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Davis v. Wells Fargo U.S. Bank National Association

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 4, 2017

MICHAEL EARL DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION AS TRUSTEE FOR THE STRUCTURED ASSET INVESTMENT LOAN TRUST 2005-11, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         In 2015, Wells Fargo Bank[1] sought to foreclose on Michael Earl Davis's home. The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas ordered the foreclosure and awarded Wells Fargo $313, 210 in November, 2016. Two weeks after the state court's decision, Davis filed his Complaint (which he amended the following day) in this case seeking to recover the amount awarded to Wells Fargo, along with punitive damages.

         Wells Fargo moves to dismiss Davis's Amended Complaint on three grounds: First, Wells Fargo seeks dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), asserting that the claims are nothing more than an appeal of the common pleas court's decision and are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Wells Fargo also moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Finally, Wells Fargo contends that res judicata bars the claims Davis raised or could have raised in previous actions. For the reasons that follow, Wells Fargo's motion is granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). Because the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, it dismisses the Amended Complaint without addressing Wells Fargo's 12(b)(6) or res judicata arguments.

         I.

         A.

         On July 29, 2005, Davis executed a note and mortgage for the home located at 4015 Green Street in Philadelphia (the “Property”) to BNC Mortgage, Inc. (“BNC”) (Am. Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 2.) On January 5, 2008, Wells Fargo locked Davis out of the Property without having received an assignment of the note and mortgage from BNC. (Id. ¶ 7.) On January 25, 2008, Wells Fargo commenced its first foreclosure action against Davis in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas (the “2008 foreclosure”). See (id. ¶ 8); (Defs.' Mem., at 5). After Wells Fargo initiated the 2008 foreclosure, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), as nominee for BNC Mortgage, Inc., purported to assign the mortgage to Wells Fargo for the first time. (Id. ¶ 9.) Davis contends that the assignment was invalid. (Id.)

         Davis is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, and was ordered to active duty while the 2008 foreclosure action was ongoing. (Id. ¶ 10.) He requested a stay of the 2008 foreclosure under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). (Id. ¶ 11.) Though his request was not docketed, Wells Fargo moved to vacate a default judgment it had secured when it learned that Davis was an active duty servicemember. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) Davis remained on active duty until October 1, 2011. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         On October 12, 2011, just after Davis returned from active duty, MERS again purported to assign the mortgage to Wells Fargo. (Id. ¶ 13.) Davis contends that this assignment was also invalid because “it did not confirm the [first] assignment and signing authority.” (Id.) Following this second purported assignment, Wells Fargo took out an insurance policy on the Property. See (id. ¶ 15). Davis remained locked out of the Property. See (id. ¶ 14).

         On November 8, 2011 Wells Fargo first inspected the Property and discovered a roof leak that was damaging the ceiling, wall and floor in the master bedroom. (Id. ¶ 14.) The next day, Wells Fargo filed a claim with its insurer to cover the damage. (Id. ¶ 15.) Wells Fargo and its insurer settled the claim for $317, but Wells Fargo never repaired the roof leak or the damage to the master bedroom. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) As a result, the Property continued to deteriorate. See (id. ¶ 18).

         Nearly a year after Wells Fargo discovered the leak, Davis received a violation notice from the City of Philadelphia stating that the Property was unsafe. (Id. ¶ 18.) He requested and received keys from Wells Fargo so that he could inspect the Property. (Id. ¶ 19.) Davis then discovered that the house's rear wall had partially collapsed and that mold had grown throughout the Property. (Id. ¶ 20.) He contends that the cost of rehabilitating the property exceeds $200, 000. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         B.

         These parties have litigated-and re-litigated-this and related matters in state and federal courts over the last five years. The previous cases also concerned a mortgage on the Property. Davis first sued U.S. Bank in federal court in 2012. See Complaint, Davis v. U.S. Nat'l Bank Ass'n, No. 12-cv-05943 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 18, 2012), ECF No. 1 (alleging SCRA violations and trespass). Judge Savage dismissed that case on January 24, 2013. Id. at ECF No. 23. Davis then sued Wells Fargo and its insurer in 2014. See Complaint, Davis v. Wells Fargo U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n & Assurant, Inc., No. 14-cv-7014, ECF No. 1 (alleging trespass, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, insurance fraud, bad faith, loss of rental income and violations of the Bank Holding Company Act). That case was originally assigned to Judge Slomsky but was reassigned first to Judge Kearney on January 26, 2015, (ECF No. 8), and then to this Court on March 9, 2015, (ECF No. 25). The Court granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss in that case on June 8, 2015. (ECF No. 51.) Davis appealed and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded. Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333 (3d Cir. 2016). Following the appeal, the parties settled and the Court dismissed the case under Local Rule of Civil Procedure 41.1(b). (ECF No. 69.)

         The Property has been the subject of multiple foreclosure proceedings. Davis removed the 2008 foreclosure action to federal court and subsequently filed counterclaims against Wells Fargo. See Notice of Removal & Counterclaim, U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Davis, No. 15-00494, ECF Nos. 1 & 12. That case was remanded to state court. Id., ECF No. 18. Wells Fargo again sought to foreclose on the Property on February 4, 2015 (the “2015 foreclosure”). See (Def.'s Mem., at 3-4, & Ex. F). The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas ordered the foreclosure and awarded Wells Fargo $313, 210 on November 3, 2016. See (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23-24). Davis appealed that judgment to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. See Notice of Appeal, US Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Davis, No. 1502-00729, Phila. Cty. Ct. Common Pleas (Dec. 5, 2016).[2]

         On November 17, 2016 (before appealing to the superior court), Davis filed this lawsuit seeking the $313, 000 the common pleas court awarded Wells Fargo. He seeks to set aside the mortgage and contends that Wells Fargo was “unjustly enriched . . . with a money award ...


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