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Pfendler v. PNC Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 5, 2018

JACQUELINE PFENDLER on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, Jacqueline Pfendler, seeks to represent a class of individuals who were assessed property inspection fees by Defendant, PNC Bank, National Association, (“PNC”), alleging that PNC uses an automated mortgage loan management system which s unnecessary, unreasonable, and inappropriate property inspections whenever a borrower falls sufficiently behind on mortgage payments, and continues to order the inspections at regular intervals until the borrower becomes current. Plaintiff alleges that this practice is a breach of contract, violates the Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. §§ 201-1, et seq., (“PUTPCPL”), violates the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trace Practice Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 75-1.1, et seq., and results in unjust enrichment to PNC. Complaint, Doc. No. 1.

         Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. No. 17. The Court has reviewed the Complaint, doc. no. 1; Defendant's Motion, doc. no. 17; Memorandum in Support, doc. no. 18; Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition, doc. no. 25; and Defendant's Reply brief, doc. no. 28. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT Defendant's Motion to Dismiss all claims and mark this case CLOSED.

         I. Legal Standards

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a Complaint must be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Detailed factual pleading is not required - Rule 8(a)(2) calls for a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” - but a Complaint must set forth sufficient factual allegations that, taken as true, set forth a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plausibility standard does not require a showing of probability that a claim has merit, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007), but it does require that a pleading show “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Determining the plausibility of an alleged claim is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         A claim is plausible when the plaintiff alleges facts that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit instructs that a District Court must undertake three steps to determine whether a complaint sets forth a plausible claim for relief:

First, the court must take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim. Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.

Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist., 706 F.3d 209, 212 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

         The third step requires the Court to consider the nature of the claims presented and to determine whether the facts pled to substantiate the claims are sufficient to show a “plausible claim for relief.” Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010).

         When reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court must view all of the allegations and facts in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and must grant the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be derived therefrom. Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). However, the Court need not accept inferences or conclusory allegations that are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. See Reuben v. U.S. Airways, Inc., 500 Fed.Appx. 103, 104 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664.

         The Court may not dismiss a complaint merely because it appears unlikely or improbable that Plaintiff can prove the facts alleged or will ultimately prevail on the merits. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8. A motion to dismiss should be granted if a party fails to allege facts, which could, if established at trial, entitle him/her to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8.

         II. Summary of the Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that PNC uses an automated mortgage loan management system to engage in a deceptive and unfair scheme to collect fees for unnecessary, unreasonable, and inappropriate property inspections, to maximize fees assessed on borrowers' accounts when they are in default of their mortgage agreements. Doc. No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that PNC, by using the automated system, automatically orders property inspections for every mortgage loan account that is in default for a specified period of time, and continues to automatically order inspections, so long as the borrower remains in default.

         Specifically, on December 9, 2011, Plaintiff purchased a home in Littleton, North Carolina, and executed a deed of trust (“Deed of Trust”) mortgaging the property. The Deed of Trust provides that, in the event of a default by Plaintiff, “Lender may do and pay for whatever is reasonable or appropriate to protect Lender's interest in the Property and rights under this Security Instrument, including protecting and/or assessing the value of the ...

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