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Gonzalez v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank N.A.

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 9, 2020

FELIPE GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
J.P. MORGAN CHASE BANK N.A., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT RUSHMORE LOAN MANAGEMENT SERVICES' MOTION TO DISMISS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT [82]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Rushmore Loan Management Services' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (the “Motion”). (ECF No. 82.) For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion.[1]

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Court previously set forth the pertinent facts in its October 8, 2019 Order (“October Order”), (ECF No. 85), granting motions to dismiss filed by Defendants JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”), Federal National Mortgage Association's (“Fannie Mae”), and NDeX West LCC (“NDeX”); thus, the Court shall only repeat the facts relevant to Defendant Rushmore Loan Management Services' (“Rushmore” or “Defendant”) Motion here.

         On July 20, 2007, Plaintiff Felipe Gonzalez (“Gonzalez”) purchased the real property located at 14229 Tiara Street, Los Angeles, California 91410 (“Property”) and signed a deed of trust in the amount of $387, 750.00 with Chase (“Loan”). (First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) ¶ 11, ECF No. 60.) In September 2010, Chase sold the Property to Fannie Mae in a foreclosure sale. (FAC ¶ 24.) In the summer of 2015, Chase transferred its loan servicing duties of Gonzalez's home mortgage loan to Rushmore. (FAC ¶ 31.) Gonzalez alleges “Rushmore [then placed] a lock box on [his] home” and informed him that the lockbox would remain since “[Rushmore] had rights to the home” (“2015 lockbox incident”). (FAC ¶ 32.) Gonzalez further alleges that it was unclear who was overseeing the Loan at the time because although Rushmore began to service the Loan in 2015, Gonzalez also “continued to be solicited for [loan] modifications from Chase.” (FAC ¶¶ 30-31.)

         In February 2016, Fannie Mae assigned the deed of trust to a third party. (See Defs.' Req. for Judicial Notice (“RJN”), Ex. D Assignment of Deed of Trust (“2016 Assignment”), ECF No. 65-4; FAC ¶ 31.) Thereafter, in May 2016, Gonzalez alleges that “two women appeared at the [P]roperty, claim[ing] to represent the bank, ” and demanded entry, which Gonzalez denied (“2016 bank representative incident”). (FAC ¶ 33.) Gonzalez alleges the two individuals trespassed anyway and told Gonzalez “he could not make changes to the [P]roperty.” (Id.)

         On September 20, 2018, Gonzalez filed his First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) against Defendants Chase, Fannie Mae, NDeX, and Rushmore. (See generally FAC.) Gonzalez alleges that each of his thirteen cause of actions are tied to Defendants' mismanagement of his Loan and violations of his rights in the Property. (FAC ¶¶ 10-13, 37-132.) On October 8, 2019, the Court granted motions to dismiss filed by Chase, Fannie Mae, and NDeX on res judicata grounds and because Gonzalez failed to plead sufficient facts to show Chase, Fannie Mae, or NDeX held a continued interest in the Loan or the Property after 2015 and 2016. The Court now considers Defendant Rushmore's motion to dismiss.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A court may dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for lack of a cognizable legal theory or insufficient facts pleaded to support an otherwise cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). To survive a dismissal motion, a complaint need only satisfy the minimal notice pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2)-a short and plain statement of the claim. Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir. 2003). The factual “allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). That is, the complaint must “contain 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) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The determination of whether a complaint satisfies the plausibility standard is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. A court is generally limited to the pleadings and must construe all “factual allegations set forth in the complaint . . . as true and . . . in the light most favorable” to the plaintiff. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 679 (9th Cir. 2001). However, a court need not blindly accept conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact, and unreasonable inferences. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001).

         Where a district court grants a motion to dismiss, it should generally provide leave to amend unless it is clear the complaint could not be saved by any amendment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a); Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). Leave to amend may be denied when “the court determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency.” Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986). Thus, leave to amend “is properly denied . . . if amendment would be futile.” Carrico v. City and Cty. of San Francisco, 656 F.3d 1002, 1008 (9th Cir. 2011).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         As the Court discussed in its October Order, while Gonzalez's claims arising from alleged incidents dating between 2007 and 2010 involving the Loan and the Property are barred by res judicata, Gonzalez's claims arising from the 2015 lockbox incident and the 2016 bank representative incident are not similarly barred. Still, as the Court previously determined, Gonzalez fails to sufficiently allege that Rushmore acted as an agent of Chase and Fannie Mae. See Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 765 (9th Cir. 2007) (affirming dismissal where complaint merely asserted that one defendant was agent of another defendant without any stated factual basis).

         Therefore, in order to maintain an action against Rushmore, Gonzalez must allege sufficient facts to hold Rushmore directly liable for his alleged injuries. Rushmore moves to dismiss Gonzalez's nine claims against it, primarily arguing Gonzalez's allegations lack facial plausibility because they depend on unsupported facts and unfounded legal conclusions. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees that Gonzalez's FAC fails to allege a cognizable legal theory based on the 2015 and 2016 incidents. Accordingly, the Court dismisses all claims against Rushmore.

         A. Quiet Title and Slander of Title (Sixth Cause of Action)

         Gonzalez's sixth cause of action seeks quiet title, alleging that no Defendant holds any proper interest in the Property. (FAC ¶¶ 93-97.)

         A complaint to quiet title must be verified and include: (1) a description of the property; (2) the title of the plaintiff and the basis of the title; (3) the adverse claims to the title; (4) the date as of which the determination is sought; and (5) a prayer for the determination of the title of the plaintiff. California Code of Civil Procedure (“Cal. Civ. Proc. Code”) § 761.020. A verified complaint is a signed complaint with the plaintiff's oath or affidavit stating that, to the best of his or her knowledge, all information in the complaint is true and correct. Waldrop v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. ED 16-cv-413-DMG (SPx), 2016 WL 7626145, at *9 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 11, 2016). In California, “a mortgagor cannot quiet his title against the mortgagee without paying the debt secured.” Briosos v. Wells Fargo Bank, 737 F.Supp.2d 1018, 1032 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). ‚ÄúThus, to maintain a quiet title claim, a plaintiff is required to allege ...


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