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Satterfeal v. Loancare, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 1, 2019

ALVIN NEIL SATTERFEAL, ET AL.
v.
LOANCARE, LLC, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          JOHN W. DeGRAVELLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”).[1] (Doc. 10). Plaintiffs Alvin Neil Satterfeal and Mary Becnel Satterfeal (collectively, “the plaintiffs”) oppose the motion. (Doc. 22). Wells Fargo has filed a reply brief in support of its motion. (Doc. 23). Oral argument is not necessary. After careful consideration of the parties' arguments, the facts alleged, and the applicable law, and for the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) is granted.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On October 22, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a Petition for Temporary, Preliminary, and Permanent Injunction and Damages in the Louisiana 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. (Doc. 1-1). Wells Fargo subsequently removed the suit to this Court on November 16, 2018. (Doc. 1). The Petition named Wells Fargo, LoanCare, LLC (“LoanCare”), and Tharpe Family Insurance, LLC (“Tharpe”) as defendants.

         The plaintiffs own “six or seven” rental properties in Baker, Louisiana, that are insured through Tharpe Family Insurance. (Doc. 1-1 at 4). Three of these properties were mortgaged through Wells Fargo and/or LoanCare (collectively, “the lenders”). (Id.). The insurance premiums for the three mortgaged properties were required to be paid through the lenders' escrow departments. (Id.). Specifically, Tharpe, as the plaintiffs' agent, was to bill LoanCare and/or Wells Fargo for premiums for the mortgaged properties. (Id.). The premiums were to be paid out of the plaintiffs' LoanCare and/or Wells Fargo escrow accounts. (Id.). Plaintiffs allege that Tharpe incorrectly billed the lenders for all of the properties and not only those which were subject to mortgage. (Id.). They claim that only the three properties subject to mortgage should have been included in the billing for premiums. (Id.). Plaintiffs further allege that, “[r]ather than remit payment only for the serviced mortgaged properties held by [the lenders], the entire premium bill covering all six or seven properties was paid [by the lenders] on several occasions and/or was used to perform annual escrow calculations on the [accounts of the three mortgaged properties].” (Id. at 4-5). The plaintiffs assert that this miscalculation “more than doubled” the monthly payments to service the debt on “each of the three loans.” (Id.).

         Plaintiffs contend that they repeatedly contacted the defendants “to advise them of the mistakes and sought to have the accounts corrected, ” but that the defendants “made the same mistakes repeatedly and failed or refused to perform correct escrow account analyses on the loans.” (Doc. 1-1 at 5). Plaintiffs concede that the defendants acknowledged the mistakes and sent a refund on one occasion. (Id.). As a result of the repeated miscalculations, the plaintiffs stopped remitting loan payments and the loans subsequently went into default. (Id.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must accept all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Gonzales v. Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009). To defeat a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “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 claim is “plausible on its face” if “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). The complaint “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. Factual allegations need not be detailed, but “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” id., and “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s]” are not sufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Petition does not clearly delineate each of the plaintiffs' claims, differentiate between each defendant's conduct, nor separate each claim into its own cause of action. Thus, the Petition violates the pleading standards established by Rules 8 and 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and tasks both the defendants and this Court with sorting through an amalgamation of potential claims “‘interwoven in a haphazard fashion.'” Weiland v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sheriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1320 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting T.D.S. Inc. v. Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 760 F.2d 1520, 1544 n.14 (11th Cir. 1985)). In Weiland, the Eleventh Circuit identified four types of “shotgun pleadings”--imprecise complaints that fail “to give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them and the grounds upon which each claim rests.” Id. at 1323.

         Here, the Petition commits at least two shotgun pleading “sins”--failing to separate into different counts each cause of action and “asserting multiple claims against multiple defendants without specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is brought against.” Id. Nevertheless, based on the facts alleged and the named defendants, the Court construes the Petition as containing claims against Tharpe, LoanCare, and Wells Fargo under both federal and state law. For the following reasons, all such claims are subject to dismissal.

         Wells Fargo argues that the plaintiffs have failed to meet the standard for notice pleading under Rule 8(a). The Court agrees. Plaintiffs do not adequately allege which defendants are responsible for which conduct. Instead, the Petition refers to the defendants collectively by employing the conjunctive phrase “and/or” as a means of including the possibility (rather than directly alleging) that any or all of the three defendants' acted unlawfully. This is plainly insufficient under federal pleading standards. For example, the plaintiffs reference several federal statutes and make the accusation that LoanCare “and/or” Wells Fargo made:

acts or omissions … in violation of their legal and/or contractual duties to plaintiffs, including but not limited to the Real Estate Settlement Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. [§] 2601 et seq. (12 C[.]F[.]R[.] 104.17(i)); Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rules and regulations; Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692a.

(Doc. 1-1 at 6). This loaded allegation fails to explain (1) what the acts or omissions are, (2) which defendant is responsible for which acts or omissions, and (3) how those acts or omissions violate any of the referenced federal laws. Thus, for this reason alone, the claims are due for dismissal and the plaintiffs are granted leave to file an amended complaint curing these deficiencies in ...


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