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Purpura v. JP Morgan Chase

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 18, 2018



          John Michael Vazquez, U.S.D.J.

         This case arises from Plaintiffs claims that assignments of his 2005 mortgage loan, as well as his 2008 loan modification, were unlawful. The Court previously dismissed Plaintiffs first Complaint without prejudice. Plaintiff Nicholas Purpura ("Plaintiff) then filed an Amended Complaint. D.E. 44. The present matter comes before the Court on Defendants'[1] motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint.[2] D.E. 47. Defendants move to dismiss with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). This motion was decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78 and Local Civil Rule 78.1. The Court has considered the parties' submissions and grants Defendants' motion to dismiss all counts with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND [3]

         On June 8, 2005, Plaintiff executed a Note and Mortgage in conjunction with a loan from Washington Mutual Bank ("WaMu") in the amount of $633, 750.00 (the "Loan"). Am. Compl., Ex. II.[4] On September 25, 2008, Chase acquired certain assets and liabilities of WaMu, including Plaintiffs Loan, from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC"), as receiver for WaMu.[5] Id. at 18. Plaintiff claims that Chase has "wrongfully claimed to own 'certain assets' (including Plaintiffs indebtedness)" because they were not properly assigned to Chase. Id. at 4. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that "[g]overnment records from SEC show the 10-K filings for 'Washington Mutal, Inc.' . . . listed as having ceased existence on 4/4/2005" and "[WaMu] no longer existed on the date of Plaintiff s contract." Id. at 12. As such, according to Plaintiff, "the contract did not legally exist, because the 'Lender' was a fiction." Id. at 12.

         By September 25, 2008, Plaintiffs loan was in default. Id. at 22. Defendants pinpoint the date as September 1, 2008, when Plaintiff "fail[ed] to make a payment that became due and owing." Defs. Br. at 2; Sampson Decl. at ¶ 5. As a result, Plaintiff claims that he was "coerced into signing [a] fraudulent 'modification' [of the mortgage agreement]." Am. Compl. at 21. Defendants state that as a result of Plaintiff s default, Chase brought a foreclosure action in state court. Defs. Br. at 3; Sampson Decl. at ¶ 5. As a resolution to the case, Plaintiff and Chase executed a Loan Modification Agreement in July 2010, which took effect on September 1, 2010. Am. Compl., Ex. 12. Plaintiff alleges that, when he was in default, Chase "coerced Plaintiff, under threat of eviction, to agree to the further unconscionable terms of the 'modified' loan." Am. Compl. at 5.

         Plaintiff concludes that "Chase is a 'stranger to his debt, ' has no agency/capacity/standing to collect or foreclose, and Plaintiff has been forced to pay a party who is neither holder or an entity for a holder, with legal right to his payments." Id. at 25. Plaintiff indicates that he has "suffered immense physical and emotional injury from the magnitude of the stress he has been forced to live under." Id. at 3. Finally, Plaintiff requests that all relief requested in the original Complaint be granted. PI. Opp. Br. At 15.[6]


         On June 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed his original Complaint. D.E. 1. On August 23, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. D.E. 23. On March 24, 2017, the Court entered an Opinion and Order ("Original Opinion" and "Dismissal Order") dismissing the Complaint's RICO, False Claims Act ("FCA"), and Truth in Lending Act ("TILA") claims without prejudice, and dismissing all remaining claims with prejudice.[7] D.E. 41, 42. Plaintiff was provided thirty days to file an amended complaint as to the civil RICO, FCA, and TILA claims. D.E. 41, 42.

         On April 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. D.E. 44. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserted the following counts: (1) a civil claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 USC § 1961, et seq.; (2) a violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (the "NJCFA"), N.J.S.A. §56:8-1, etseq.; (3) a claim of common law fraud; and (4) a claim of equitable estoppel.[8]

         On June 2, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint. D.E. 47. On June 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed opposition, D.E. 48, to which Defendants replied, D.E. 49. Plaintiff then filed another brief in opposition on June 27, 2017. D.E. 50. On July 24, 2017, Plaintiff also filed a "Motion for Judicial Intervention, " D.E. 52, and Defendants filed opposition on August 7, 2017. D.E. 53. Lastly, on November 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to strike and request for sanctions. D.E. 61. On November 15, 2017, Defendants filed opposition. D.E. 62.


         a. Rule 12(b)(1)

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, a court must first determine whether the party presents a facial or factual attack because the distinction determines how the pleading is reviewed. A facial attack "contests the sufficiency of the complaint because of a defect on its face, " whereas a factual attack "asserts that the factual underpinnings of the basis for jurisdiction fails to comport with the jurisdictional prerequisites." Elbeco Inc. v. Nat 7 Ret. Fund, 128 F.Supp.3d 849, 854 (E.D. Pa. 2015) (quoting Moore v. Angle's List, Inc., 118 F.Supp.3d 802, 806 (E.D. Pa. 2015)). When a party moves to dismiss prior to answering the complaint, as is the case here, the motion is generally considered a facial attack. Bellocchio v. New Jersey Dep't of Envtl. Prot., 16 F.Supp.3d 367, 373-74 (D.N.J. 2014) (citing Cardio-Med. Assocs., Ltd. v. Crozer-Chester Med. Ctr., 721 F.2d 68, 75 (3d Cir. 1983)), aff'd, 602 Fed.Appx. 876 (3d Cir. 2015). Filing a motion to dismiss in lieu of filing an answer "assert[s] that [P]laintiff s complaint, on its face, does not allege sufficient [facts] ... to warrant the court in taking jurisdiction." Cardio-Med. Assocs., 721 F.2d at 75.

         For a facial attack, "the Court must consider the allegations of the complaint as true, " much like a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Bd. of Trs. of Trucking Emps of N Jersey Welfare Fund, Inc. v. Caliber Auto Transfer, Inc., No. 09-6447, 2010 WL 2521091, at *8 (D.N.J. June 11, 2010) (quoting Petruska v. Gannon Univ., 462 F.3d 294, 302 (3d Cir. 2006)). The burden is on the Plaintiff to prove the Court has jurisdiction. Id. (citing Petruska, 462 F.3d at 302).

         "Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to 'Cases' and 'Controversies.'" Lance v. Coffinan, 549 U.S. 437, 439 (2007). One key aspect of this case-or-controversy requirement is standing. See Id. "The standing inquiry focuses on whether the party invoking jurisdiction had the requisite stake in the outcome when the suit was filed." Constitution Party of Pa., 757 F.3d at 360. To establish standing, a plaintiff must satisfy a three-part test, showing: "(1) an 'injury in fact, ' i.e., an actual or imminently threatened injury that is 'concrete and particularized' to the plaintiff; (2) causation, i.e., traceability of the injury to the actions of the defendant; and (3) redressability of the injury by a favorable decision by the Court." Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Gov. of N.J., 730 F.3d 208, 218 (3d Cir. 2013).

         b. Rule 12(b)(6)

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a defendant to move to dismiss a count for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]" To withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A complaint is plausible on its face when there is enough factual content "that 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). Although the plausibility standard "does not impose a probability requirement, it does require a pleading to show more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). As a result, a plaintiff must "allege sufficient facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will uncover proof of [his] claims." Id. at 789.

         In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, a district court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). A court, however, is "not compelled to accept unwarranted inferences, unsupported conclusions or legal conclusions disguised as factual allegations." Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 211 (3d Cir. 2007). If, after viewing the allegations in the complaint most favorable to the plaintiff, it appears that no relief could be granted under any set of facts consistent with the allegations, a court may dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. DeFazio v. Leading Edge Recovery Sols., 2010 WL 5146765, at *1 (D.N.J. Dec. 13, 2010).

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court construes the pleadings liberally and holds him to a less stringent standard than those filed by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the "Court need not ... credit a pro se plaintiffs 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions.'" D'Agostino v. CECOMRDEC, 2010 WL 3719623, at *1 (D.N.J. Sept. 10, 2010).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Defendants first argue that the Amended Complaint should be dismissed with prejudice because it fails to comply with the Court's Dismissal Order. Defs. Br. at 5. Defendants contend that the Dismissal Order was narrowly focused, permitting Plaintiff to only remedy defects with the RICO, FDCPA, and TILA claims. Id. Alternatively, Defendants claim that the Amended Complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule 12(b)(1). Id. at 5-6. Finally, Defendants assert that the Amended Complaint should be dismissed for failing to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(6). Id. at 7-20.

         a. Claims from Plaintiffs Original Complaint

         As an initial matter, in providing the Plaintiff the opportunity to amend his Complaint as to the FCA, FDCPA, and TILA claims, the Court stipulated the elements Plaintiff would have to identify. ...

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