United States District Court, D. Maryland
ROBERT A. CASERO, JR., ET AL., Plaintiffs,
JOHN S. MCNULTY, ET AL., Defendants.
Stephanie A. Gallagher, United States District Judge.
Robert A. Casero, Jr., and Catherine Mary Hattenburg
(“the Caseros”) filed a two-count Complaint
against Defendants John S. McNulty and Carolyn McNulty
(“the McNultys”) seeking a declaratory judgment
to resolve a boundary dispute between the parties, and
compensatory, special, and punitive damages for slander of
title. ECF 2. On August 11, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion
to Dismiss the Complaint, ECF 5, along with a Memorandum of
Law, ECF 5-2 (collectively, “the Motion”).
Plaintiffs opposed, ECF 6 (“the Opposition”), and
Defendants replied, ECF 7 (“the Reply”). On July
19, 2018, the Court stayed this case and denied the Motion
without prejudice. ECF 9. On October 15, 2019, upon the
parties' request, the Court lifted the stay and
reinstated the Motion. ECF 26. No hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons
that follow, Defendants' Motion is granted.
ruling on the Motion, the Court accepts as true all factual
allegations in the Complaint and draws all reasonable
inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. E.g., E.I.
du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637
F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). The
Caseros and the McNultys are neighbors on Salt Lake Road
along the Mason Dixon Line at the border of Harford County,
Maryland and York County, Pennsylvania. ECF 2, ¶¶
2, 5. The McNultys' property lies within York County,
Pennsylvania. Id. ¶ 5. The southern border of
the McNultys' property is the Mason Dixon Line, which is
also the southern border of York County, Pennsylvania.
Id. ¶¶ 5, 25-26. The Caseros' property
lies within Harford County, Maryland. Id.
¶¶ 2, 26. Though “the northern border on the
Caseros' deed does not call to the Mason Dixon Line, the
previous deeds of prior owners of the Caseros' parcel of
land called to the Mason Dixon Line.” Id.
¶ 22. Thus, the northern border of the Caseros'
property is the Mason Dixon Line, which is also the northern
border of Harford County, Maryland. Id. ¶ 22.
center of the dispute is the Mason Dixon Line's location
in relation to Salt Lake Road. Salt Lake Road runs east to
west, parallel to the northern border of the Caseros'
property and to the southern border of the McNultys'
property. ECF 2-5. The Caseros allege that the Mason Dixon
Line (and therefore the northern border of their property)
runs in and through the center of Salt Lake Road. ECF 2,
¶¶ 20-22. According to the Complaint, the McNultys
believe that the Mason Dixon Line (and thus the southern
border of their property) “extends south of Salt Lake
Road.” Id. ¶ 21. Based on this boundary
dispute, the Caseros seek a declaratory judgment under
section 14-111 of the Maryland Real Property Code.
Id. ¶¶ 2-25 (Count One).
Caseros also seek compensatory, special, and punitive damages
for slander of title. Id. ¶¶ 26-34. The
Caseros allege that before the McNultys filed suit against
the Caseros in 2016 (“the Underlying Suit” or
“Case No. 16-2426”), the McNultys employed three
different surveyors to determine their property boundary, all
of which concluded that the Mason Dixon Line runs in and
through Salt Lake Road. Id. ¶¶ 29-30.
Despite this, “the McNultys filed suit in an effort to
exercise dominion over land south of Salt Lake Road, ”
and this suit “has created a cloud on the Caseros'
title.” Id. ¶ 30.
Underlying Suit that the Caseros reference is McNulty v.
Casero, No. SAG-16-2426 (D. Md. filed June 28, 2016). In
that case, initially before Judge J. Frederick Motz, the
McNultys filed suit against the Caseros for compensatory,
punitive, and special damages, as well as a declaratory
judgment seeking to resolve the boundary dispute. Amended
Complaint, McNulty, No. SAG-16-2426 (D. Md. Nov. 2,
2016), ECF 10. The McNultys alleged that the southern
boundary of their property, which was “coterminous
with” the Mason Dixon Line, lies approximately ten feet
south of Salt Lake Road. Id. ¶¶ 13-15, 23.
The McNultys alleged that on two separate occasions, the
Caseros entered onto that strip of land (ten feet south of
Salt Lake Road) and destroyed a fence on that land.
Id. ¶¶ 18-21. The McNultys further alleged
that the Caseros built a driveway “that crosses the
McNulty Property without [the McNultys']
permission.” Id. ¶ 22. Finally, the
McNultys alleged that the Caseros executed a
“Confirmatory Deed, ” which stated in part that
the northern boundary of their property was “the
southerly side of . . . the Mason Dixon Line, ”
measured as running in and through Salt Lake Road.
Id. ¶ 32. The McNultys, bringing thirteen total
claims for relief, sought a declaratory judgment to resolve
the boundary dispute, an action to quiet title, and an order
ejecting the Caseros from the disputed property and requiring
them to remove their driveway. Id. ¶¶
41-70. The McNultys also sought compensatory, special, and
punitive damages in tort, including one allegation of slander
of title. Id. ¶¶ 71-127.
McNultys initially filed their Complaint against the Caseros
in the Underlying Suit on June 28, 2016. Complaint,
McNulty, No. SAG-16-2426 (D. Md. June 28, 2016), ECF
1. On September 3, 2016, the parties submitted a Joint Status
Report requesting a scheduling conference and, in relevant
part, requested “that the Court allow for an early
motion for summary judgment, prior to discovery, ” but
indicated the McNultys' desire to file an Amended
Complaint. Joint Status Report, McNulty, No.
SAG-16-2426 (D. Md. Sept. 30, 2016), ECF 7, ¶¶ 4-5.
The Court thereafter held a scheduling conference and issued
a Scheduling Order setting both a November 2, 2016 deadline
for the McNultys to amend their Complaint, and a November 16,
2016 deadline for the Caseros to file either a “motion
to dismiss or an answer and motion for summary
judgment.” Scheduling Order, McNulty, No.
SAG-16-2426 (D. Md. Oct. 26, 2016), ECF 7, ¶¶ 4-5.
January 5, 2017, Judge Motz issued a Memorandum Opinion in
the Underlying Case (“the Opinion”) granting the
McNultys' Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, and
denying the Caseros' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment,
“on the issue of liability.” Memorandum,
McNulty, No. SAG-16-2426 (D. Md. Jan. 5, 2017), ECF
22-1 at 1. The Caseros filed their Complaint in the instant
case against the McNultys in the Circuit Court for Harford
County, Maryland, five months later, on June 28, 2017. ECF 2.
The McNultys removed the case to this Court on August 4,
2017. ECF 1. The Caseros then moved for leave to file a
counterclaim in the Underlying Case on August 16, 2017.
Motion for Leave to File a Counterclaim, McNulty,
No. SAG-16-2426 (D. Md. Aug. 16, 2017), ECF 45. Judge Motz
denied this motion. Order, McNulty, No. SAG-16-2426
(D. Md. Sept. 25, 2017), ECF 54.
defendant is permitted to test the legal sufficiency of a
complaint by way of a motion to dismiss. See, e.g.,
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). 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.” Whether a complaint states a claim for relief
is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Rule
8(a)(2), which provides that a complaint must contain a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the
rule is to provide the defendants with “fair
notice” of the claims and the “grounds” for
entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must
contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570;
see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009)
(“Our decision in Twombly expounded the
pleading standard for ‘all civil actions.'”);
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, ___ U.S.
___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 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.” Id. at 556 (internal quotation
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). However, a court is not required to accept legal
conclusions drawn from the facts. 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