United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. Hazel United States District Judge.
Brandon Pittman and Thomas Alston, proceeding pro
se, initiated this civil action in the Circuit Court for
Prince George's County, Maryland, alleging that
Defendants Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co., Ocwen Loan
Servicing, LLC, and Altisource Solutions, Inc. trespassed on
and wrongfully evicted them from a leased property in
violation of various Maryland laws. ECF No. 1-1. After
Defendants removed the case to this Court, ECF No. 1,
Plaintiffs amended their Complaint. ECF No. 9. Defendants
then moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended
Complaint. ECF No. 10. In response, Plaintiffs moved for
leave to further amend their Complaint. ECF No. 14. Pending
before this Court are Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to
Amend, ECF No. 14, and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF
No. 10. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6
(D. Md. 2016). Because res judicata bars
Plaintiffs' claims, rendering Plaintiffs' proposed
amendments futile, Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File
Second Amended Complaint will be denied, and Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss will be granted.
2017, Plaintiff Pittman leased 5566 Lanier Ave, Suitland,
Maryland (“the Property”) from then owner Wayne
Butcher. ECF No. 14-3 ¶ 7. Mr. Butcher's spouse,
Ruth Butcher, died in 2011 and did not sign the lease, but
her purported signature appears on it. Id.
¶¶ 8-9. Mr. Butcher allegedly believed that he
needed to sign his wife's name on the lease because she
was still on the Property's title. Id. ¶
9-10. Pittman subleased the Property's basement to
Plaintiff Alston. Id. ¶ 25.
Plaintiffs were renting the Property, substitute trustees
acting on Defendant Deutsche Bank's behalf foreclosed on
the Property. Id. ¶ 28; see also
O'Sullivan vs. Butcher, CAEF15-25591 (Cir. Ct. for
Prince George's Cty. 2015); ECF No. 10-2. Deutsche Bank
purchased the Property at a foreclosure sale. ECF No. 14-3
¶ 29. Defendant Ocwen is the loan servicer for Deutsche
Bank. Id. ¶ 5.
March 5, 2018, the Circuit Court for Prince George's
County (“Circuit Court”) ratified the foreclosure
sale. ECF No. 10-2 at 2. The substitute trustees conveyed
title to the Property to Deutsche Bank by a Trustees'
Deed dated March 16, 2018 and recorded in the land records of
Prince George's County, Maryland at Liber 40704, Folio
357. ECF No. 10-3.
Bank or Ocwen hired Defendant Altisource to manage the
Property. ECF No. 14-3 ¶ 30. Altisource had
representatives visit the Property on several occasions.
Id. ¶ 32. On one occasion in or about April
2018, Altisource representatives removed Plaintiff
Pittman's personal items and his dog from the Property
while Pittman was running errands. Id. ¶¶
33, 39. Altisource representatives also changed the locks,
effectively locking Plaintiffs out of the Property.
Id. ¶ 34. Pittman filed a police report with
the Prince George's County Police Department regarding
the alleged trespass and theft. Id. ¶ 64. The
police officer that processed Pittman's police report
suggested that Pittman file a civil lawsuit over the theft.
Id. ¶ 65.
25, 2018, Deutsche Bank sent a demand for possession of the
Property to “All Occupants” at the Property's
address via certified mail. ECF No. 10-4 at 9. The demand
letter noted that if any occupants were tenants they may have
additional rights pursuant to Maryland Real Property Code
Ann. § 7-105.6 and directed any such occupants to take
certain steps to prove their tenant status. Id.
Plaintiffs allege that “no one sent a letter about
eviction and/or a letter explaining the tenants' rights
to continue renting the Property.” ECF No. 14-3 ¶
29. Pittman also notified Altisource that he had a lease, and
Altisource representatives indicated that Plaintiffs would
soon be evicted. Id. ¶ 54.
8, 2018, Deutsche Bank filed a Motion for Judgment Awarding
Possession of the Property pursuant to Maryland Rule 14-102
within their foreclosure case. ECF No. 10-2 at 3; ECF No.
10-4. That motion acknowledged that some unknown persons
continued to possess the Property and had failed to deliver
possession. ECF No. 10-4 at 6. In a supporting affidavit,
Deutsche Bank confirmed that it had sent the notice required
under Maryland law to the Property address to provide any
occupant who may have been “a bona fide tenant, ”
a reasonable opportunity to provide it with evidence that he
was entitled to tenant protections under Maryland Real
Property Code Ann. § 7-105.6. Id. It received
no response. Id. Deutsche Bank served notice of its
motion for possession on occupants of the Property who they
assumed were not already a party to the foreclosure suit.
Id. Relying on Deutsche Bank's representations
and arguments, the Circuit Court granted Deutsche Bank's
motion for possession and entered an order awarding
possession of the Property to the bank. Id. at 1.
the judgment awarding possession, on September 13, 2018,
Deutsche Bank also filed a forcible entry and wrongful
detainer complaint against Plaintiffs in the District Court
for Prince George's County (“the District
Court”), seeking possession of the Property, damages
and costs. See Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co., as
trustee vs. Brandon Pittman, 0501-SP07308-2018 (Dist.
Ct. for Prince George's Cty. 2018); ECF No. 10-5; ECF No.
14-3 ¶ 71. A few days in advance of trial, Alston filed
a Motion to postpone, stating that he had not been occupying
the Property for several months. ECF No. 10-6 at 2. Deutsche
Bank then voluntarily dismissed Alston so that it could move
forward with the trial against Pittman. Id. Neither
Alston nor Pittman asserted any counterclaims. See
Id. After the trial, at which Plaintiffs did not appear,
the District Court entered an Order in favor of Deutsche Bank
and against Pittman. Id.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
seek leave to amend their Complaint. ECF No. 14. At this
stage of the litigation, the parties may amend their
pleadings “only with the opposing party's written
consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). Courts are to “freely give leave when justice
so requires, ” id., “unless 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 have been futile.” Steinburg v.
Chesterfield Cnty. Planning Comm'n, 527 F.3d 377,
390 (4th Cir. 2008).
amendment would be futile if the amended complaint could not
survive a motion to dismiss. United States ex rel. Wilson
v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 376
(4th Cir. 2008). If a plaintiff's claims are barred by
the doctrines of res judicata or collateral
estoppel, a complaint will not survive a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Kalos v. Centennial Sur.
Assocs., Inc., No. CCB-12-1532, 2012 WL 6210117
(D. Md. Dec. 12, 2012). While a court may review affirmative
defenses such as res judicata when they are asserted
in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, such a motion should be
granted only in the “rare circumstances where facts
sufficient to rule on an affirmative defense are alleged in
the complaint.” Goodman v. PraxAir, Inc., 494
F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007) (en banc). A movant cannot
merely show that the elements of the defense appear on the
face of the complaint or in properly considered documents but
must also “show that the plaintiff's potential
rejoinder to the affirmative defense was foreclosed by the
allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 466. In
reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
the Court may consider allegations in the complaint, matters
of public record, and documents attached to the motion to
dismiss that are integral to the complaint and authentic.
See Philips v. Pitt Cnty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d
176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).