United States District Court, N.D. California
July 12, 2004.
DOROTHEA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
DIABLO FUNDING GROUP, INC., CHICAGO TITLE COMPANY and CHARLES R. DEMPSEY, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge
Plaintiff's complaint has been dismissed for lack of federal
court jurisdiction. Judgment is entered accordingly.
IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
On June 14, 2004, the Court heard argument on defendants'
motions to dismiss this complaint for lack of jurisdiction and
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Having considered the materials filed by the parties and the
information presented at the hearing, the Court hereby GRANTS the
motion to dismiss for lack of federal court jurisdiction.
Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint against defendants Diablo
Funding Group, Inc., Chicago Title Company, and Charles R.
Dempsey alleging fraudulent business practices. Specifically,
plaintiff complains that Jesse Renteria, a loan officer for
Diablo, forged her signature on a grant deed, thereby conveying
all of her interest in the specified property to her husband
Compl. at ¶ 1. Plaintiff also alleges that the forged document
was notarized by defendant Charles R. Dempsey, who allegedly
notarized the document without recording her driver's license or
taking a thumbprint. Id. Plaintiff further alleges that
defendant Chicago Title Company accepted the "notarized"
document, closed escrow on the transaction, and removed
plaintiff's name and legal interest from her property. Id.
Without factual elaboration, plaintiff asserts that the loan officer took
advantage of her because she is a woman and that a man would not
be treated in a similar manner. Plaintiff contends this
constitutes housing discrimination based on sex and violates an
unspecified federal law. Id. at 2. Finally, plaintiff states
defendants are in violation of the Truth Lending Act and the
Federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. Pl.'s Second Opp'n
The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and
unlike state courts, they can only hear certain claims. For the
purposes of the present case, plaintiff must present a claim
which includes a federal question pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 in
order for this Court to have jurisdiction.
In an effort to establish federal question jurisdiction,
plaintiff refers to violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the
Truth in Lending Act, and the Federal Real Estate Settlement
Procedures Act (RESPA). As described in more detail below, the
Court does not believe these federal provisions provide relief
for the plaintiff according to the facts as stated in the
complaint and the Court encourages the plaintiff to bring a claim
in state court.
The federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3605) concerns
discrimination in real-estate transactions and may be enforced by
civil actions (42 U.S.C. § 3617). However, plaintiff appears to
be complaining about a forged deed, and not discrimination.
Claims under the FHA are evaluated using a Title VII
discrimination analysis. See Harris v. Itzhaki, 183 F.3d 1043,
1050 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Gamble v. City of Escondido,
104 F.3d 300, 304 (9th Cir. 1997)). In order to establish a disparate
treatment claim, plaintiff must establish in the complaint: "(1)
plaintiff's rights are protected under the FHA; and (2) as a
result of the defendant's discriminatory conduct, plaintiff has
suffered a distinct and palpable injury." Id. Here, defendants
are alleged to have assisted plaintiff's husband in obtaining a
loan without plaintiff's permission and against her wishes, and
to have forged her name on a grant deed in order to obtain the
loan. While such conduct would certainly amount to various
state-law offenses, nothing in the facts as presented by
plaintiff makes out a claim of discriminatory conduct based on
gender. Hence, plaintiff's complaint falls within the ambit of
the FHA. Plaintiff also asserts a violation of the Truth in Lending Act,
which was enacted by Congress in 1968 to protect consumers in
credit transactions. The purpose of the Truth in Lending Act is
to disclose and define credit terms to protect the consumer from
unfair or inaccurate credit transactions. 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et
seq. The Federal Reserve Board implemented this Act by Regulation
Z, which covers a business or individual who offers credit if
four conditions are met: "(i) the credit is offered or extended
to consumers; (ii) the offering or extending of credit is done
regularly; (iii) the credit is subject to a finance charge or is
payable by a written agreement in more than 4 installments; and
(iv) the credit is primarily for personal, family, or household
purposes." 12 C.F.R. § 226.1. While this statute was enacted to
protect consumers, it is used primarily to provide information to
the consumer about credit transactions and does not specifically
address credit situations created by fraud or forgery, as the
plaintiff alleges in the Complaint.
Finally, plaintiff's allegation of violation of the federal
RESPA also fails to state a claim. Enforced by the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, the purpose of RESPA
is to require disclosure of important information to borrowers at
various times and to prohibit practices that increase settlement
costs to consumers. 12 U.S.C.A. § 2601 et seq. RESPA does not
provide for civil law suits to address home loans received
through forgery or fraud as alleged in the present situation and
therefore does not provide an avenue of relief for the plaintiff.
2. Potential state law claims
There are a number of California state law claims for which
plaintiff may be entitled to relief for the alleged forged
signature which led to the "signing" over of her property
interest to her husband A state court may be able to set aside
the grant deed. The Court encourages plaintiff to consider
consultation with a lawyer and to consider bringing claims in
state court. CONCLUSION
For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS defendants'
motions to dismiss. The clerk shall close the file.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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