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Victoria Urenia v. Public Storage

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 6, 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' First Amended Complaint (the "Motion"). (Docket Nos. 63, 64.) For the reasons stated in this Order, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. Background

A. Procedural Background

This action was originally filed by Victoria Urenia and Soledad Corona against Bank of America, N.A., Public Storage, Michael Anz, and the City of Los Angeles (collectively, "Defendants") regarding the foreclosure of Ms. Corona's home and the storage of her personal belongings from that home at a Public Storage facility. (See Docket No. 1.) The action purported to be a class action. (Id.) The Court granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss the original complaint, with leave to amend. (Docket No. 59.) Upon amendment, three new plaintiffs were added to this action: Cathelene Hughes, Javier Hernandez, and Brenda Hernandez.[1] (See First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), Docket No. 60.) The City of Los Angeles answered. (Docket No. 61.) Bank of America, Public Storage, and Anz (collectively, "Private Defendants") then filed the Motion. (Docket No. 63, 64.)[2] After the Motion was filed, Victoria Urenia, Soledad Corona, and Cathelene Hughes were dismissed from the action without prejudice after the Court held a hearing on Plaintiffs' counsel's motion to withdraw as attorney for those three plaintiffs. (See Docket Nos. 100, 105.) Therefore, the only remaining plaintiffs are Javier Hernandez and Brenda Hernandez (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). Accordingly, the Court will address the sufficiency of the FAC with respect to these Plaintiffs only.[3]

B. Factual Background

Plaintiffs Javier Hernandez and his sister Brenda Hernandez Case 2:13-cv-01934-DDP-AJW Document 109 Filed 11/06/14 Page 3 of 16 Page ID #:2229 were the owners of real property located at 14620 Leadwell Street, Van Nuys, California 91405 (the "Property") and secured by a deed of trust from Countrywide Bank, N.A. (FAC ¶¶ 5-6, 130.) Countrywide recorded a notice of default against the Hernandezes in 2008. (Id. ¶ 131.) Bank of America later asserted ownership of the loan as Countrywide's successor. (Id. ¶ 132.) A trustee's sale was recorded in 2011. (Id. ¶ 133.) Plaintiffs allege that after the sale, Plaintiffs were threatened with the deportation of their father if they refused to vacate the Property. (Id. ¶ 134.) Plaintiffs refused to vacate, and their father was deported. (Id. ¶ 135.)

Javier Hernandez then joined the Occupy Fights Foreclosures ("OFF") group and began to participate in their meetings and demonstrations, including events at Ms. Corona's home and at the Property. (Id. ¶¶ 136-40, 168.) Plaintiffs allege that Los Angeles Police Department ("LAPD") officers would monitor OFF and its members by finding out about events and protests through social media, then showing up at the events, demanding identification of those present, and sharing the identities of the protestors with Bank of America. (Id. ¶ 170.) Plaintiffs allege that Bank of America would then plan immediate lockouts of those individuals involved in the protests. (Id.) Further, Plaintiffs allege that LAPD commanded that no one was allowed to photograph or videotape what was happening at the protests and that LAPD would remove signs placed on the Property as part of the protests. (Id. ¶ 173, 182.)

As the holiday season in 2012 approached, Plaintiffs allege that Bank of America represented through media outlets that it would put a halt to foreclosure evictions during the holidays. (Id. ¶ 141.) Nevertheless, Plaintiffs allege that they were locked out of the Property on December 27, 2012 by Bank of America, LAPD, and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department ("LASD") after LAPD and LASD "stormed" the Property with 50 to 200 armed officers at approximately 4:00 or 5:00 AM. (Id. ¶¶ 142-43.) All persons at the Property, including Javier and at least 8 other individuals, were forcibly removed from the Property. (Id. ¶ 146.) A "clean up crew" then came and removed all of their personal belongings from the Property without letting Plaintiffs or others retrieve any belongings. (Id. ¶ 147.) Plaintiffs allege that there was no valid search or seizure warrant for the Property. (Id. ¶ 145.) Plaintiffs allege that later, Javier Hernandez was forced to sign a storage rental agreement with Public Storage and pay $250.00 in order to see his personal property again and that upon gaining access to his belongings, he discovered that much of the property was damaged or missing. (Id. ¶ 152.)

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. 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.

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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