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Edwards v. PHH Mortgage Corp.

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

February 28, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court upon Motions to Dismiss, filed by Defendant PHH Mortgage Corporation (“PHH”)[Dkt. No. 34] and Defendants Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”), Equifax Information Services, LLC (“Equifax”), and Equifax Consumer Services LLC (“ECS”)(collectively, the “CRA Defendants”)[Dkt. No. 36] seeking the dismissal of Plaintiff Stephen S. Edwards' (“Plaintiff”) First Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”)[Dkt. No. 31] in its entirety pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). PHH also argues, in the alternative, for the transfer of this matter to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Plaintiff has six (6) pending motions before this court, as follows(1) a “Motion for Dispute Resolution” [Dkt. No. 33]; (2) a “Motion to Quash PHH Motion to Dismiss and for Sanctions Against Lawyers Sixkiller and Norblatt for their fraud upon this Court [for] Witholding evidence” [Dkt. No. 38]; (3) a “Motion for Immediate Injunctive Relief” [Dkt. No. 39]; (4) a “Motion to Deny Dismissing Defendants Equifax and Experian” [Dkt. No. 43]; (5) a “Motion for an Order to Show Cause against PHH Mortgage” [Dkt. No. 51]; and (6) a “Motion to Strike” [Dkt. No. 54] in relation to PHH's Cross-Motion for Sanctions [Dkt. No. 52].[1]

         Noting this litigation's lack of connection to this forum and Defendant PHH's argument for transfer § 1404(a), this Court issued an Order to Show Cause as to why this Court should not transfer the case to the District of Arizona, in the interest of convenience and justice [Dkt. No. 64]. Having reviewed the parties' briefing on this issue, including the responses from Plaintiff [Dkt. No. 65] and the CRA Defendants [Dkt. No. 66], the Court finds that a transfer of this action is appropriate under § 1404(a). Therefore, this Court will not render a decision on the other pending motions.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court liberally construes the Amended 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)(“however 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 Amended Complaint liberally, his factual allegations are vague and unclear. The facts set forth herein are those which the Court could construe from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.

         Plaintiff resides at 16030 S. 36th Street, Phoenix, Arizona 48048. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5). PHH 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. ¶ 6. Plaintiff states that Experian is “based on Costa Mesa, ” California and Equifax is “based in Atlanta” and “have marketing and sales relationships that are clearly biased.” Id. 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. ¶ 7. Plaintiff does not identify the location of the property that is subject to this mortgage, although he implies that it is a property located in Mesa, Arizona. Id. ¶ 26. Moreover, throughout his Complaint Plaintiff seems to variably allege that he owes PHH nothing, that he owes PHH $100, 000, Id. ¶ 23, and that PHH owes him $285, 000.00, Id. ¶ 22.

         In connection with this construction loan and mortgage, Plaintiff alleges that PHH has “lied” both to credit reporting agencies and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit about how much Plaintiff owes them. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. 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. ¶¶ 17-18. 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. ¶ 19. Plaintiff alleges that PHH's actions led him to build a custom home in Mesa, Arizona, 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. ¶ 26.

         Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on October 3, 2017, and filed his Amended Complaint on June 22, 2018, 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.. Although not articulated in enumerated counts, Plaintiff also states that “Violations of Federal LawUSC §802, §504, §12101 Exist.” Id. at p. 2. 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 lawsuit against PHH, Experian, or Equifax. Indeed, Plaintiff has previously filed at least seven 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”); Edwards v. Experian Info. Sols. Inc., No. 2:15-cv-02640-JJT (D. Ariz.). 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”). The Court has reason to believe that the Lemon Street Property is the property implicated in the instant matter. This Court also notes that Plaintiff currently has yet another active matter pending against PHH in the District of Arizona. See Edwards v. PHH Mortgage Corp. et al., No. 2:18-cv-04040-SPL (D. Ariz.)(removed from Maricopa County Superior Court, CV2018-009743).


         Section 1404(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code provides that: “For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.” The parties do not appear to genuinely dispute that this action could have been filed in the District of Arizona, where the Lemon Street Property is located, where the underlying transaction occurred, where Plaintiff resides, where PHH operates regional locations, and where Plaintiff has filed the half-dozen prior suits related to this transaction in both federal and state courts.

         “If the proposed alternative forum is appropriate, ” as it is here, “it is then within the Court's discretion to transfer the action.” Taylor v. Global Credit & Collection Corp., 2010 WL 2521758, at *1 (D.N.J. June 14, 2010) (citing Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 883 (3d Cir. 1995)). Indeed, “Section 1404(a) is intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an ‘individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988)(quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). “A determination that transfer to another jurisdiction is appropriate represents an ‘exercise ... of structured discretion by trial judges appraising the practical inconveniences posed to the litigants and the court should a particular action be litigated in one forum rather than another.'” Lawrence v. Xerox Corp., 56 F.Supp.2d 442, 450 (D.N.J. 1999)(internal citations omitted). Thus, the district court “is vested with a large discretion” to determine when transfer should be ordered “for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, ” pursuant to § 1404(a). Solomon v. Continental Am. Life Ins. Co., 472 F.2d 1043, 1045 (3d Cir. 1973).

         In deciding whether to transfer an action under § 1404(a), courts in the Third Circuit consider both private and public interests, the Court addresses these factors below.

         A. Private ...

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