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United States District Court, N.D. California

July 12, 2004.


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.


  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 at 1:6-9.


  1. Jurisdiction

  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.



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