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O'Connor v. Fargo

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 3, 2014

ROBERT H. O'CONNOR, Plaintiff,
WELLS FARGO, N.A., Defendant.


DONNA M. RYU, Magistrate Judge.

Defendant Wells Fargo, N.A. ("Wells Fargo") moves the court to dismiss Plaintiff Robert H. O'Connor's ("Plaintiff") complaint [Docket No. 1] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Docket No. 6. The court conducted a hearing on the motion on April 10, 2014. After the hearing, the court referred the parties to mediation, which ultimately did not resolve the case. Plaintiff proceeds pro se. For the reasons below, Defendant's motion is granted.

I. Background

The following facts are allegations Plaintiff makes in his complaint, all of which are taken as true solely for purposes of this motion.[1] Wells Fargo also provided judicially noticeable facts which the court incorporates where appropriate.

Plaintiff's and Wells Fargo's relationship arises from a $320, 000 mortgage loan secured by a Deed of Trust on Plaintiff's property in Sonoma, California. Request for Judicial Notice ("RJN") [Docket No. 7], [2] Ex. B (Deed of Trust). Plaintiff originally obtained this loan from World Savings Bank, FSB in August 2007. Id. The Deed of Trust identifies Plaintiff's lender as "WORLD SAVINGS BANK, FSB, ITS SUCCESSORS AND/OR ASSIGNEES." Id. Shortly after World Savings Bank originated the loan, it changed its name to Wachovia Mortgage, FSB, which later merged into Wells Fargo Bank, NA in November 2009. RJN, Ex. C (Letter from Office of Thrift Supervision acknowledging change of name from World Savings Bank or Wachovia Mortgage) and Ex. D (Comptroller of the Currency's letter acknowledging "conversion of Wachovia Mortgage FSB... to a national bank with the name Wells Fargo Bank Southwest, National Association" and the merger of "Wells Fargo Bank Southwest, National Association with and into Wells Fargo Bank, National Association"); see also Supp. RJN [Docket No. 20], Ex. G (Substitution of Trustee signed by "Wells Fargo Bank, NA successor by merger to Wells Fargo Bank Southwest, NA F/K/A Wachovia Mortgage FSB F/K/A World Savings Bank, FSB").

On July 16, 2013, Wells Fargo sent Plaintiff a letter regarding a loan owed to Wells Fargo by Plaintiff. Compl. ¶ 6; Ex. A (Payoff Statement). Plaintiff asserts he "is without knowledge of the alleged debt defendants purport to claim is owed" and contends that he "has no contractual relationship with Defendant Wells Fargo" and "never applied for credit or services with defendant Wells Fargo." Compl. ¶¶ 5, 25. According to Wells Fargo, this notice was a Payoff Statement relating to Plaintiff's mortgage. Motion at 1, 2; see also Compl., Ex. A. Over a year earlier, on April 11, 2013, the Official Recorder of Sonoma County recorded a Notice of Default and Election to Sell Under the Deed of Trust for Plaintiff's property. Supp. RJN, Ex. F. The Notice of Default lists Wells Fargo as the entity to contact to arrange for payment or stop the foreclosure. Id.

Shortly after receiving the notice, Plaintiff served Wells Fargo with a Notice of Validation of Debt pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, requiring Wells Fargo to validate and verify its alleged debt. Compl. ¶ 7. Wells Fargo responded on July 29, 2013 stating that Wells Fargo felt the six previous responses letters it had sent Plaintiff addressed Plaintiff's concerns. Compl. ¶ 8; Exhibit C (July 29, 2013 letter from Wells Fargo to Plaintiff). The letter stated that Wells Fargo had sent letters to Plaintiff on six previous occasions: March 3, 2012; April 4, 2012; August 24, 2012; September 7, 2012; June 19, 2013; and July 13, 2013. Id. Letters from Wells Fargo dated July 29, 2013 and June 19, 2013 were attached to the Complaint. Id. Both were sent by Wells Fargo's Home Mortgage department; the June 19, 2013 letter states that "[a] review of your file indicates the foreclosure sale date was postponed until July 25, 2013." Id. There are no allegations that Plaintiff replied to any of Wells Fargo's letters.

In November 2013, Plaintiff obtained a copy of his credit report from three major credit reporting agencies ("CRAs"): Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff discovered that Wells Fargo had reported the alleged debt to the credit reporting agencies and immediately filed a dispute with the credit agencies pursuant to pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681. Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff alleges that he notified Wells Fargo of his dispute by fax and that Wells Fargo also received notice from the three credit reporting agencies. Compl. ¶ 18. According to Plaintiff, at the time he filed his complaint, erroneous information remained on his credit report. Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff alleges that Wells Fargo failed to delete information found to be inaccurate and erroneous and/or failed to properly investigate his disputes. Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff also alleges that Wells Fargo is a "debt collector" as that term is defined by the FDCPA. Compl. ¶ 3.

On January 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo alleging four causes of action: (1) violation of the FCRA, 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b); (2) violation of the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692; (3) invasion of privacy; and (4) "negligent, wanton, and/or intentional hiring and supervision of incompetent employees or agents." Compl. ¶¶ 13-39.[3]

II. Legal Standards

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. See Parks Sch. of Bus. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). When reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court "accept[s] as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, " Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (citation omitted), and may dismiss the case "only where there is no cognizable legal theory or an absence of sufficient facts alleged to support a cognizable legal theory." Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted). When a complaint presents a cognizable legal theory, the court may grant the motion if the complaint lacks "sufficient factual matter to state a facially plausible claim to relief." Id. (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff "pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). The court has a duty to interpret pro se pleadings liberally. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Bernhardt v. Los Angeles Cnty., 339 F.3d 920, 925 (9th Cir. 2003).

III. Analysis

A. Plaintiff's FCRA Claim

Plaintiff's first cause of action is for violation of the FCRA, 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b). Plaintiff alleges that Wells Fargo violated the FCRA by failing to reasonably investigate Plaintiff's dispute regarding the accuracy of the debt Wells Fargo ...

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