uncontested motion for judgment on the pleadings. ECF No. 19. As I agree with Deutsche Bank that the doctrine of res judicata bars Ms. Ruiz's claims, I am granting the motion and dismissing the Complaint with prejudice.

         Factual Background

         Ms. Ruiz obtained a mortgage secured by her principal residence, 12005 Remington Drive, Silver Spring, Maryland 20902 (the "Property",, and executed a Deed of Trust on the Property in favor of the note holder and Deutsche Bank. Compl. On November 29, 2007, Deutsche Bank instituted foreclosure proceedings in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County ("First Foreclosure Action"). !d. at ~ 2. The Property was sold to Deutsche Bank, but the court later rescinded the sale due to a lack of notice to the Internal Revenue Service, stating that "the parties are hereby placed into the status quo ante and the Substitute Trustees may resell the subject property." Order to Vacate Foreclosure Sale, ECF No. 19-3.

         On September 30, 2015, Deutsche Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings a second time, again in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County ("Second Foreclosure Action"). As the defendant in that case, Ms. Ruiz filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied, ECF No. 19-5, as was her motion for reconsideraiion of that denial. Docket Sheet 9-10, ECF No. 19-7. Deutsche Bank purchased the Property, Compl. ~ 17, and the court issued an Order for Judgment Awarding Possession on May 10, 2018, ECF No. 19-9.

         On November 17, 2017, while the Second Foreclosure Case was still pending, Ms. Ruiz brought the current action against Nationstar Mortgage LLC [1] and Deutsche Bank. Compl. The Complaint purports to bring three claims: (1) Quiet Title, (2) breach of contract and violation of 12 C.F.R. S 1026.41 and 12 U.S.C. S 2605, and (3) breach of contract, failure to restore status quo following the first foreclosure case. Id. at 5-11.

         Before the Court is Defendant Deutsche Bank's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 19. Plaintiff has not filed an opposition brief, and the time to do so expired on August 24, 2018. Scheduling Order, ECF No. 18. Deutsche Bank argues that Plaintiffs claims are barred by res judicata, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and the Anti-Injunction Act, 22 U.S.C. S 2283. Def.'s Mem., ECF No. 19-1 at 1. Because I find that res judicata precludes this litigation, I am granting Defendant's motion without reaching Defendant's alternative grounds for dismissal.

         Standard of Review

         Courts apply "the same standard for Rule 12(c) motions [for judgment on the pleadings] as for motions made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Burbach Broadcasiing Co. of Del. v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 466 (4th Cir. 2002). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a 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 applicabiitty of defenses." VelenGia 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. Kalas 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)). One such affirmative defense is res judicata. When reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, I "may consider documents attached to the complaint, as well as documents attached to the motion ... if they are integral to the complaint and their authentictty is not disputed. Additionally, a federal court may take judicial notice of documents from prior state court proceedings . . . ." Sposato v. First Mariner Bank, No. CCB-12-1569, 2013 WL 1308582, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 28, 2013) (citing Philips v. Pitt. Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009)).

         Discussion

         Res 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)). When a federal court litigant asserts res judicata based on a state court judgmen,, "[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)).

         1. Same Parties

         In the Second Foreclosure Action, Ms. Ruiz was the defendant, and substitute trustees appointed by Deutsche Bank were the plaintiffs. See Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 16-17; ECF Nos. 19-4 at 2; 19-7 at 2-6. Ms. Ruiz does not ...


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