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Edwards v. PHH Mortgage Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

June 6, 2018

STEPHEN S. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
PHH MORTGAGE CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon the filing of a motion, [Dkt. No. 9], by Defendant PHH Mortgage Corporation (“Defendant” or “PHH”) seeking (1) the dismissal of Plaintiff Stephen S. Edwards' (“Plaintiff”) Complaint in its entirety pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 and 12(b)(6) or (2) the transfer of this matter to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Defendant's motion to dismiss, without prejudice, and will grant Plaintiff thirty days to amend his Complaint consistent with the concerns expressed this Opinion.[1]

         I. Background

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court liberally construes his Complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (“[H]owever inartfully pleaded, ” the “allegations of a pro se complaint [are held] to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]”). Even construing Plaintiff's Complaint liberally, his factual allegations are vague and unclear. The facts set forth herein are those which the Court could construe from Plaintiff's Complaint.

         Plaintiff resides at 16030 S. 36th Street, Phoenix, Arizona 48048. (Compl. ¶ 3). Defendant is a mortgage corporation headquartered in New Jersey that conducts business throughout the nation, including “regularly” conducting business “through its entities in the Maricopa County area of Arizona.” (Id. ¶ 4). Plaintiff alleges that PHH, at some point, “fraudulently” misled him into a “faulty mortgage situation, in which [he] took a construction loan . . . which in turn . . . led to a fraudulent foreclosure.” (Id. ¶ 5). Plaintiff does not identify the location of the property that is subject to this mortgage. Moreover, throughout his Complaint Plaintiff seems to variably allege that he owes PHH nothing, that he owes PHH $100, 000, and that PHH owes him $285, 000.00. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18, Ex. 1).

         In connection with this construction loan and mortgage, Plaintiff alleges that PHH has “lied” both to credit reporting agencies and courts about how much Plaintiff owes them. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-9). Plaintiff also alleges that PHH declined full payment in November 2014 and July 2015 and “circumvented the sale” of his home on two occasions. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13). Moreover, Plaintiff alleges, “PHH failed to provide a Simple Payoff letter and when ordered to do so they [sic] submitted fraudulent payoff terms purposely harassing Edwards.” (Id. ¶ 14). Plaintiff alleges that PHH's actions led him to build a custom home without the assistance of a licensed contractor, and to convert his home into a business, which in turn hurt his ability to run his “limousine service.” (Id. ¶ 21).

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on October 3, 2017, alleging (1) breach of contract; (2) breach of fiduciary duty; (3) fraud; (4) violation of the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1601, et seq.; (5) and Violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq.. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and equitable relief in the forms of an Order requiring specific performance by PHH and an injunction prohibiting PHH from, among other things, foreclosing on his mortgage.

         This is not Plaintiff's first suit against PHH. Plaintiff has filed at least six actions against PHH in Arizona state and federal courts. See Super Trust Fund u/t/d 06/15/01 v. Charles Schwab Bank et al., No. 2:13-cv-00735-ROS (D. Ariz.)(“Edwards I”); Edwards v. Charles Schwab Bank et al., No. 2:14-cv-00066-MHB (D. Ariz)(“Edwards II”); Stephen S. Edwards Inc. v. PHH Mortgage Corp. et al., No. 2:15-cv-00919-ROS (D. Ariz.)(“Edwards III”); Stephen S. Edwards v. PPH Corp., et al., No. 2:16-cv-01842-JJT (D. Ariz.)(“Edwards IV”); Stephen S. Edwards v. PPH Corp., et al., No. CV2017-012833, (Sup. Ct. Ariz.)(“Edwards V”). Each of these previously filed actions, several of which have been dismissed, relates to a loan secured by real property located at 1765 N. Lemon Street, Mesa, Arizona 85025 (the “Lemon Street Property”).

         II. Legal Standards

         “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'” in order to withstand a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Claims are facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” and “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully harmed-me accusation” will not survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 663. “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         The district court “must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations as well as all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, and construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff” when reviewing a plaintiff's allegations. Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 n. 1 (3d Cir. 2012). Only the allegations in the complaint, and “matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case” are taken into consideration. Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pennsylvania Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir. 1990)).

         Moreover, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) requires that the Complaint contain: “(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no grounds of jurisdiction to support it, (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks.”

         III. Analysis

         PHH seeks the dismissal of this action on three grounds: (1) that the Complaint is barred by the doctrine of res judicata; (2) that the Complaint is barred by New Jersey's entire controversy doctrine; and (3) that even were it not barred by res judicata or the entire controversy doctrine, the Complaint fails to state a plausible claim against PHH. If the Court does not dismiss Plaintiff's claims, Defendant requests that the case be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. As noted above, Plaintiff brings claims for (1) breach of contract; (2) breach of fiduciary duty; (3) fraud; (4) violation of the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1601, et seq.; (5) and Violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq..[2] Plaintiff has, however, failed to provide “a short and plain statement” showing that he is ...


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