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Edward G. Long v. Bank of America

January 28, 2013

EDWARD G. LONG,
PLAINTIFF
v.
BANK OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

In this diversity action,*fn1 Plaintiff Edward Long is suing Bank of America, the alleged successor by merger to First Valley Bank,*fn2 for fraud and civil conspiracy.

The defendant has filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, I will grant the motion in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND*fn3

Edward and Francine Long owned as tenants by the entireties their home in Lower Nazareth Township, Pennsylvania. On July 29, 2011, Mrs. Long died, vesting sole title to the property in Mr. Long. Upon her death, Mr. Long found certain executed documents in his wife's personal papers which revealed that on March*fn4 15, 1988, Mrs. Long had executed an Equi-Flex Loan Agreement and Disclosure Statement, and an Equi-Flex Mortgage on their home in favor of First Valley Bank. The mortgage was recorded in the Office of Northampton County Recorder of Deeds, and constitutes a lien on the property. The balance on the loan as of February 2012 was $51,248.

Mr. Long insists that because he never signed the loan documents, his wife must have forged his name on them. The complaint alleges that Mrs. Long concealed the loan from Mr. Long, and that she made all the payments until her death. All correspondence from the bank was directed to a post office box to which only Mrs. Long had access. Mr. Long also alleges that he realized no benefit from the funds disbursed from the loan.

Mr. Long hired a Forensic Consultant who opined that the signature on the loan documents was not written by the same person who authorized a signature identified as that of Mr. Long. See Compl. Exhibit D.

The complaint further alleges that an employee of First Valley Bank, acting within the course and scope of her employment, witnessed the documents. A notary public allegedly employed by First Valley Bank, acting within the course and scope of her employment, notarized the loan documents.

II. STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all plausible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).

It remains true that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to plead in detail all of the facts upon which he bases his claim. Rather, the Rules require "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2). In recent rulings, however, the Supreme Court rejected language in Conley which stated that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561. Rather, a "complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct," id. at 564, and it must contain enough factual matters to suggest the required elements of the claim or to "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" those elements. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Neither "bald assertions" nor "vague and conclusory allegations" are accepted as true. See Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

In assessing the merits of a motion to dismiss, courts must be careful to recognize that, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 679. In recognition of these principles, courts must first identify those allegations in a complaint that are mere conclusions and are therefore not entitled to the assumption of truth, and next, consider whether the complaint's factual allegations, which are entitled to a presumption of truth, plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief. Id.

"Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hypertechnical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." 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." Id. (quoting FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2)).

In keeping with these principles, a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they 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. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should ...


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