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Hunter v. Wells Fargo Bank Association

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee

November 2, 2016

HAROLD AND MATTIE HUNTER, Plaintiffs,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK ASSOCIATION as TRUSTEE for SECURITIES ASSET BACKED RECEIVABLE LLC 2004-DO2, SELECT PORTFOLIO SERVICING, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. aka MERSCORP HOLDINGS, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          EDWARD G. BRYANT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On February 23, 2016, the Pro Se Plaintiffs filed this Complaint, setting forth two counts and myriad legal theories. The Defendants are Wells Fargo Bank Association, Select Portfolio Servicing, and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. On April 21, 2016, the undersigned granted Plaintiffs in forma pauperis status.

         This case has been referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for management and for all pretrial matters for determination and/or report and recommendation as appropriate. (Admin. Order 2013-05, April 29, 2013.)

         The Court is required to screen in forma pauperis complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the action-

(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), and in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-66, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681, 129 S.Ct. at 1951) (alteration in original). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681, 129 S.Ct. at 1950; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”).

         “A complaint can be frivolous either factually or legally. See Neitzke [v. Williams], 490 U.S. [319, ] 325, 109 S.Ct. at 1827 [(1989)]. Any complaint that is legally frivolous would ipso facto fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Id. at 328-29, 109 S.Ct. 1827.” Hill, 630 F.3d at 470.

         Whether a complaint is factually frivolous under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) is a separate issue from whether it fails to state a claim for relief. Statutes allowing a complaint to be dismissed as frivolous give “judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827 (interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1915). Unlike a dismissal for failure to state a claim, where a judge must accept all factual allegations as true, Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50, a judge does not have to accept “fantastic or delusional” factual allegations as true in prisoner complaints that are reviewed for frivolousness. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827. Id. at 471.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989), reh'g denied (Jan. 19, 1990); see also Song v. Gipson, No. 09-5480, 2011 WL 1827441, at *4 (6th Cir. May 12, 2011); Brown v. Matauszak, No. 09-2259, 2011 WL 285251, at *5 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'”) (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975)) (alteration in original); Payne v. Secretary of Treas., 73 F. App'x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, “[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her”); cf. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231, 124 S.Ct. 2441, 2446, 159 L.Ed.2d 338 (2004) (“District judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants.”).

         BACKGROUND

         The Complaint [D.E. 1] of Plaintiffs Harold and Mattie Hunter state that they secured a mortgage instrument with Decision One Mortgage Co. LLC to refinance their loan on their property located at 12216 Highway 76 South in Stanton, Haywood County, Tennessee. During the 2006 housing market downturn, Plaintiffs unsuccessfully tried to refinance their home and/or modify their loan. They allege that while current on their payments, they sought a loan modification from Wells Fargo, whom they state “would request the same documents intentionally allowing the Plaintiffs to go further into default.” Plaintiffs then allege that the Defendants committed fraud/identify theft by selling their loan “on Walls Street Trading Platform for gold, silver and currency the Plaintiffs wasn't aware of these actions at the time of the closing.” The Plaintiffs seek $250, 000 in relief for damages and punitive damages. Plaintiffs also claim that Wells Fargo has been biased against African-American and Hispanic customers, but nowhere in their pleadings do the Plaintiffs state they are of that affected class[1].

         In assessing whether the Complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the Court applies the standards under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-66, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court considers the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions[] are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a 'showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only 'fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also 'grounds' on which the claim rests.”). Rule 8(a)(2) requires “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief” to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”[2] A complaint violates these provisions when it “is so verbose that the Court cannot identify with clarity the claim(s) of the pleader and adjudicate such claim(s) understandingly on the merits.” Harrell v. Dirs. of Bur. of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs, 70 F.R.D. 444, 446 (E.D. Tenn. 1975); see also Flayter v. Wis. Dep't of Corr., 16 F.App'x 507, 509 (7th Cir. 2001) (dismissing 116-page complaint pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2)); Vicom v. Harbridge Merch. Servs., Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775-76 (7th Cir. 1994) (criticizing district court for declining to dismiss amended complaint with prejudice pursuant to Rule 8(a) and noting that A[a] complaint that is prolix and/or confusing makes it difficult for the defendant to file a responsive pleading and makes it difficult for the trial court to conduct orderly litigation); Plymale v. Freeman, F.App'x, 1991 WL 54882, at *1 (6th Cir. Apr. 12, 1991) (district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing with prejudice “rambling” 119-page complaint containing nonsensical claims), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 958, 112 S.Ct. 418, 116 L.Ed.2d 438 (1991); Jennings v. Emry, 910 F.2d 1434, 1436 (7th Cir. 1990) (“A . . . complaint must be presented with intelligibility sufficient for a court or opposing party to understand whether a valid claim is presented and if so what it is. And it must be presented with clarity sufficient to avoid requiring a district court or opposing party to forever sift through its pages in search of that understanding.”) (citations omitted); Michaelis v. Neb. State BarAss'n, 717 F.2d 437, 438-39 (8th ...


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