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Godoy v. TD Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 31, 2018

ARTHUR-ALEXANDER GODOY, Plaintiff,
v.
TD BANK, N.A., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION [DKT. NOS. 5, 13, 15]

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:

         This matter comes before the Court upon the filing of a motion to dismiss by Defendants TD Bank, N.A. (“TD”) and the Toronto-Dominion Bank (“Toronto-Dominion, ” and collectively with TD the “Defendants”). [Dkt. No. 5].[1] In their motion, Defendants seek the dismissal of pro se Plaintiff Arthur-Alexander Godoy's Complaint in its entirety. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion will be GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Complaint will be DISMISSED, without prejudice.

         Plaintiff is an individual who resides at 3001 Cambie Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Compl. 3:7). TD is a bank which, according to Plaintiff, is “a citizen of New Jersey because it is a national bank with its designated main office in the State of New Jersey, ” and is a subsidiary of Toronto-Dominion, a Canadian chartered bank. (Id. at 3:8-9). Plaintiff alleges that, beginning in May 2017 and continuing through November 2017, the Defendants-or at least one of them- sent him several letters and made several phone calls to him in an attempt to collect a debt. (Id. at 5:7-6:13; Ex. A-J). Plaintiff alleges that when he disputed the debt, Defendants- without validating the debt-reported “inaccurate derogatory information about Plaintiff to one or more consumer reporting agencies.” (Id. 6:12, 15-21). Plaintiff attempted to dispute the accuracy of the information reported, but the Defendants failed to timely respond and failed to inform the consumer reporting agencies of the dispute.

         On December 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed a four count Complaint alleging: (1) violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq.; (2) violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), Section 227, 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A); (3) breach of contract; and (4) negligence. Defendants' motion to dismiss was filed on January 30, 2018. In their motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because, among other things, the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Toronto-Dominion, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and venue is improper.[2]The thrust of these arguments is that Plaintiff is a Canadian citizen suing a Canadian defendant for conduct that took place in Canada in relation to a Canadian credit card.

         “To 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.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction” and “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1), (2). Each averment must be “simple, concise, and direct.” Id. at 8(d)(1).

         On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction over the defendant. Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004). Although the plaintiff must ultimately prove personal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence, such a showing is unnecessary at the early stages of litigation. Mellon Bank (E.) PSFS, Nat. Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992). Instead, the plaintiff must “present[ ] a prima facie case for the exercise of personal jurisdiction by establishing with reasonable particularity sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum state.” Id. at 1223 (citations omitted). Because a Rule 12(b)(2) motion “is inherently a matter which requires resolution of factual issues outside the pleadings, ” the jurisdictional allegations may be supported with sworn affidavits or other documents. Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the plaintiff meets his or her burden, the burden shifts to the defendant to establish the presence of other considerations that would render the exercise of personal jurisdiction unreasonable. Carteret Sa v. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 150 (3d Cir. 1992) (citation omitted).

         Because Plaintiff is pro se, his pleadings must be interpreted liberally. See 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[.]”). This does not, however, absolve Plaintiff of the need to adhere to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d Cir. 2015), as amended (Mar. 24, 2015)(“a pro se complaint . . . must be held to ‘less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers;' . . . but we nonetheless review the pleading to ensure that it has ‘sufficient factual matter; accepted as true; to state a claim to relief that is plausible on [its] face.'”).

         Even construing Plaintiff's Complaint liberally, it suffers from several fatal flaws. Plaintiff's Complaint is thirty-two pages, half of which consist of difficult to comprehend legal arguments. Moreover, Plaintiff names two Defendants: TD and Toronto-Dominion, yet throughout his Complaint he refers only to “Defendant” without distinguishing between the two. This makes it unclear who Plaintiff has alleged has taken what action.[3] This also prevents the Court from determining whether personal jurisdiction over Toronto-Dominion is proper, [4] whether this is the proper venue for this suit, and whether the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to provide the “short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction” and “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8.

         For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Complaint will be DISMISSED, without prejudice. Plaintiff will be granted leave to file an amended complaint consistent with this Opinion. An Order accompanying this Opinion shall issue on this date.

---------

Notes:

[1] On March 6, 2018, Plaintiff submitted a Request for Default against all Defendants. [Dkt. No. 12]. TD was served on January 8, 2018. [Dkt. No. 8]. Assuming this service was proper, this would give Defendants until January 29, 2018 to answer or otherwise respond to Plaintiff's Complaint. The Defendants filed their motion to dismiss on January 30, 2018. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a) provides that “When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default.” Here, not only had Defendants responded over one month before Plaintiff filed his request for default, but the parties had fully briefed a contested motion to dismiss. [See Dkt. Nos. 5, 9, 10]. Accordingly, Plaintiff's request for default will be denied, and Defendants' motions regarding Plaintiff's request, [Dkt. Nos. 13, 15], will be denied as moot.

[2] The Defendants also challenge the Complaint for failure to state a claim.

[3] The Court notes, however, that based on the exhibits appended to Plaintiff's Complaint, it appears that this is a dispute between a Canadian citizen and a Canadian company about a credit card issued in Canada. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff should specific which ...


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