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Harris v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

May 31, 2019

HEATHER HOGROBROOKS HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING IN PART REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, ORDER OF DISMISSAL, AND, ORDER CERTIFYING APPEAL WOULD NOT BE TAKEN IN GOOD FAITH AND DENYING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          JON P. MCCALLA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge entered on March 18, 2019. (ECF No. 68.) The Magistrate Judge recommends the Court dismiss this action on one of two independently sufficient grounds. (Id.) First, the Magistrate Judge finds sua sponte that Plaintiff Heather Hogrobrooks Harris lacks standing to bring this action. (Id. at PageID 688-94). Second, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court grant the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”) on January 3, 2019. (Id. at PageID 694-723; see Mot J. on the Pleadings, ECF No. 51.) Harris filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on April 1, 2019. (ECF No. 69.) Wells Fargo also filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on April 1, 2019. (ECF No. 72.)

         For the reasons given below, the Court ADOPTS IN PART the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. Specifically, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's proposed finding that Harris lacks standing to assert claims arising from her late husband's mortgage. The Court further finds Harris lacks standing to assert claims arising before her Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. The Court also ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's finding that Harris's breach of contract claim is barred by the statute of frauds. The Court dismisses the complaint in its entirety and certifies than an appeal in this matter would not be taken in good faith.

         I. Legal Standard

         a. Pro Se Litigants

         “A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks omitted). “District courts have a responsibility to construe pro se complaints liberally and to allow ample opportunity for amending the complaint when it appears that the pro se litigant would be able to state a meritorious claim.” McCallum v. Gilless, 38 Fed.Appx. 213, 216 (6th Cir. 2002).

         b. Report and Recommendation

         “Within 14 days after being served with a copy of the recommended disposition, a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). “When no timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) advisory committee note.

         When a timely objection has been filed, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The portions of a magistrate judge's recommendation as to which no specific objections were filed are reviewed for clear error. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) advisory committee notes; Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991) (noting that when a party makes a general objection, “[t]he district court's attention is not focused on any specific issues for review, thereby making the initial reference to the magistrate useless.”). “A general objection to the entirety of the magistrate's report has the same effects as would a failure to object.” Howard, 932 F.2d at 509. Moreover, the “failure to properly file objections constitutes a waiver of appeal.” See Howard, 932 F.2d at 508 (citing United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947, 950 (6th Cir. 1981)).

         c. Rule 12(c) Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings

         The standard for a motion under Rule 12(c) is “nearly identical” to that for a motion brought under Rule 12(b). Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 689 (6th Cir. 2006). “For purposes of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all well-pleaded material allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party must be taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to judgment.” JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, 510 F.3d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal citation omitted). The Court “need not, ” however, “accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir.1999). A Rule 12(c) motion should be “granted when no material issue of fact exists and the party making the motion is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Paskvan v. City of Cleveland Civil Serv. Comm'n, 946 F.2d 1233, 1235 (6th Cir.1991).

         II. Background

         a. Factual History

         The Magistrate Judge summarized the allegations in Harris's Complaint. (ECF No. 68 at PageID 682-88.) Neither party has brought a specific objection to the Magistrate Judge's proposed description of Harris's Complaint. (See ECF Nos. 69, 72.) Upon clear error review of the entire record, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's summary of Harris's allegations in full, including the following excerpts which are relevant to this Order:

This case arises out of Harris's attempts to assume the mortgage of her late husband, Jimmy D. Harris, following his death in March of 2015, and to obtain a mortgage modification from Wells Fargo. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶ 1.) The late Mr. Harris was the sole mortgagor and owner of the property at issue - 579 Byron Drive Memphis, Tennessee 38109. (Id. at ¶ 1.) …
Mr. Harris had a will which left the real property to Harris. (Id. at ¶ 8.) In lieu of probating the will, on May 19, 2015, Harris recorded an Affidavit of Heirship with the Register of Deeds “to have her inherited property officially registered and placed in her name.” (Id. at ¶ 10.)
Harris continued to pay Mr. Harris's mortgage from his death through June of 2015. (Id. at ¶ 9.) …
In October 2015, Harris received a notice of foreclosure. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Harris alleges that after contacting the foreclosure firm listed on the notice, she finally received her first HAMP application, which “she promptly filled out and returned.” (Id. at ¶ 15.) In December 2015, however, Harris received a second notice of foreclosure. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Harris alleges that a Wells Fargo representative informed her that the Affidavit of Heirship was insufficient to vest her with a property interest in Mr. Harris's property. (Id. at ¶ 17.)… Harris opened an estate in probate court but the probate court refused to admit the will to probate…
Upon filing the will for probate, Harris was named the administrator of Mr. Harris's estate, (id. at ¶ 24), and provided letters testamentary, which she sent to Wells Fargo, (id. at ¶ 23). Harris received another foreclosure notice. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Harris… withdrew as the administrator of the estate and appealed the probate court's decision denying probate of the will. (Id. at ¶ 24.)…
Thereafter, Harris sent in another HAMP application, but received notices back from Wells Fargo stating that she was missing documents. ([Complaint, ECF No. 1] at ¶ 29.) Harris purportedly responded to those notifications, sending in the proper documents, but still received another notice of foreclosure. (Id.) In January of 2017, Harris filed for bankruptcy, (id. at ΒΆ 30), which she claims ...

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