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Tag: 12(b)(6)

Judge Dismisses RESPA Claim Under Rooker-Feldman

Link: Adler v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, Case No. 17-c-6735 (N.D. Ill., Sept. 18, 2018).

Plaintiffs Ronald and Lisa Adler, represented by attorney Daniel Brown of Main Street Attorney, LLC, brought claims under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) and the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (“ICFA”) against their mortgage servicing company Bayview (and against the investor Bank of New York Mellon based on vicarious liability) relating to their attempts to modify the mortgage loan on their primary residence. They alleged that after successfully completing two trial period plans under the Home Affordable Modification Program in 2013 and 2014, the Plaintiffs received a proposed loan modification that did not account for the fact they discharged the debt in bankruptcy and should not be personally liable for it. After sending in qualified written requests under RESPA seeking clarification, Bayview sent them false, confusing and vexatious responses then told them they were going to sell their home at a foreclosure sale.

The Plaintiffs sought to file counterclaims in the state court proceeding and stay the sale, but the state court judge denied that relief. The home was sold at auction and Plaintiffs were subsequently evicted.

Defendants sought to dismiss the amended complaint under 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, and the judge granted the motion based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine, derived from Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Company, 263 U.S. 413 (1923) and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983), “precludes lower federal court jurisdiction over claims seeking review of state court judgments . . . [because] no matter how erroneous or unconstitutional the state court judgment may be, the Supreme Court of the United States is the only federal court that could have jurisdiction to review a state court judgment.”

The court, judge Charles P. Kocoras, explained:

The state court entered an order of foreclosure and sale on February 27, 2012, and an order of possession on November 2, 2015. Now, the Adlers are attempting to collaterally attack the state court’s judgment by arguing that the foreclosure sale was improper under RESPA and ICFA violations. The Adlers’ request for relief is inextricably intertwined with the Defendants’ prior foreclosure proceedings … In the foreclosure proceeding on September 16, 2015, the Adlers argued that the sale of the subject property should be stayed because of the Defendants’ breach of contract in the loan modification process. In this Amended Complaint, the Adlers outright assert that “[a]s a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s misconduct, Plaintiffs lost their family home.” However, a district court cannot vacate the foreclosure judgment, and the Adlers’ request for relief is putting this Court in a position of appellate review, which Rooker-Feldman prohibits.

The court dismissed the ICFA claim finding that 28 U.S.C. § 1367 of the allows a federal district court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims only if the court has original jurisdiction.

“Time Sensitive” Warning Not Violative of FDCPA

Link: Preston v. Midland Credit Management, Inc., No. 18 C 1532 (N.D. Ill., Sept. 4, 2018)

Plaintiff, through the firm Sulaiman Law Group, Ltd., filed a putative class action claiming that the “TIME SENSITIVE” stamped on the outside of a debt collector’s letter violated § 1692e(2)(A), e(10), and § 1692f of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it implied a false sense of urgency. MCM was represented by Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP.

§ 1692f(8) specifically prohibits:

using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by the use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business.

§ 1692(e)(2)(a) prohibits the “false representation of [ ] the character, amount or legal status of any debt;” and § 1692(e)(1), prohibits the “use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.”

Preston claimed that the phrase “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT,” on its own and when considered in combination with MCM’s discount offer urging him to “act now” plus the phrase “we are not obligated to renew any offers provided” violated these sections by creating a false sense of urgency.

The court, judge Sara L. Ellis, disagreed:

MCM’s use of language on the outside of the envelope falls within the benign language exception to § 1692f(8) and so Preston’s § 1692f(8) claim fails. The Court also finds that this language, alone or in combination with the discount offer, does not violate § 1692e(2)(A) or e(10) because MCM properly employed safe harbor language approved by the Seventh Circuit in connection with its discount offer.

Judge Ellis dismissed the FDCPA claims with prejudice but allowed Plaintiff to try to plead the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act claim in state court.


Court Dismisses ECOA Suit Claiming Lender Demanded Consumer Retract Credit Disputes

Link:  KOLODZINSKI v. PENTAGON FEDERAL CREDIT UNION, Case No. 17-CV-1768-JPS (E.D. Wisc. Aug. 28, 2018)

SmithMarco PC filed a suit on behalf of Plaintiff alleging that he was discriminated against in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq. because when he applied for a loan, the loan officer told him he had to remove the disputes from his credit report in order to obtain the loan. Once he did so, his credit score went down so low he could no longer obtain the loan.

Plaintiff argued that because his right to dispute credit lines derives from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act,  Defendant violated ECOA which provides that a creditor cannot discriminate against an applicant “because the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under this chapter.” 15 U.S.C. § 1691(a)(3). “[T]his chapter” refers to Chapter 41 of Title 15, entitled the Consumer Credit Protection Act (“CCPA”) which has within it the FDCPA and FCRA.

The court disagreed, finding that the FDCPA confers on consumers a private right of action to remedy violations of the statute, so ECOA just requires lenders not to discriminate against consumers who file such a private action.

As to the FCRA, the court drew a distinction between a duty and a right, stating that Plaintiff has not alleged that any person or consumer reporting agency failed to properly provide notice of a dispute in violation of Section 1681s-2(3), or that he exercised his right under the FCRA to seek a remedy for such a violation:

A consumer’s dispute is a precondition to the triggering of a duty; it is not an affirmative right conferred by the statute.

The court also noted that Plaintiff’s reading of the statute did not comport with Regulation B issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

 Defendant has chosen to restrict the type of credit history it will consider to dispute-free reports, and that restriction is applied to all credit applicants. Plaintiff does not allege that this restriction is applied in a nonuniform way, and Defendant confirms in its briefing that this restriction is applied to every credit applicant.

Accordingly the court dismissed the lawsuit as failing to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).

Court Dismisses Class Privacy Suit Against Southwest Airlines

Link: Miller v. Southwest Airlines Co., 18-cv-86 (N.D. Ill., Aug. 23, 2018)

Plaintiffs, through counsel Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, LLC, filed a class action against Southwest Airlines alleging they violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, 740 ILCS 14/1, et seq., by requiring employees to scan their fingerprint but (1) did not provide notice to employees regarding the biometric timekeeping program; (2) did not obtain written informed consent from the employees who are required to use the biometric timekeeping program; and (3) failed to publish data retention and deletion policies for its employees. Defendant removed the state case to federal court, then filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under rule 12(b)(6) and that Plaintiff’s claims are preempted by the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 181. The RLA governs collective bargaining agreements in the railroad and airline industries.

Judge Marvin E. Aspen agreed that Plaintiff met its burden under Article III standing under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016), and thus did not dismiss the case under 12(b)(6). However the court granted Southwest’s motion to dismiss for improper venue under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) because Plaintiff’s claims are subject to mandatory arbitration or collective bargaining negotiations under their collective bargaining agreements and the RLA.