United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEREK A. THOMAS, et al, Plaintiffs,
JAMES M. SACK, et al, Defendants
L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
and DeLeonna Thomas (“Plaintiffs”), who are
self-represented, filed a “Quiet Title Complaint”
(the “Complaint”) on May 11, 2018, in the Circuit
Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland, against Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”); NVR Mortgage Finance,
Inc. (“NVR”); and James M. Sack, Trustee
(collectively, “Defendants”). ECF 1-1. Plaintiffs
alleged that Defendants' actions deprived them of their
“right, title, possession. [sic] estate, and
equity” in their property, located at 1602 Lindley
Drive in Hanover, Maryland (“the Property”).
suit contains six counts. Count I is titled
“Desparagement [sic] of Title”; Count II is
titled “James M. Sack Trustee Conflict Of
Interest”; Count III is titled “Wells Fargo Banka
[sic] N.A. Subordinate Deed of Trust”; Count IV is
titled “FHA And HUD Loan Settlement”; Count V is
labeled “Breach of Contract”; and Count VI is
titled “Promissory Estoppel And Detrimental
Fargo removed the case to federal court on June 20, 2018,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. ECF 1,
¶ 11. NVR and Sack consented to the removal.
Id. ¶ 5.
after, Wells Fargo moved to dismiss the Complaint (ECF 6),
supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 6-1) (collectively, the
“Wells Fargo Motion”), and exhibits. The
Clerk's Office sent Rule 12/56 letters to Plaintiffs,
advising them of the potential consequences of failing to
respond to the dispositive motion. ECF 7; ECF 8.
3, 2018, Sack and NVR moved to dismiss (ECF 11), supported by
a memorandum of law (ECF 11-1) (collectively, “the
Sack/NVR Motion”) and numerous exhibits. Once again,
the Clerk's Office sent Rule 12/56 letters to Plaintiffs,
advising them of the potential consequences of failing to
respond to the dispositive motion. ECF 12; ECF 13.
did not file an opposition to either motion. See
Docket. But, Plaintiffs did file a motion to remand the case
to State court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447. ECF 22.
Wells Fargo filed an opposition to the motion to remand (ECF
23), as did NVR and Sack. ECF 24.
hearing is necessary to resolve the pending motions.
See Local Rule 105.6 (2018). For the reasons that
follow, I will deny Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (ECF 22)
and grant the Defendants' motions to dismiss. ECF 6; ECF
Factual and Procedural Background
factual allegations in the Complaint are somewhat sparse and
difficult to understand. Plaintiffs are “the prior
grantee owners” of the Property, which is located in
Anne Arundel County, Maryland. ECF 1-1, ¶¶ 1,
On June 17, 2011, Plaintiffs executed a Note and Deed of
Trust as security for a loan on the Property, in the amount
of $565, 600.00. See ECF 6-4.
6, 2011, NVR transferred Plaintiffs' Mortgage and Note to
Wells Fargo, without recording an assignment of mortgage. ECF
1-1, ¶ 9. Wells Fargo submitted a draft
modification loan to Plaintiffs on December 8, 2015, although
Wells Fargo “was not the holder of the mortgage and
note by assignment of mortgage.” Id. ¶
10. On that same date, Wells Fargo created a subordinate deed
of trust and subordinate promissory note. Id. ¶
16. Sack served as the Vice President, General Counsel, and
Secretary of NVR, but also served as trustee to
Plaintiffs' Deed of Trust. Id. ¶ 13.
to the defense, Plaintiffs defaulted on the Loan. Therefore,
on September 19, 2017, Substitute Trustees, on behalf of loan
servicer Wells Fargo, instituted foreclosure proceedings
against them in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.
See Brown, et al. v. Thomas, et al., No.
C-02-CV-17-002705 (Anne Arundel Cty. Cir. Ct.) (the
“Foreclosure Action”). Plaintiffs never
challenged the foreclosure sale. They did not file a motion
to stay or dismiss the sale, they did not file exceptions to
the sale; and they did not challenge the auditor's
report. See ECF 6-2 (Anne Arundel County Circuit
Court Docket). The Circuit Court entered a report of sale on
December 20, 2017, and Judge Kathleen Vitale ratified the
sale by “Final Order” dated February 6, 2018. ECF
6-3. A report and account of auditor was filed on
February 22, 2018. ECF 6-2. The State issued a writ
of possession on May 10, 2018. Id. One day later,
plaintiffs filed this suit.
the Wells Fargo Motion (ECF 6) and the Sack/NVR Motion (ECF
11) are premised on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
That Rule permits a defendant to test the legal sufficiency
of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss. In re
Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines
v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th
Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393,
408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd sub nom.,
McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards
v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999).
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a
defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are
true, the complaint fails as a matter of law “to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted.” See In
re Birmingham, 846 F.3d at 92.
a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by
reference to the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). That rule provides that 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). The purpose of the rule
is to provide the defendants with “fair notice”
of the claims and the “grounds” for entitlement
to relief. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555-56 (2007).
survive a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at
1974; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684
(2009) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the
pleading standard for ‘all civil actions'
....”) (citation omitted); see also Willner v.
Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). But, a
plaintiff need not include “detailed factual
allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2).
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading
rules “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for
imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim
asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss.,
___ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 346 (2014) (per curiam).
the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere
speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see
Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342,
350 (4th Cir. 2013). If a complaint provides no more than
“labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” it
is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather,
to satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2),
the complaint 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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
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); see Semenova v. Maryland Transit
Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Houck v.
Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir.
2015); Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th
Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011). But,
a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn
from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 286 (1986). “A court decides whether [the
pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions
from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the
factual allegations, and then determining whether those
allegations allow the court to reasonably infer” that
the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A
Society Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346
(4th. Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).
also mindful that Plaintiffs are self-represented litigants.
Thus, their pleadings are “liberally construed”
and “held to less stringent standards than [those
filed] by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted). “However,
liberal construction does not absolve Plaintiff from pleading
a plausible claim.” Bey v. Shapiro Brown & Alt,
LLP, 997 F.Supp.2d 310, 314 (D. Md. 2014),
aff'd, 584 Fed.Appx. 135 (4th Cir. 2014);
see also Coulibaly v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.,
Civil Action No. DKC-10-3517, 2011 WL 3476994, at *6 (D. Md.
Aug. 8, 2011) (“[E]ven when pro se litigants are
involved, the court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege
facts that support a viable claim.”);
aff'd 526 Fed.Appx. 255 (4th Cir. 2013).
a federal court may not act as an advocate for a
self-represented litigant. See Brock v. Carroll, 107
F.3d 241, 242-43 (4th Cir. 1996); Weller v. Dep't of
Social Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).
Therefore, the court cannot “conjure up questions never
squarely presented, ” or fashion claims for a plaintiff
because he or she is self-represented. Beaudett v. City
of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985),
cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986); see also MD
v. Sch. Bd. of City of Richmond, 560 Fed.Appx. 199, 203
n.4 (4th Cir. 2014) (rejecting ...