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Mathena v. Bank of New York Mellon

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 23, 2016

CHRISTINE MATHENA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON F/K/A THE BANK OF NEW YORK, as Trustee for the CERTIFICATEHOLDERS OF CWALT, INC., alternative LOAN TRUST 2005-J5 MORTGAGE PASS-THROUGH CERTIFICATES SERIES 2005-J5; RESIDENTIAL CREDIT SOLUTIONS, INC., and DITECH, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING (1) DEFENDANTS RESIDENTIAL CREDIT SOLUTIONS' AND THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON'S MOTION TO DISMISS OR FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND (2) DITECH'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          LINDA V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action arises from Plaintiff Christine Mathena's default on a mortgage loan and the subsequent actions to collect the amount due. In an Amended Complaint filed June 10, 2016, Mathena alleges two counts: (1) violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by Defendant Residential Credit Solutions, Inc. (“RCS”) and The Bank of New York Mellon (“BNYM”) and (2) violation of the FDCPA by Defendant Ditech. Presently before the Court are two motions: (1) RCS' and BNYM's motion to dismiss and/or summary judgment, filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 56, respectively; and (2) Ditech's motion to dismiss, filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The motions have been fully briefed. Finding the facts and legal arguments sufficiently presented in the parties' briefs, the Court is dispensing with oral argument pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f).

         Applicable Standards

         Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . ..” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint does not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         As the Supreme Court provided in Iqbal and Twombly, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In deciding whether the plaintiff has set forth a “plausible” claim, the court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). This presumption is not applicable to legal conclusions, however. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 668. Therefore, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Ordinarily, the court may not consider matters outside the pleadings when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Weiner v. Klais & Co., Inc., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing Hammond v. Baldwin, 866 F.2d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1989)). A court that considers such matters must first convert the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P 12(d). However, “[w]hen a court is presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it may consider the [c]omplaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to [the] defendant's motion to dismiss, so long as they are referred to in the [c]omplaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008).

         Rule 56 Motion for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a). The central inquiry is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). After adequate time for discovery and upon motion, Rule 56 mandates summary judgment against a party who fails to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The movant has the initial burden of showing “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the movant meets this burden, the “nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To demonstrate a genuine issue, the nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence upon which a jury could reasonably find for that party; a “scintilla of evidence” is insufficient. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

         “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed” must designate specifically the materials in the record supporting the assertion, “including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The court must accept as true the non-movant's evidence and draw “all justifiable inferences” in the non-movant's favor. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255.

         Factual Background

         The Court begins by setting forth the facts as alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint.

         In March 2005, Plaintiff accepted a loan from Quicken Loan, Inc. (“Quicken), secured by a mortgage (“Mortgage”) on property located at 1586 Merrill, Lincoln Park, Michigan (“Property”). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 13, Ex. A, ECF No. 16-1.) The Mortgage identifies Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) “as a nominee for [Quicken] and [Quicken]'s successors and assigns” and as the “mortgagee[.]” (Id., Ex. A, ECF No. 16-1.)

         In a letter to Plaintiff dated January 25, 2014, RSC stated it is the servicer of the mortgage loan and that “[t]his notice is to serve as validation of the above referenced debt as required by the [FDCPA].” (Id., Ex. B, ECF No. 16-2.) The letter includes, among other things, the original loan amount, the current principal balance, the name of the creditor, the total debt, the escrow balance, and the payment address. (Id.) It also contains the following statement:

You must notify RCS, either orally or in writing, to dispute the debt or any portion thereof. If you want verification of the debt, you must notify RCS in writing that you dispute the debt or any portion thereof, post marked within 30 days of receipt of this letter. Upon such written notice, timely given, RCS will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of the judgment against you, the consumer. … If no written notice is mailed to RCS within the 30 day period, RCS will assume the debt is valid. …

(Id.) RCS also informs Plaintiff that it will provide the name and address of the original creditor if ...


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