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Ward v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

August 7, 2014

DAWN M. WARD, Trustee of the Al-Pheus Ward Trust Dated 4/3/2010, Plaintiff,
WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE, INC., and Does 1 through XXX, Defendants.


NATHANAEL M. COUSINS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Dawn Ward brought this action as trustee of the Al-Pheus Ward Trust. Plaintiff alleges wrongdoing by defendant Wells Fargo in contracting with Al-Pheus Ward, who is now deceased, for a mortgage in 2007. The primary issue before the Court is whether plaintiff has standing to bring her claims against Wells Fargo. Because plaintiff has not alleged that the trust was a party to the mortgage contract, that Al-Pheus Ward assigned his rights under the contract to the trust, or that plaintiff is the successor in interest or personal representative of Al-Pheus Ward's estate, the Court finds that plaintiff lacks standing to bring her contract-related claims against Wells Fargo. However, because the trust holds title to the property and plaintiff has alleged that she attempted to tender payment of the outstanding debt, the Court finds that plaintiff has standing and has sufficiently alleged a claim for quiet title.

The second issue before the Court is the sufficiency of the allegations in the complaint. The Court dismisses the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and declaratory relief with leave to amend, because although plaintiff could potentially have standing to bring these claims, they are deficient as currently alleged. Finally, the Court dismisses the injunctive relief claim with prejudice, as injunctive relief cannot be brought as a stand-alone cause of action.


Plaintiff alleges that Al-Pheus Ward entered into a contract for a mortgage with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in 2007. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 5, 6. Plaintiff alleges that at the time of contracting for the $285, 000 mortgage, Ward made less than $30, 000 per year and "was suffering from a psychiatric disability which ultimately led to his involuntary confinement in a locked psychiatric ward." Id. at ¶ 5. Plaintiff further alleges that the mortgage was "a negative amortization loan characterized by an Option ARM with a very high, above-market interest rate." Id. at ¶ 7.

Plaintiff alleges that on April 3, 2010, Ward transferred title to the property from himself to the Al-Pheus Ward Living Trust, and named Dawn M. Ward as Successor Trustee upon his death. Id. at ¶ 8. Ward died on January 5, 2012. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiff alleges that she repeatedly informed Wells Fargo "that Al-Pheus Ward was deceased and that plaintiff, as the Successor Trustee, was now the party to whom any communications related to the real property should be directed." Id. at ¶¶ 11, 12. Despite this, plaintiff alleges that neither Ward nor plaintiff Trustee ever received any notice of default from Wells Fargo. Id. at ¶ 14.

After Ward's death, plaintiff alleges that she repeatedly requested information from Wells Fargo regarding the mortgage and "was fully prepared to and sought to make any payments due on this mortgage." Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff alleges that she had a string of communications with various Wells Fargo employees who gave her conflicting information about the status of the mortgage, and "continued to rebuff all of [plaintiff's] inquiries" into how she could make payments on the mortgage. Id. at ¶¶ 16-34.

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on December 20, 2013, in California state court. Dkt. No. 1 at 17. On February 6, 2014, defendant Wells Fargo removed the action to federal court based on diversity and federal question jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 1. Both parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Dkt. Nos. 12, 21.


A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). On a motion to dismiss, all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). The Court, however, need not accept as true "allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Secs. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). Although a complaint need not allege detailed factual allegations, it must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when it "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

If a court grants a motion to dismiss, leave to amend should be granted unless the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000).


A. Plaintiff Lacks Standing to Bring Her Contract-Related Claims

First, Wells Fargo argues that plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because plaintiff is not a party to the underlying mortgage contract. The Court finds that plaintiff lacks standing to bring claims ...

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