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Urenia v. Public Storage

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 22, 2014

VICTORIA URENIA, an individual; SOLEDAD CORONA, an individual, Plaintiffs,
PUBLIC STORAGE, a real estate investment trust; CITY OF LOS ANGELES, a governmental entity; BANK OF AMERICA, N.A.; MICHAEL ANZ, Defendants.


DEAN D. PREGERSON, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Defendants Bank of America, N.A., Public Storage, and Michael Anz's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint (the "Motion"). (Docket No. 25.) For the reasons stated in this Order, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. Background[1]

Plaintiffs Victoria Urenia and Soledad Corona ("Plaintiffs") bring this class action complaint against Bank of America, N.A., Public Storage, Michael Anz, and the City of Los Angeles (collectively, "Defendants"). Bank of America, Public Storage, and Anz (collectively, "Private Defendants") have filed this Motion, while City of Los Angeles has filed an answer and has not sought dismissal of this action. (Docket No. 28.) Plaintiffs failed to timely file an opposition to the Motion, but later filed an ex parte application to allow them to file a late opposition. (Docket No. 41.) The Court granted the ex parte application (Docket No. 45), and now the Motion has been fully briefed by the parties.

Plaintiff Corona was the owner of the real property located at 2200 Daly Street, Los Angeles, California 90031 (the "Property"). (Complaint, Docket No. 1, ¶ 3.) Plaintiff Urenia is the daughter of Ms. Corona. (Id. ¶ 2.) In 2009, Plaintiffs allege that Bank of America foreclosed on the Property while Ms. Corona was in the middle of a loan modification, in violation of HUD regulations. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25, 27.) A Notice of Trustee's Sale was recorded on October 29, 2009, and Bank of America obtained title to the Property on December 14, 2009. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 28.) Bank of America obtained a judgment for possession through an unlawful detainer action against Ms. Corona in 2010. (Id. ¶ 30.) However, Plaintiffs allege that Bank of America did not obtain actual possession of the Property at that time. (Id. ¶ 31.)[2]

In April 2012, Ms. Corona joined Occupy Fights Foreclosures ("OFF"), an offshoot of the larger Occupy movement. (Id. ¶ 32.) On December 6, 2012, Plaintiffs received a Notice to Vacate, which required them to vacate the Property no later than December 11, 2012. (Id. ¶ 35.) On December 13, 2012, the Los Angeles County Sheriffs locked Plaintiffs out of the Property. (Id. ¶ 37.) Plaintiffs allege that the Sheriffs Department allowed them to return to the Property on December 23, 2012. (Id. ¶ 38.) During the time period when Plaintiffs were locked out of the Property, OFF members had set up tents in the front yard in protest. (Id. ¶ 39.)

Bank of America called the Los Angeles Police Department ("LAPD") on January 18, 2013 and demanded that the locks be changed and all persons evicted from the Property. (Id. ¶ 41.) LAPD allegedly went to the Property, forced Ms. Urenia out of the Property, changed the locks, and erected a chicken-wire fence around the Property. (Id. ¶¶ 94-95.) LAPD allegedly refused to allow Plaintiffs to obtain their personal belongings from the Property and threatened arrest if Plaintiffs returned. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 97.) Plaintiffs allege that on January 22, 2013, they returned to the Property to find Michael Anz, a Bank of America representative, loading their personal property onto a moving truck.[3] (Id. ¶¶ 100-02.) Plaintiffs allege that they were allowed only one hour to pack as many of their belongings as they could because OFF was holding a candlelight vigil at the Property that evening. (Id. ¶¶ 103-04.)

On February 28, 2013, Michael Anz allegedly took Plaintiffs' personal belongings from the Property. (Id. ¶ 43.) Ms. Corona asked whether she could have her personal belongings, but various Defendants refused. (Id. ¶¶ 44-46.) Plaintiffs later learned that their belongings had been taken to a Public Storage facility located at 4009 Mission Road, Los Angeles, California. (Id. ¶ 47.) Public Storage allegedly refused to turn over their belongings, saying that they belonged to Michael Anz. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) Plaintiffs allege that Public Storage insisted that Ms. Corona sign a release and rental lease agreement before they could return her belongings. (Id. ¶ 54.) Ms. Corona refused to sign the document because it contained untrue statements, including a statement that none of the stored property contained important documents, personal identification, perishables, or sentimental items. (Id. ¶¶ 55-56.)

Plaintiffs allege that Michael Anz contacted Plaintiffs' attorney and said that Plaintiffs could obtain their belongings from him. (Id. ¶ 61.) As a result, Ms. Corona returned to Public Storage on March 16, 2013 along with seven people to help her move her belongings. (Id. ¶ 62.) However, Plaintiffs' attorney was allegedly presented with the same lease agreement document containing untrue statements. (Id. ¶ 63.) Plaintiffs' attorney wrote disclaimers on the document. (Id. ¶ 64.) As a result, Public Storage refused to return Plaintiffs' belongings, stating that it was Public Storage policy not to release belongings from foreclosed homes unless the lease agreement document was signed in unaltered form. (Id. ¶ 65.)

Plaintiffs bring a variety of claims arising out of these events. Plaintiffs allege violations of the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, RICO, the Sherman Act, and Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200. Further, Plaintiffs seek to set aside the foreclosure sale. Plaintiffs purportedly bring all of their claims on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals who have been subjected to the same alleged acts that Plaintiffs experienced.[4]

II. Legal Standard

A complaint will survive a motion to dismiss when it contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must "accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick v. Hayes , 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000). Although a complaint need not include "detailed factual allegations, " it must offer "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678. Conclusory allegations or allegations that are no more than a statement of a legal conclusion "are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679. In other words, a pleading that merely offers "labels and conclusions, " a "formulaic recitation of the elements, " or "naked assertions" will not be sufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Id. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

"When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief." Id. at 679. Plaintiffs must allege "plausible grounds to infer" that their claims rise "above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief" is a "context-specific task that ...

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