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Townsend v. M & T Mortgage Corp.

June 22, 2010

STAFFORD A. TOWNSEND; AND BERYL R. TOWNSEND, PLAINTIFFS
v.
M & T MORTGAGE CORPORATION; RICHMAN, BERENBAUM & ASSOCIATES, P.C.; AND CHASE HOME FINANCE, LLC., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss the instant complaint. Having been fully briefed, the matter is ripe for disposition.

Background

This case arises from a debt owed by the plaintiffs to the defendants. (Complaint (Doc. 1) (hereinafter "Complt.") at ¶ 11). The debt, which apparently involved a home mortgage, was incurred primarily for personal and family or household purposes. (Id.). Defendant M & T Mortgage Corporation ("M & T") did not record or perfect a security interest in this debt. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13). Defendant Chase Home Finance ("Chase") began to collect this debt on December 12, 2004. (Id. at ¶ 14).

Plaintiffs Stafford and Berryl Townsend petitioned for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on May 16, 2006. (Id. at ¶ 15). The Bankruptcy Court subsequently discharged plaintiffs' debt, on September 6, 2006. (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 18). Chase Home Finance held a claim listed in the plaintffs' bankruptcy petition. (Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiffs allege that they provided Chase with notice that all future communications regarding that debt should be addressed to their attorney by filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and listing Chase Home Finance in their schedules. (Id. at ¶ 17). Despite this notice, Defendant Chase contacted plaintiffs by U.S. Mail at their residence on November 18, 2007. (Id. at ¶ 19). In that letter, Defendant Chase demanded payment of the debt plaintiffs alleged owed on their mortgage. (Id. at ¶ 20). They contacted plaintiffs directly, and did not first notify their attorney. (Id.). The notice Defendant Chase sent declared that "Chase Home Financial LLC is attempting to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose." (Id. at ¶ 21). Plaintiffs insist that this debt had been discharged in bankruptcy. (Id. at ¶ 22).

Defendant Richman, Berenbaum & Associates, PC ("Richman") brought legal action against the plaintiffs to allow M & T to collect on the debt, despite knowing that the debt had been discharged in bankruptcy. (Id. at ¶ 23). Richman never sent plaintiffs a letter validating the debt as prescribed by 15 U.S.C. § 1692(g). (Id. at ¶ 23). No one took action to reopen the case and lift the discharge injunction from plaintiffs' bankruptcy. (Id. at ¶ 25). Despite knowledge of the bankruptcy discharge, Defendants M & T and Richman filed a complaint against plaintiffs to quiet title in the Court of Common Pleas of Carbon County, Pennsylvania on January 25, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 26). Plaintiffs allege that M & T and Richman have acknowledged in that state-court suit that the debt was discharged in bankruptcy, and that their sole purpose in filing the suit was to place a lien on plaintiffs' property to secure payment of the discharged debt. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-28).

Plaintiffs brought the instant three-count action in this court on September 29, 2009. Count I alleges that defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq., by attempting to collect a debt that was lawfully discharged. Count II, brought pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 524(a)(2), alleges that defendants violated the discharge injunction set forth in bankruptcy court by attempting to collect on the debt. Count III alleges violations of the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act ("FCEUA"), 73 P.S. § 2270.

Plaintiffs then served the complaint, and defendants filed answers and counterclaims. After the Hon. Edwin M. Kosik, a judge who also sits on this court, issued an opinion that addressed a nearly identical complaint and found that the plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, defendants demanded that plaintiffs withdraw their claim in this court. When plaintiffs refused to do so, defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss (Doc. 35). The parties then briefed the issues, bringing the case to its present posture.

Jurisdiction

Because this case is brought pursuant to the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 and the Bankruptcy Act, 11 U.S.C. § 524, the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state-law claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article II of the United States Constitution.").

Legal Standard

Defendants seek dismissal of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). When a defendant files a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine whether "under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Estate of Bailey by Oare v. County of York, 768 F.3d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985), (quoting Helstoski v. Goldstein, 552 F.2d 564, 565 (3d Cir. 1977) (per curiam)). The court may also consider "matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See CurayCramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).

The federal rules require only that plaintiff provide "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,'" a standard which "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,'" but a plaintiff must make "'a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief' that rises 'above the speculative level.'" McTernan v. City of York, 564 F.3d 636, 646 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). The "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Such ...


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