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Weinstein v. Jp Morgan Chase/Chase Financial

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 8, 2013

BRETT WEINSTEIN and DANAWEINSTEIN, Plaintiffs,
v.
JP MORGAN CHASE/CHASE FINANCIAL, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

C. DARNELL JONES II, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Brett and Dana Weinstein brought this action, which arose out of a failed home construction loan. Plaintiff brought claims against Defendant J.P Morgan Chase/Chase Financial ("J.P Morgan"), Granite Loan Management LLC ("Granite"), and Wilmington Trust, N.A. "Wilmington"). Presently before the Court are the Motions to Dismiss of Defendants Granite (Dkt. No. 61) and Wilmington (Dkt. No. 63) and Plaintiffs' Opposition thereto (Dkt. No 67). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motions are granted.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2002). After the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), "threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements" do not suffice. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable of the alleged misconduct." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This standard, which applies to all civil cases, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.; accord Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) ("All civil complaints must contain more than an unadorned the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.") (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677). Moreover, "the factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant [with] the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure]." Villegas v. Weinstein & Riley, P.S., 723 F.Supp.2d 755, 756 (M.D. Pa. 2010) (quoting Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232).

II. FACTS

In December 2007, Plaintiffs Brett and Dana Weinstein, husband and wife, purchased a lot in the Highgrove Community in Tredyffrin Township, PA for $930, 000, so that they could construct a new home on that lot. (Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. §§ 1, 8-9). Masterpiece Homes ("Masterpiece") was tasked with building all of the homes in Highgrove. ( Id. §9). To finance this project, Plaintiffs obtained a Construction Loan from Chase, who also financed the lot purchase. ( Id. §12). Chase approved Masterpiece Homes and its owner, Stephen Mumper, as "qualified" builders, and pursuant to a Construction Agreement that Plaintiffs subsequently entered with Masterpiece, Plaintiffs agreed to pay Masterpiece an additional sum of $1, 500, 000. ( Id. §§ 15-17). Chase hired Granite, a construction risk provider, to perform construction related services pursuant to the Construction Loan. ( Id. §§ 38-40, 101-05). In connection with the Construction Loan, Granite received a "fee" of $1, 405. ( Id. § 94) After making two "draws" against the construction loan in late 2008 and early 2009, Masterpiece filed for bankruptcy in February 2009, leaving the project unfinished. ( Id. §§22-26). Wilmington, Masterpiece's bank, seized monies from Masterpiece's accounts, and used those funds to pay Masterpiece's outstanding debt obligations, unrelated to the construction project. ( Id. §29). Following the bankruptcy filing of Masterpiece, Plaintiffs had to redesign their home with a new architect, and re-do some of the work that had already been completed on the project. ( Id. §§ 30-31).

Plaintiffs allege claims that Defendant Granite: 1) breached a fiduciary duty to Plaintiffs when it allegedly made false representations to Plaintiffs and accepted fees from Plaintiffs (Count V) ( Id. §§91-99); 2) was negligent in failing to properly "oversee and manage all construction funds", made negligent misrepresentations and "failed to properly inspect" Masterpiece before issuing draws to Masterpiece (Count VI) ( Id. §§101-08): and 3) violated the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (Count VII). ( Id. §§109-24).

With respect to Defendant Wilmington, Plaintiff alleges: 1) Wilmington violated the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL") (Count VII) ( Id. §§109-24): 2) Wilmington was unjustly enriched when it seized funds in Stephen Mumper's bank accounts "without putting them toward the outstanding obligations owed by Mumper/Masterpiece related to Plaintiffs' property" (Count VIII) ( Id. §§125-34); 3) Plaintiffs are entitled to an equitable lien on the funds held by Wilmington related to the alleged unjust enrichment (Count IX) ( Id. §§135-41); and 4) Plaintiffs are entitled to a constructive trust on the funds held by Wilmington (Count X) ( Id. §§142-52).

III. DISCUSSION

1. Procedural Issues

Defendant Granite moves to dismiss the Consolidated Amended Complaint on the grounds that this Court lacks diversity jurisdiction because the original Consolidated Complaint included a non-diverse party-Robert Tait-who was never removed from the case via an order pursuant to Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Any jurisdictional defect, however, was cured as a result of Plaintiffs' filing of the Consolidated Amended Complaint. In the Court's July 30, 2012 Order, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend its complaint to address the potential jurisdictional defect caused by Defendant Tait. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint pursuant to the Court's direction, removing any reference to Defendant Tait, and thus preserving diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs' amended filing properly removed Defendant Tait and nothing here suggests that he was an otherwise indispensable party to this matter or that Defendants are prejudiced by his dismissal. Newman-Green, Inc. v. Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826, 835 (1989); see also Nam Soon Jeon v. Island Colony Partners, 892 F.Supp.2d 1234, 1236 (D. Haw. 2012) (granting leave to file amended complaint omitting "nondiverse dispensable party" so that Plaintiff could cure jurisdictional defect). As such, this matter is properly before the Court.

2. Claims Against Defendant Granite

Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for negligence on behalf of Defendant Granite, as their Amended Complaint fails to allege a duty owed from Granite to Plaintiff. According to Plaintiffs, this duty is borne by contract, to wit, the Construction Agreement signed between Plaintiffs and Chase, or a fiduciary relationship created by an implied contract between Plaintiffs and Granite.

Plaintiffs' arguments regarding the purported fiduciary duty are ambiguous at best. Plaintiffs refer to the "formation of a contract" between the two parties, but it is unclear to what Plaintiffs believe the "contract" is. (Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. § 96). The only express contract at issue in this matter is the Construction Agreement between Plaintiffs and Chase, to which Defendant Granite is not a signatory and merely acts as a service provider to Chase. Plaintiffs do not allege that any contract was entered into between Granite and Plaintiffs.[1] To the extent that Plaintiffs believe that the Construction Agreement created a duty running from Granite to Plaintiff, this argument ...


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