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Marina Weahunt v. California Reconveyance Company

May 4, 2012

MARINA WEAHUNT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CALIFORNIA RECONVEYANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This purported diversity action, originally filed on August 27, 2010,*fn1 was referred to the undersigned pursuant to E.D. Cal. L.R. 302(c)(21). Plaintiff has paid the filing fee and is proceeding pro se with her original complaint.

Currently pending before the court is defendant California Reconveyance Company's ("CRC") motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 27.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion. (Dkt. No. 32.)*fn2 Subsequently, the motion was submitted on the record without oral argument. (Dkt. No. 34.) After considering the papers in support of and in opposition to the motion, the court's record in this matter, and the applicable law, the court now FINDS AS FOLLOWS:

BACKGROUND

The background facts are taken from the operative complaint, unless otherwise noted. On December 1, 2006, plaintiff executed a promissory note in the amount of $417,000.00 secured by a deed of trust on her real property at 4321 Palacio Way, Fair Oaks, California 95628. (See Complaint, Dkt. No. 1 ["Compl."] at 1; Defendant's Request for Judicial Notice, Dkt. No. 28 ["RJN"], Ex. A.)*fn3 The deed of trust identifies Marina L. Weahunt as the borrower; Washington Mutual Bank as the lender; and CRC as the trustee. (RJN, Ex. A.) The loan was subsequently assigned, and when plaintiff defaulted on the loan, CRC, upon instruction of the beneficiary at the time, JP Morgan Chase Bank, recorded a Notice of Default and Election to Sell Under Deed of Trust on May 5, 2010. (RJN, Ex. B.) When the default was not cured, CRC recorded a Notice of Trustee's Sale on August 9, 2010, noticing the sale for August 30, 2010. (RJN, Ex. C.)

Thereafter, on August 27, 2010, plaintiff commenced this action and filed motions for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and preliminary injunction to prevent foreclosure. (Dkt. Nos. 1-3.) That same day, the district judge issued a minute order directing plaintiff to comply with the requirements of E.D. Cal. L.R. 231. (Dkt. No. 7.) When plaintiff failed to do so, the motion for a TRO was denied as procedurally defective, and the motion for a preliminary injunction was stricken as procedurally defective. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) Subsequently, on March 4, 2011, the subject property was sold at a trustee's sale to the foreclosing beneficiary, JP Morgan Chase Bank, and a Trustee's Deed Upon Sale was recorded on March 11, 2011. (RJN, Ex. D.)

The allegations in plaintiff's complaint are vague and at times confusing. However, it appears that plaintiff alleges various irregularities and fraudulent activities involved in the loan origination process. For example, plaintiff alleges that various "defendants" failed to provide her with proper and timely notices and disclosures prior to closing; disregarded and deviated from proper underwriting standards; created a condition of stress to induce her to sign documents at closing that she did not read and fully understand; maliciously induced her to enter into a predatory loan agreement, which they knew she could not afford; provided a property appraisal with a falsely stated price; charged false fees at settlement; and used the false fees to compensate plaintiff's agents to induce them to breach their fiduciary duty to plaintiff.

Although plaintiff makes somewhat different allegations regarding unidentified lender(s), agent(s), appraiser(s), trustee(s), and sometimes the "defendants" collectively, she contends that they are all liable for the acts of their co-conspirators based on their involvement in a fraudulent scheme. Plaintiff claims that, as a result of the above-mentioned violations, the mortgage transaction is null and void. Plaintiff further alleges that "defendants" lacked standing to pursue foreclosure proceedings, because they failed to produce the original note and document the chain of custody of the deed of trust. She requests rescission of the loan contract, quiet title to the property, injunctive relief, and monetary damages, along with attorneys' fees and costs.

Even though plaintiff's causes of action are scattered throughout the complaint, the complaint, liberally construed, purports to state federal causes of action for violations of the Truth In Lending Act ("TILA"); the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act ("HOEPA"); the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act ("RESPA"); and 15 U.S.C. § 45 et seq. (the Federal Trade Commission Act). It also contains various state law causes of action, including quiet title, unjust enrichment, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, negligence per se, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Plaintiff does not specify the basis for this court's subject matter jurisdiction over the action. Both plaintiff and CRC appear to be citizens of California,*fn4 thereby defeating diversity jurisdiction. However, because plaintiff's complaint includes federal claims, the court will construe the complaint as invoking the court's federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

DISCUSSION

In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). However, to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than "naked assertions," "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). In other words, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief must have facial plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

Federal Pleading Standards

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." As an initial matter, the court agrees with CRC that plaintiff's complaint does not comply with federal pleading standards. A substantial portion of the complaint essentially involves an indictment of the real estate and mortgage banking industry. Other portions of the complaint appear to have been copied and pasted from briefs in other cases, given that it contains references to a motion to dismiss and entities not even involved in the loan transaction at issue, such as a loan servicer named EMS. (See Compl. at 23, 28.)

Furthermore, the complaint involves a significant amount of impermissible shotgun pleading. "Shotgun pleadings are pleadings that overwhelm defendants with an unclear mass of allegations and make it difficult or impossible for defendants to make informed responses to the plaintiff's allegations." See Sollberger v. Wachovia Securities, LLC, 2010 WL 2674456, at *4 (C.D. Cal. Jun. 30, 2010); see also McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996) (holding that "[p]rolix, confusing complaints...impose unfair burdens on litigants and judges.") Although CRC is the only named defendant, plaintiff alleges a variety of conduct attributed to various unidentified persons and entities, which she refers to collectively with CRC as "defendants." The complaint fails to clearly identify what conduct is alleged as to CRC specifically. Plaintiff also includes, scattered throughout the complaint, references to a large number of statutes that were allegedly violated without pleading the elements of the asserted causes of action or factual allegations in support of those elements.

Thus, plaintiff's complaint does not contain "a short and plain statement of the claim" as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). At the very least, dismissal with leave to amend would be warranted on this basis. Nevertheless, in the interests of judicial efficiency and because the court concludes that dismissal is warranted for more substantive reasons, ...


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