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Noel v. Bank of New York Mellon

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 1, 2019




         Pro se Plaintiffs Margaret and Michael Noel bring this action against Defendant The Bank of New York Mellon f/k/a The Bank of New York as Trustee for the Certificate Holders of the CWABS, Inc., Asset-Backed Certificates, Series 2006-14 ("BNYM") and fictitious individuals. Plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment and damages resulting from a 2016 state court foreclosure judgment on their property. ECF No. 1. BNYM moves to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). ECF No. 7. The motion was decided on the papers without oral argument. L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the following reasons, Defendant's motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         In July 2006, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. ("Countrywide") issued Plaintiffs a mortgage secured by their property. See McKenna Cert., Ex. A, ¶¶ 1-3, 12, ECF No. 7-1. In January 2015, BNYM, as the assignee of the loan, filed a foreclosure action in the Superior Court of New Jersey (the "Foreclosure Action"). Id. Plaintiffs filed an uncontested answer, asserting no defenses or counterclaims but denying defaulting on their mortgage and asserting they lacked information as to BNYM's standing to foreclose. Id., Ex. B, ¶¶ 6, 7, 10. After answering, Plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss, id., Ex. C, which was denied, id., Ex. D. Ultimately, in April 2016, the state court entered a final judgment in BNYM's favor. The court found that Plaintiffs' Answer "does not dispute the priority or validity of the Plaintiffs mortgage" and thus issued BNYM a writ of possession and ordered the mortgaged property be sold through a sheriffs sale. Id., Ex. E. This federal action followed.

         In March 2018, the Noels filed the current matter, bringing four causes of action. In Count I, the Noels contend BNYM violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act ("RESPA"), 12 U.S.C. § 2601 etseq., and its implementing regulations upon "failing to properly respond to three different [Notices of Error]" ("NoEs") and Requests for Information ("RFIs"). Compl. ¶¶ 9-10. Plaintiffs claim that these "willful violations are part of a pattern and practice of behavior in conscious disregard for the rights of borrowers." Id.¶W. In Count II, the Noels accuse BNYM of wrongful debt collection, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 13-17. In Count III, the Noels assert that BNYM violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act ("NJCFA"), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 56:8-1 et seq., Compl. ¶¶ 18-26, when it "continued to try to acquire possession of the property via Sheriffs Sale, even while knowing that there were many irregularities regarding the alleged loan to Plaintiffs," id. ¶¶ 22. In Count IV, the Noels replead the previously alleged counts in an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claim. Id. ¶¶ 27-35. Plaintiffs accuse BNYM of "stringing [them] along for a loan modification, failing to respond to the Notices of Error and Requests for Information," id. ¶ 30, "refusing [and "blatantly refusing"] to provide any follow up information," id. ¶¶ 31-32, and "proceeding to [a] Sheriffs Sale while Plaintiffs awaited promised responses," id. 33, all in "an attempt to evict Plaintiffs from the subject property," id. ¶ 34.


         Rule 12(b)(1) compels a court to dismiss an action if it lacks a statutory or constitutional basis to adjudicate a controversy. See ErieNet, Inc. v. Velocity Net, Inc., 156 F.3d 513, 515 (3d Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). Challenges for want of jurisdiction may be facial or factual. Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 346 (3d Cir. 2016). In a factual attack like the one presented here, the movant "attacks the factual allegations underlying the complaint's assertion of jurisdiction." Id. (citation omitted). Unlike in facial attacks when the court reviews only allegations in the complaint, courts are free in reviewing a factual attack to weigh competing evidence, and the party filing suit has the burden to show jurisdiction exists. See Id. (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass 'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Ail. 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In deciding a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all plausible allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor. See Bell Ail. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555. But a court cannot "accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inference, or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Castleberry v. STI Grp., 863 F.3d 259, 263 (3d Cir. 2017) (citation and quotation marks omitted).


         BNYM moves to dismiss the Complaint on two grounds. First, BNYM argues this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' claims, compelling dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1). Def.'s Br. 6-13, ECF No. 7. Second, BNYM contends Plaintiffs fail to plausibly plead any claims for relief under Rule 12(b)(6). Id. at 13-21. As to BNYM's failure-to-state-a-claim arguments, Plaintiffs reply with conclusory statements that the allegations conform with "notice pleading" under the Federal Rules. Pis.' Opp'n 2, ECF No. 8. Plaintiffs also argue this Court has jurisdiction because "[a]ny violation of constitutional rights is clearly an issue to be dealt with in a federal court." Id. at 4. Plaintiffs add that "[a]t no point in time were [the] claims in this foreclosure action adjudicated 'on the merits.'" Id. at 6.

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         BNYM contends the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, res judicata, and New Jersey's entire controversy doctrine deprives the Court of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court agrees, in part.

         1. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents federal courts '"from exercising appellate jurisdiction over final state-court judgments' because such appellate jurisdiction rests solely with the United States Supreme Court." Madera v. Ameriquest Mortg. Co., 586 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Lance v. Dennis,546 U.S. 459, 463 (2006) (per curiam)). The doctrine is limited to "cases brought by state-court losers" contesting "state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). Thus, the doctrine applies when: "(1) the federal plaintiff lost in state court; (2) the plaintiff complains of injuries caused by the state-court judgments; (3) those judgments were rendered before the federal suit was filed; and (4) the plaintiff is inviting the district court to review and reject the state court judgments." Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP,615 F.3d 159, 166 ...

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