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Copeland v. Newfield Bank

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 29, 2017



          APPEARANCES: Marcia Copeland Pro Se Plaintiff

          Thomas M. North, Esquire Attorney for Defendant Newfield National Bank

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court by way of Defendant Newfield National Bank's motion [Doc. No. 4] to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) for insufficient service of process, or, in the alternative, to quash service of process. Plaintiff Marcia Copeland, appearing pro se, opposes Defendant's motion. The Court has considered the parties' submissions, and decides this matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

         The Court has determined sua sponte that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this matter, will therefore dismiss this matter, and deny Defendant's motion to dismiss as moot.


         The first section of Plaintiff's Complaint, entitled “Federal Jurisdictional Codes”, sets forth two purported bases for the Court's exercise of jurisdiction in this matter. (Pl.'s Compl. [Doc. No. 1], 1.) Initially, it appears Plaintiff seeks to bring claims against Defendants for purported violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act (hereinafter, “FTCA”) with respect to a failed real estate transaction that occurred in 2016.[1] Thus, Plaintiff seems to assert that the Court may exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal law claims under the FTCA pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Additionally, Plaintiff sets forth a more general, broad-based assertion of “discrimination” as a basis for jurisdiction.[2]


         From the Court's review of the Complaint, it appears that in December of 2016, Plaintiff worked with a relator by the name of Bob Maz in an attempt to purchase a property located at 116-118 Cooper Street, Woodbury, New Jersey. (Pl.'s Compl., 1-2.) The property was listed by Defendant Gazzara Realty, and the listing agent involved in the transaction was Defendant Lynda Gazzara. (Id. at 2-3.) Exhibit 1 to the Complaint demonstrates that the property which Plaintiff sought to purchase was “bank owned” by Defendant Newfield Bank. (Ex. 1 to Pl.'s Compl., 1.) Plaintiff claims that she made a cash offer to purchase the property, and despite the pending offer, did not receive a counter-offer or any substantive response to her offer. (Pl.'s Compl., 2-3.)

         Plaintiff alleges, in broad terms, that Defendants engaged in deceptive advertising, failed to disclose information that the property in question was being pursued by another buyer, and engaged in deceptive trade practice to deprive Plaintiff from purchasing the property in question. (Id.) Plaintiff requests the following forms of relief from the Court: (1) dismissal of the second offer made on the property; (2) that the Court forward an “official complaint” to the Real Estate Commission; (3) triple damages based on the price the second buyer paid to acquire the property; and (4) any other remedies permissible under the laws against deceptive advertising and discrimination. (Id. at 3.) Defendant Newfield Bank subsequently moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(5) on the basis of insufficient process of service. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Doc. No. 4].) In the alternative, Defendant argues that the Court should quash service.


         Despite the various arguments presented in the pending motion to dismiss, Defendants do not challenge the Court's exercise of jurisdiction over Plaintiff's alleged FTCA claims. However, as the Third Circuit has held, “[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and when there is a question as to our authority to hear a dispute, ‘it is incumbent upon the courts to resolve such doubts, one way or the other, before proceeding to a disposition on the merits.'” Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 418 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Carlsberg Res. Corp. v. Cambria Sav. & Loan Ass'n., 554 F.2d 1254, 1256 (3d Cir. 1977)). Accordingly, federal courts have an independent obligation to address issues of subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte and may do so at any stage of the litigation. Adamczewski v. Emerson Elec. Co., No. 10-4862, 2011 WL 1045162, at *1 (D.N.J. Mar. 22, 2011) (citing Meritcare Inc. v. St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co., 166 F.3d 214, 217 (3d Cir. 1999), overruled on other grounds by Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 125 S.Ct. 2611, 162 L.Ed.2d 502 (2005)). Therefore, although the parties have not specifically raised the issue of the Court's subject matter jurisdiction at this time, [3] the Court must determine as a threshold matter whether the exercise of jurisdiction is proper in this case before ruling on the merits of the pending motion. In re Caterbone, 640 F.3d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 2011) (noting courts must “‘determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any party'”) (citation omitted).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has previously explained that “[t]he role of the courts in the enforcement of the Federal Trade Commission Act is one that comes into play primarily only after the Commission has set its administrative processes in motion. The court's role is not one of direct enforcement but one related to the administrative process-in part supervisory and in part collaborative.” Holloway v. Bristol-Myers Corp., 485 F.2d 986, 1002, (D.C. Cir. 1973). The D.C. Circuit has concluded that “[a] fair reading of the statute and its legislative history evinces a plain intent by Congress to make the administrative program for enforcing the Federal Trade Commission Act an exclusive one. ... To imply a private right of action to ...

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