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Squires Golf Club v. Bank of America

July 14, 2010

SQUIRES GOLF CLUB, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Squires Golf Club brought suit against defendant Bank of America in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas to recover damages for an alleged violation of the Pennsylvania Mortgage Satisfaction Act, 21 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 721-6 (2003). On May 28, 2010, defendant removed the case to this Court and subsequently filed this motion to dismiss. Presently before me are defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiff's response, defendant's reply and plaintiff's sur-reply. For the following reasons, I will grant defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

On or about July 1, 1998, Prime Bank, predecessor-in-interest to defendant, loaned $1,750,000.00 to plaintiff. Compl. ¶ 4. The parties signed a promissory note that contained a prepayment fee provision establishing certain financial penalties which would result from any prepayment of the principal amount of the loan by plaintiff. Def.'s Br. Ex. 2. The note contained a handwritten provision, however, which was dated and initialed by representatives of both plaintiff and Prime Bank. The provision stated: "[b]orrower can make principal reductions at any time without penalty, so long as the reduction is not through a refinance with another institution."

Id. The loan from Prime Bank was secured by a mortgage on property owned by plaintiff, and a mortgage document was signed and executed by the parties on July 16, 1998. Compl. Ex. A.

At some point after the execution of the promissory note and mortgage, defendant acquired plaintiff's mortgage. Defendant sent plaintiff two payoff statements dated November 17, 2009 and December 18, 2009 which specified the total amount due in order to satisfy the loan. Compl. Exs. B and C. Neither document stated that there was a prepayment fee. Id. The statements did contain a disclaimer, however, which stated in relevant part that "... in the event of error or omission, the Bank does not, in any way, prejudice its rights or entitlement to all moneys lawfully due under terms of any credit documents." Id.

On December 29, 2009, plaintiff refinanced with Continental Bank. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10. Using the funds from this refinancing, plaintiff paid defendant $1,127,903.73--the total amount due according to the December 18, 2009 payoff statement. Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff asserts that its decision to refinance with Continental Bank was made in reliance on the fact that defendant's payoff statements did not contain any reference to a prepayment penalty. Compl. ¶ 10.

In a letter dated February 8, 2010, defendant informed plaintiff that a prepayment fee of $139,421.24 was due because plaintiff had paid off its loan with funds obtained through refinancing. Compl. Ex. D. Defendant further explained that it had "omitted the prepayment fee from the payoff letter[s]... based on information confirmed by [plaintiff] that the funds to repay the loan would be obtained from private sources." Id. Defendant's letter informed plaintiff that, upon receipt of the prepayment fee, the mortgage lien on plaintiff's property would be released. Id. Plaintiff refused to pay the prepayment fee, claiming that if defendant had notified it of the fee it would have used private funding to pay the debt. Compl. Ex. E. Plaintiff demanded that defendant satisfy the mortgage, and defendant refused to do so. Id.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Typically, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations," although plaintiff's obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id., citations omitted.

The Court of Appeals has recently made clear that after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1955 (2009), "conclusory or 'bare-bones' allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: 'threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.'" Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "To prevent dismissal, civil complaints must set forth 'sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible." Id. "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not show[n]--that the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, internal quotations omitted.

ANALYSIS

I. Pennsylvania Mortgage Satisfaction Act

The Pennsylvania Mortgage Satisfaction Act provides that once a mortgagee has received "... payment of the entire mortgage obligation and tender of all required satisfaction and recording costs..." that mortgagee must issue and record a "duly executed satisfaction piece," i.e. a document which certifies that the mortgage obligation has been satisfied. 21 Pa. Cons. Stat. ยง 721-4. If, within 60 days of the mortgagee's receipt of "payment of the entire mortgage obligation and all required satisfaction and recording costs" and a written request by the mortgagor for the satisfaction document the mortgagee fails to issue and record that certification of ...


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