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Quattlebaum v. Bank of America, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

May 10, 2019

TERRY D. QUATTLEBAUM, Plaintiff,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA, N.A. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAUL W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is an action to quiet title. Plaintiff Terry D. Quattlebaum, who has filed similar suits twice before, seeks an order dismissing a pending foreclosure action in state court and staying the sale of the property in question. I conclude his suit is barred for two reasons. First. Mr. Quattlebaum cannot bring a quiet title action under Maryland law while a foreclosure action involving the same property remains pending, as is the case here. See Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. §14-108(a). Second, the doctrine of res judicata bars his claim. I also conclude that the Complaint fails to state a claim against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Accordingly, the defendants' motions to dismiss are granted, and this case shall be closed.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This dispute, like the ones that preceded it. concerns Mr. Quattlebaum's residential property on Hanover Parkway in Greenbelt, Maryland. Mr. Quattlebaum and his wife have called the property their own. either individually or jointly, since August 1999. See Compl. ¶ 7. ECF No. 1. Ex. 2. The couple refinanced the property in January 2008. taking out a mortgage loan from Dell Franklin Financial FIX ("OFF"). See Id. ¶ 5. The deed of trust securing the loan named Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. Inc. ("MERS") as beneficiary. See Compl. ¶ 6: Deed of Trust, FCF No. 19, Ex. A. Soon after the refinancing. DFF sold the loan to Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., a company that Bank of America later acquired. See Quattlebaum v. Bank of America, N.A. (Quattlebaum I). No. TDC-14-2688, 2015 WL 1085707. at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 10. 2015).

         On January 31, 2012. Mr. Quattlebaum filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief See ECF No. 1 9. Ex. C. The bankruptcy court discharged his eligible debts on May 9, 2012. See Id. Mr. Quattlebaum's Complaint in the case before me expressly acknowledges that the lien on his residential property "survived the chapter 7 relief." Compl. ¶ 14.

         On August 7. 2012, just a few months after the discharge, MERS assigned the deed of trust to Bank of America. See Compl. ¶ 11: Assignment. FCF No. 19-3. Later, in 2013, the Quattlebaum signed a subordinate note and deed of trust in exchange for a $9, 481.36 loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD").[1] See Compl. ¶ 12; ECF No. 27, Ex. 1.

         Several lawsuits have since followed. Mr. Quattlebaum filed the first suit (" Quattlebaum I," as 1 will call it) on May 22. 2014. in the District Court of Maryland for Prince George's County. The complaint, as originally tiled, sought to quiet title in the Hanover Parkway property. See Quattlebaum 1 Compl., ECF No. 19. Ex. D. It effectively alleged that the February 2008 sale and subsequent transfer of the mortgage were fraudulent and that Bank of America could not enforce the deed of trust because it did not have the original promissory note. See id.

         Bank of America and Countrywide, as two of three named defendants in the action, promptly removed the suit to federal court. See Quattlebaum I, 2015 WL 1085707. at *2. Judge Theodore D. Chuang later granted their motion to dismiss the complaint. .See id. at *8. His March 10. 2015 order dismissed the quiet title claim with prejudice but allowed Mr. Quattlebaum to amend the complaint to reassert claims he had attempted to bring under the Truth in Lending Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. and the Uniform Commercial Code. See Id. at *6, *8. Mr. Quattlebaum did file an amended complaint, but Judge Chuang later dismissed all of the newly asserted claims with prejudice, just the same. See Quattlebaum v. Bank of Am., N.A.. No. TDC-14-2688, 2015 WL 7135438, at *3.

         Mr. Quattlebaum filed a second lawsuit (Quattlebaum II) on April 14. 2016, this time in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. See Quattlebaum II Compl., ECF No. 19-6. The second suit, which likewise named Bank of America and Countrywide as defendants, asserted an array of new claims under state and federal law. including the Maryland Mortgage Fraud Protection Act and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. See Id. History soon repeated itself, with the defendants removing the case to federal court and the case assignment going to Judge Chuang. In a December 2016 memorandum opinion and order. Judge Chuang agreed with the defendants that the new suit sought to litigate issues that Mr. Quattlebaum had already raised (or, at the very least, could have raised) in the first action. See Quattlebaum v. Bank of Am.. N.A. (Quattlebaum II). No. TDC-16-1711. 2016 WL 7174611. at *2-*3 (D. Md. Dec. 7, 2016). aff'd, 695 Fed.Appx. 59 (4th Cir. 2017). The court concluded the claims were barred by res judicata and granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. See Id. at *2, The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal in August 2017. Set Quattlebaum v. Bank of Am., N.A., 695 Fed.Appx. 59 (4th Cir. 2017) (per curiam).

         On January 9, 2018, the substitute trustees under the deed of trust filed a foreclosure action in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. See Foreclosure Action Docket Sheet, ECF No. 19-8. The circuit court has since issued an order ratifying the foreclosure sale of the Hanover Parkway property. See Id. The foreclosure action remains pending. See Maryland Judiciary Case Search, http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/ (accept disclaimer and search case number "CAEF1 8-00132").

         Mr. Quattlebaum brought this suit in the interim, lie fled his complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on May 2, 2018. naming Bank of America. MERS, and HUD as defendants. See Compl. Bank of America removed the case to this Court soon afterward. See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.

         The Complaint, styled as a quiet title action, purports to seek the following remedies: an order staying the sale of the property and dismissing the foreclosure action; an order quieting title in the property, releasing the deed of trust in Mr. Quattlebaum's favor, and removing "any and all derogatory reporting and/or filings with the credit bureaus and HUD"; and, finally, and order "resolv[ing] the matter of a Subordinate Deed of Trust and stated principle amount with HUD." Compl. ¶¶ 20-22. Its allegations in support of these demands for relief are not especially easy to parse. At the outset. Mr. Quattlebaum states that the suit "rises from" the pending foreclosure action. Compl 2 (introductory paragraph). The Complaint goes on to assert that the "alleged adverse interest in his property [was] actually defective, invalid or ineffective" when he began to defend himself in the foreclosure action. Id. ¶ 6. It then states that although Mr. Quattlebaum was initially confused by Bank of America's filings in that action, he has since drawn the conclusion that "[t]he assignment/lien appears to have been invalidly created, or has become invalid or has been satisfied." Id

         The rest of the Complaint is less than entirely coherent. At one point, it alleges that Bank of America failed to inform him of DFF's "changed status" (presumably its dissolution) either before or during the Chapter 7 proceedings. Id. ¶ 10. It then challenges MERS's August 7, 2012 assignment of the deed of trust to Bank of America on the grounds that the signatory was a "robo-signer."[2] Id. ¶¶ 10-11.

         Defendants have since filed two motions to dismiss. Bank of America and MERS (collectively, the "Corporate Defendants") filed first, jointly arguing that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Corporate Dels.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 19. Their joint motion argues, specifically, that the doctrine of res judicata bars the quiet title claim, that Mr. Quattlebaum lacks standing to challenge the 2012 assignment, and that he has otherwise failed to state a claim.See Corporate Defs.' Mem.. ECF No. 19-1. HUD filed a separate motion to dismiss, arguing ...


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