United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
Mohan Nirala (“Nirala”), proceeding pro
se, brings this legal malpractice suit against
Defendants A.J. Adhali and Edgar Ndjatou (collectively,
“Defendants”). Pending before the Court is
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint
(“Motion to Dismiss”). ECF No. 13. Having
reviewed the Motion and the briefs, the Court finds no
hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For
the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
2007, Nirala founded Satyaguru Inc., a nonprofit corporation
in Maryland, which was later renamed Ambedkar International
Center. ECF No. 12 at 15. He secured a personal loan of $80,
000 to contribute to the organization's operations.
2014, Ambedkar International Center and its board of
directors (collectively, “AIC”) sued Nirala in
the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland
for an array of common law claims, including conversion,
quiet title, ejectment, declaratory judgment, constructive
trust, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, accounting,
injunctive relief, and constructive fraud. ECF No. 13-3. AIC
principally alleged that Nirala had been “acting as a
rogue alter ego of AIC, ” “mismanaged
AIC funds, ” and “transferred AIC property to
himself.” Nirala v. Ambedkar Int'l Ctr.,
Inc., No. 203, Sept. Term, 2016, 2017 WL 2180630, at *1
(Md. Ct. Spec. App. May 18, 2017). Nirala retained Defendants
to represent him and filed counterclaims. ECF No. 13-2. After
a four-day bench trial, the court awarded judgment in favor
of AIC. ECF No. 13-3. The Court of Special Appeals of
Maryland affirmed the judgment. Nirala, 2017 WL
2180630, at *1.
September 11, 2018, Nirala sued Defendants in the Circuit
Court for Prince George's County, Maryland. ECF No. 1-1.
Defendants removed the case, invoking this Court's
diversity jurisdiction on October 27, 2018. ECF No. 1. Nirala
then amended the Complaint on December 4, 2018, ECF No. 12,
and Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on
December 17, 2018, ECF No. 13. Nirala responded on January 2,
2019 to the motion, ECF No. 15, to which Defendants replied,
ECF No. 16.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint
need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a
‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of
entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007). That showing must
consist of more than “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action” or “naked
assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555).
ruling on a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's well-pleaded
allegations are accepted as true and viewed in the light most
favorable to him. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The
Court may also consider documents attached to the motion to
dismiss when “integral to and explicitly relied on in
the complaint, and when the [opposing parties] do not
challenge the document[s'] authenticity.” Zak
v. Chelsea Therapeutics, Int'l, Ltd., 780 F.3d 597,
606-07 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Am. Chiropractic
Ass'n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234
(4th Cir. 2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted). However,
“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above a speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. “[C]onclusory statements or a
‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not [suffice].'” EEOC v.
Performance Food Grp., Inc., 16 F.Supp.3d 584, 588 (D.
Md. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
“‘[N]aked assertions of wrongdoing necessitate
some ‘factual enhancement' within the complaint to
cross ‘the line between possibility and plausibility of
entitlement to relief.'” Francis v.
Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Although pro se pleadings
are construed liberally to allow for the development of a
potentially meritorious case, Hughes v. Rowe, 449
U.S. 5, 9 (1980), courts cannot ignore a clear failure to
allege facts setting forth a cognizable claim. See Weller
v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir.
1990) (“The ‘special judicial solicitude'
with which a district court should view such pro se
complaints does not transform the court into an
complaint allegation sounds in fraud, it must meet the
heightened pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 9(b). See Haley v. Corcoran, 659 F.Supp.2d
714, 721 (D. Md. 2009). The rule requires the plaintiff to
“state with particularity the circumstances
constituting fraud or mistake.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). To
satisfy this standard, plaintiffs “must, at a minimum,
describe the time, place, and contents of the false
representations, as well as the identity of the person making
the misrepresentation and what he obtained thereby.”
United States ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root,
Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 379 (4th Cir. 2008) (quotation marks
and citation omitted). Fraud allegations that fail to comply
with Rule 9(b) warrant dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). See
Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d
776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999).
The Operative Complaint
preliminary matter, the Court must determine whether the
original or Amended Complaint is the operative one. ECF Nos.
1-1, 12. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) permits a
party to “amend its pleading once as a matter of
course” within “21 days after serving it”
or, “if the pleading is one to which a responsive
pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive
pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule
12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(1). After this time has elapsed, the plaintiff may
amend “only with the opposing party's written
consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). Rule 15(a)(2) provides that courts should
“freely give leave [to amend] when justice so
requires.” Id. Denial of leave to amend should
occur only “when the amendment would be prejudicial to
the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of
the moving party, or the amendment would be futile.”
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 242 (4th
Cir. 1999) (quoting Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co.,
785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986)).
served the original Complaint on Defendants on October 2,
2018, ECF No. 1 ¶ 2, and Defendants served their Motion
to Dismiss on November 9, 2018, ECF Nos. 10, 10-1. On
December 4, 2018, Nirala filed his Amended Complaint, more
than 21 days after both service of the Complaint and the
Motion to Dismiss occurred. ECF No. 12. Consequently,
amendment is permitted only with Defendants' written
consent or leave of court.
did not seek this Court's permission to amend. Nor does
the Amended Complaint indicate whether Defendants consented
to the amendment. However, the Court notes that Defendants
moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint not because it is
untimely filed, but because it fails to state legally
sufficient causes of action. See generally ECF No.
13. The Court also notes that Nirala did not appear to amend
in bad faith, and the amendments are not futile
modifications. Rather, the proposed amendments clarify the
claims and provide additional factual allegations in support.
Accordingly, the Court considers the Amended Complaint as the
Court now turns to the merits of Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss. Because the Court exercises its diversity
jurisdiction, Maryland choice-of-law rules apply. See
Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 521 (4th Cir. 1999)
(“A federal court sitting in diversity must apply the
choice-of-law rules from the forum state.”). For causes
of action sounding in tort, Maryland adheres to the lex
loci delicti rule, applying the substantive law of the
state in which the alleged tort took place. Philip Morris
Inc. v. Angeletti, 358 Md. 689, 744-45 (2000).
Nirala's claims center on Defendants having allegedly
committed legal malpractice in representing him before the
Circuit Court for Prince George's County. Thus, Maryland
law applies to Nirala's claims.
stated, Defendants contend that Nirala has failed to plead
sufficient facts in the Amended Complaint for any claim to
survive challenge. The Court ...