United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge.
Clara Walker accuses Bank of America, N.A. of unlawfully
discriminating against her on the basis of her race, sex, and
age when it denied her application to refinance her home
loan. Her lawsuit asserts a series of claims under the Equal
Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA") and the Fair
Housing Act ("FHA"). A final claim accuses the bank
of unfair, abusive, or deceptive trade practices under the
Maryland Consumer Protection Act ("MCPA"). Upon
review, I conclude that Ms. Walker's claims are
adequately pleaded. The motion to dismiss is therefore
Amended Complaint identifies Ms. Walker as a 69-year-old
African American woman. See Am. Compl. ¶ 7, ECF
No. 14. She works full-time for United Airlines and has
several other sources of income. See Id.
¶¶ 12-14. In particular, she asserts, she receives
a monthly pension through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.,
earns additional income from an annuity valued at $340, 000,
and takes in an extra $570 per month from investment
properties. See Id. ¶ 14.
March 19, 2018, Ms. Walker entered a Bank of America retail
location in Waldorf, Maryland, with the aim of refinancing
her primary residence in Brandywine, Maryland. See
Id. ¶ 8. The Amended Complaint alleges that the
interest rate for a home refinance loan as of March 23, 2018
-a few days after her visit to the bank - was 4.625 percent.
See Id. ¶ 10.
officer named Liz O'Malley helped her complete the
application. See Id. ¶ 9. Ms. Walker's
prospects looked good. According to the Amended Complaint,
Ms. O'Malley told her that her "documents are in
order" and at one point commented, "You have a lot
of money." Id. ¶16.
Walker, though, found the process frustrating. Although her
consumer credit reports showed scores of 780 and 730,
Ms. O'Malley chose the lower of these two scores to list
on the application. See Id. ¶¶ 11, 18.
Elsewhere on the application, Ms. O'Malley indicated that
Ms. Walker had credit card debt, even though Ms. Walker told
her that was not the case. See Id. ¶ 19. Later,
Ms. Walker alleges, Ms. O'Malley "unilaterally
cancelled" a planned appraisal of the Brandywine
property. See Id. ¶ 22. Ms. Walker asked her to
reschedule the appraisal, but she never did. See id
Amended Complaint further alleges that, in the course of
their dealings, Ms. O'Malley "probed into all
aspects of [her] financial history, even those aspects that
were irrelevant to the application process."
Id. ¶ 20. She repeatedly questioned Ms. Walker
about her properties and other income sources, no matter that
Ms. Walker and various third parties already had provided
documents "verifying each source and origin of income
and assets." Id. ¶ 21.
April 13, 2018, Ms. Walker received a letter from Bank of
America listing a number of documents as "missing"
from her application. See Id. ¶ 24. The letter
itself noted that the company's retail location ought to
have provided most of those documents. See Id.
¶ 26. Ms. Walker alleges that all of the
purportedly missing documents were, in fact, in Ms.
O'Malley's possession. See Id. ¶ 28.
She says she attempted to explain this to the Bank of America
loan processor who had requested the documentation, but this
processor did not respond to her messages. See id
April 24, 2018, Ms. O'Malley informed Ms. Walker that
"her loan had been cancelled." Id. ¶
33. Neither Ms. O'Malley nor anyone else from the company
explained the reason for the decision. See Id.
¶ 34. By that time, the Amended Complaint states,
"the interest rate for home refinance loans had
risen" from 4.625 percent to 4.875 percent. See
Id. ¶¶ 10, 37. Ms.
O'Malley told Ms. Walker "that if she was still
interested in a home refinance loan, she would have to
reapply at the higher interest rate." Id.
¶ 38. Ms. Walker chose instead to apply for a home
refinance loan through another lender. See Id.
¶ 39. The lender, applying a rate of 4.875 percent,
approved her application within 48 hours. See id.
Walker filed this federal lawsuit on August 13, 2018, at
first naming Bank of America Corp. as the sole defendant and
later amending her pleading to add Bank of America National
Association as a co-defendant. See Compl., ECF NO.1;
Am. Compl. 1. The Amended Complaint asserts six claims in
all. Counts 1 through 3 seek to hold Defendants liable under
the Equal Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA") for
discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and age,
respectively. See Am. Compl.
¶¶ 47-61. Counts 4 and 5 raise
similar claims of race- and sex-based discrimination,
respectively, under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA").
See id ¶¶ 62-71. Count 6 accuses
Defendants of unfair, abusive, or deceptive trade practices
under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act
("MCPA"). See id ¶¶ 72-78.
Defendants seek a dismissal of
all claims under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. See Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 15-1. Their
motion is fully briefed. See ECF Nos. 15-16, 19, 21.
No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6.
12(b)(6) motion "tests the sufficiency" of the
plaintiffs complain. Vance v. CHF Int'l, 914
F.Supp.2d 669, 677 (D. Md. 2012). Under Rule 8(a)(2), the
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). Beyond that, the Supreme
Court has held that claims for relief must be
"plausible," specifying that "[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."
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." Id. at 678.
when a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint under Rule
12(b)(6), courts i are limited to considering the sufficiency
of allegations set forth in the complaint and the
'documents attached or incorporated into the
complaint.'" Zak v. Chelsea Therapeutics
Int'l, Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 606 (4th Cir. 2015)
(quoting E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kalan
Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011)). A
court also may consider matters subject to judicial notice.
See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights,
Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).
challenge the sufficiency of the Amended Complaint, arguing
it fails to state a claim for relief under any of the
statutes Ms. Walker has invoked. I will start with the ECOA
claims before turning to Ms. Walker's claims under the
FHA and, finally, the MCPA.
declares it unlawful "for any creditor to discriminate
against any applicant, with respect to any aspect of a credit
transaction ... on the basis of race, color, religion,
national origin, sex or marital status, or age." 15
U.S.C. S 1691(a)(1). Ms. Walker characterizes the denial of
her loan application as discriminatory, accusing Defendants
of singling her out for unequal treatment on the basis of her
race, sex, and age. Defendants, in turn, argue she has not
met the pleading requirements under Rule 8(a) because she has
not adequately alleged that she was qualified for a home
refinance loan or that ...