ORDER RE: MOTIONS TO
(Docs. 6 and 9)
Defendant SunTrust Mortgage, Inc., moves to dismiss and/or strike the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(f). Defendants Nationstar Mortgage, LLC and Federal National Mortgage Association move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 9(b). For reasons discussed below, the motions shall be granted.
II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On September 29, 2011, plaintiffs Nabil Mosarah and Ibtissam Hussein ("Plaintiffs") filed their complaint in Stanislaus Superior Court against defendants SunTrust Mortgage, Nationstar, Fannie Mae and Does 1-100, inclusive, asserting sixteen causes of action for (1) declaratory relief (against all defendants), (2) fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud (against all defendants), (3) "tortious violation of statute [¶] Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act [¶] 12 USC section 2607(b)" (against all defendants), (4) conversion, (5) "Reformation (Note) as Against BOA, ReCon, 1st LAM and Does [sic]," (6) violation of California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200 et seq. (against SunTrust Mortgage), (7) violation of California Civil Code § 2923.6, (8) violation of § 1788.17 of the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, (9) violation of California Civil Code § 1572, (10) injunctive relief (against all defendants), (11) wrongful foreclosure (against all defendants), (12) negligence (against SunTrust Mortgage and Does 1-10), (13) negligence (against Nationstar and Does 1-10), (14) negligent misrepresentation (against SunTrust Mortgage and Does 1-10), (15) violation of the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (against SunTrust Mortgage and Does 1-10) and (16) violation of California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200 et seq. (against all defendants).*fn1 On October 13, 2011, defendant SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. ("Suntrust") removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332, 1441 and 1446.
On November 9, 2011, Suntrust filed its motion to dismiss and/or strike the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(f). On January 11, 2012, defendants Nationstar Mortgage, LLC ("Nationstar") and Federal National Mortgage Association ("FNMA," erroneously sued as Fannie Mae) filed their motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 9(b). Plaintiffs did not file an opposition to either motion.
A 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). Where the plaintiff fails to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," the complaint may be dismissed for failure to allege facts sufficient to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "A claim has facial plausibility," and thus survives a motion to dismiss, "when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1940, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court accepts all material facts alleged in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir. 2005). However, the court need not accept conclusory allegations, allegations contradicted by exhibits attached to the complaint or matters properly subject to judicial notice, unwarranted deductions of fact or unreasonable inferences. Daniels-Hall v. National Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). "Dismissal with prejudice and without leave to amend is not appropriate unless it is clear . . . the complaint could not be saved by amendment." Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). The court may also strike "redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f).
A. Plaintiffs' cause of action for fraud and conspiracy to defraud -- Plaintiffs first assert a cause of action against all defendants for fraud and conspiracy to defraud. In California, " 'fraud is an intentional tort, the elements of which are (1) misrepresentation; (2) knowledge of falsity; (3) intent to defraud, i.e., to induce reliance; (4) justifiable reliance; and (5) resulting damage. [Citation.]' [Citation.]" Intrieri v. Superior Court, 117 Cal.App.4th 72, 85-86, 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 97 (2004). To state a claim for conspiracy to defraud, a plaintiff must allege all the elements of actionable fraud as well as a civil conspiracy,which include "(1) the formation and operation of the conspiracy and
(2) damage resulting to the plaintiff (3) from a wrongful act done in furtherance of the common design." Rusheen v. Cohen, 37 Cal.4th 1048, 1062, 39 Cal.Rptr.3d 516, 128 P.3d 713 (2006). No claim for conspiracy to defraud lies if the plaintiff fails to allege facts satisfying the elements of an underlying fraud. See Kerr v. Rose, 216 Cal.App.3d 1551, 1564, 265 Cal.Rptr. 597 (1990); see also Applied Equipment Corp. v. Litton Saudi Arabia, Ltd., 7 Cal.4th 503, 511, 869 P.2d 454 (1994) ("Standing alone, a conspiracy does no harm and engenders no tort liability. It must be activated by the commission of an actual tort . . . . [¶] . . . [¶] [T]ort liability arising from conspiracy presupposes that the coconspirator is legally capable of committing the tort, i.e., that he or she owes a duty to plaintiff recognized by law and is potentially subject to liability for breach of that duty").
Having reviewed the complaint in its entirety, the Court finds Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim to relief against the moving defendants. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) requires that, in alleging fraud, "a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake." Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b). "To comply with Rule 9(b), allegations of fraud must be 'specific enough to give defendants notice of the particular misconduct which is alleged to constitute the fraud charged so they can defend against the charge and not just deny that they have done anything wrong.' [Citation.]" Bly-Magee v. California, 236 F.3d 1014, 1019 (9th Cir. 2001). "Averments of fraud must be accompanied by 'the who, what, when, where, and how' of the misconduct charged. [Citation.] '[A] plaintiff must set forth more than the neutral facts necessary to identify the transaction. The plaintiff must set forth what is false or misleading about a statement, and why it is false.' [Citation.]" Vess v. Ciba-Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1106 (9th Cir. 2003); see Lazar v. Superior Court, 12 Cal.4th 631, 645, 49 Cal.Rptr.2d 377, 909 P.2d 981 (1996); Tarmann v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 2 Cal.App.4th 153, 157, 2 Cal.Rptr.2d 861 (1991) ("requirement of specificity in a fraud action against a corporation requires the plaintiff to allege the names of the persons who made the allegedly fraudulent representations, their authority to speak, to whom they spoke, what they said or wrote, and when . . . ."). Plaintiffs allege defendants "reached an agreement to defraud" Plaintiffs out of their property by representing to them that "they were the owner of the Trust Deed and Note as either the Trustee, or the Beneficiary regarding Plaintiff's real property." However, Plaintiffs have not provided the requisite specificity for these allegations, such as identifying when and where the representation was made and by whom.
Plaintiffs further allege defendants "engaged in an illegal scheme the purpose of which was to execute loans secured by real property in order to make commissions, kick-backs, illegal undisclosed yield spread premiums, and undisclosed profits by the sale of any instruments arising out of the transaction." However, Plaintiffs have not explained how this scheme was perpetrated by defendants. The allegations are simply too vague and generalized to state a claim for fraud, let alone conspiracy to defraud. Furthermore, "Rule 9(b) does not allow a complaint to merely lump multiple defendants together but 'require[s] plaintiffs to differentiate their allegations when suing more than one defendant . . . and inform each defendant separately of the allegations surrounding his alleged participation in the fraud.' In the context of a fraud suit involving multiple defendants, a plaintiff must, at a minimum, 'identif[y] the role of [each] defendant[ ] in the alleged fraudulent scheme.' " Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 764-65 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted). Plaintiffs fail to differentiate the actions of the various defendants. Accordingly, dismissal of the cause of action for fraud and conspiracy to defraud shall be granted as to the moving defendants.
B. Plaintiffs' cause of action for "tortious violation of statute
[¶] Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act [¶] 12 USC section 2607(b)" --
Plaintiffs further assert a cause of action against all defendants for
failure to respond to a qualified written request in violation of the
Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. § 2601 et
seq. "If any servicer of a federally related mortgage loan receives a
qualified written request from the borrower . . . for information
relating to the servicing of such loan, the servicer shall provide a
written response acknowledging receipt of the correspondence within 5
days . . . unless the action requested is taken within such period."
12 U.S.C. § 2605(e)(1)(A). A "qualified written request" is
correspondence that provides, or otherwise enables
the servicer to identify, "the name and account of the borrower" and
"a statement of the reasons for the belief of the borrower, to the
extent applicable, that the account is in error or provides sufficient
detail to the servicer regarding other information sought by the
borrower." Id., § 2605(e)(1)(B). Within 30 days, the servicer must
provide the borrower with "a written explanation or clarification" of
"the reasons for which the servicer believes the account of the
borrower is correct" or "why the information requested is unavailable
or cannot be obtained[.]" Id., § 2605(e)(2)(B), (C). Having reviewed
the complaint in its entirety, the Court finds Plaintiffs have failed
to allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim upon which
relief for a violation of RESPA may be granted.
As to this cause of action, Plaintiffs allege that in July 2008 and October 2009, they served by letter on Suntrust a "Notice of Dispute & Request for Accounting, Notice Pursuant to Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) a Qualified Written Request." Plaintiffs further allege, "[S]aid defendants have failed to respond to said notice by plaintiffs and have substantially failed to respond to all other communications and inquiries by plaintiffs." Problematically for Plaintiffs, the allegations merely establish Plaintiffs sent a letter to Suntrust to which Suntrust did not respond; no facts have been alleged in the complaint to suggest the letter or its contents constituted a legitimate qualified written request under RESPA triggering Suntrust's duty to respond. Plaintiffs further allege in conclusory fashion that the defendants violated RESPA's prohibition on kickbacks and unearned fees, 12 U.S.C. § 2607, but allege no ...