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Rehbein v. CitiMortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

April 4, 2013

NORMA REHBEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITIMORTGAGE, INC. and SHAPIRO BROWN & ALT, LLP, Defendants

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For Norma Rehbein, Plaintiff: Heath J Thompson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Heath J. Thompson, P.C., Virginia Beach, VA; Jeana Publico McMurray, LEAD ATTORNEY, Heath J Thompson PC, Virginia Beach, VA.

For CitiMortgage, Defendant: D. Margeaux Thomas, LEAD ATTORNEY, Miles & Stockbridge PC (McLean), Tysons Corner, VA.

For Shapiro Brown & Alt, LLP, Defendant: Lindsey Corliss Neef Kelly, LEAD ATTORNEY, Shapiro Brown & Alt LLP, Virginia Beach, VA.

OPINION

REBECCA BEACH SMITH, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Page 757

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant CitiMortgage, Inc. (" Citi" ) and Defendant Shapiro Brown & Alt (" SBA" ) filed Motions to Dismiss and accompanying Memoranda in Support on February 13, 2013, and February 15, 2013, respectively. On February 22, 2013, the Plaintiff, Norma Rehbein (" Rehbein" ), filed a Motion to Remand to State Court and an accompanying Memorandum in Support. These Motions are now ripe for review.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Remand is DENIED and the Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Rehbein is the owner of a home located at 2132 Oaklawn Court in Virginia Beach (" Oaklawn Court Property" ), where she resides. Compl. ¶ 1. On June 10, 2008, Rehbein entered into a mortgage loan contract with Citi; she executed a Promissory Note secured by a Deed of Trust on the Oaklawn Court Property. Compl. ¶ ¶ 4-5. In 2008, Rehbein experienced a reduction in household income, which caused her to fall behind on her mortgage payments. Compl. ¶ 8. She applied to Citi for a loan modification and was granted a temporary modification, but was, at least initially, denied a final modification. Compl. ¶ ¶ 9, 11. As of January 11, 2013, Rehbein's loan remained under review for a loan modification. Compl. ¶ 15. Meanwhile, Citi initiated foreclosure proceedings; the foreclosure auction was scheduled for January 16, 2013. Compl. ¶ ¶ 18, 34.[2]

On January 11, 2013, Rehbein commenced an action in the Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach, seeking a preliminary injunction enjoining the Defendants from instituting forfeiture proceedings prior to proper loan modification review and requesting compensatory damages. On February 7, 2012, Citi removed the case to federal court, with the consent of SBA. On February 13, 2013, Citi filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. SBA filed a separate Motion to Dismiss on February 15, 2013. On February 22, 2013, Rehbein filed a Motion to Remand the action to the Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach, to which Defendant Citi responded on March 5, 2013. Rehbein did not file a reply to Defendant Citi's response to her Motion to Remand, and the time for her to do so has now lapsed. Rehbein filed a response to the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss on March 8, 2013, to which Defendant Citi replied on March 29, 2013.[3] These Motions are now ripe for review.

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II. Motion to Remand

Before the court can reach the merits of the Defendants' Motions, it must determine that it has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims. See Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 316 (4th Cir. 2006) (" It is well established that before a federal court can decide the merits of a claim, the claim must invoke the jurisdiction of the court." ). Rehbein has filed a Motion to Remand, alleging that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over her claims. The Defendants contend that this court has subject matter jurisdiction over the instant claims under the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Removal Notice at 2-5.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), district courts have original jurisdiction of civil actions where the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and the parties are completely diverse, " meaning that the citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from the citizenship of every defendant." Cent. W.Va. Energy Co. v. Mt. State Carbon, LLC, 636 F.3d 101, 103 (4th Cir. 2011).

A. Amount in Controversy

In her Complaint, Rehbein seeks only $29,000 in damages.[4] The Defendants contend that because the cost to Citi in complying with the injunction Rehbein seeks exceeds $75,000, the jurisdictional minimum is met. Removal Notice ¶ 19.

" [T]he test for determining the amount in controversy in a diversity proceeding is 'the pecuniary result to either party which [a] judgment would produce.'" Dixon v. Edwards, 290 F.3d 699, 710 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Gov't Emps. Ins. Co. v. Lally, 327 F.2d 568, 569 (4th Cir. 1964)).

In suits involving claims to real property, the amount in controversy is the value of the real property, not simply the amount of damages the plaintiff seeks. Monton v. Am.'s Servicing Co., No. 2:11cv678, at *10 (E.D. Va. Aug. 20, 2012) (Davis, J.) (the fact that the present value of the plaintiffs' real property exceeded $75,000 " by itself, appears sufficient to demonstrate that the amount in controversy is exceeded in this case" ); Sherman v. Litton Loan Servicing, 796 F.Supp.2d 753, 766 (E.D. Va. 2011) (finding the amount in controversy was met based on " the manifest fact that the value of the Property exceeds $75,000" ).

Where injunctive relief is sought, " the amount in controversy is measured by the value of the object of the litigation." Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 347, 97 S.Ct. 2434, 53 L.Ed.2d 383 (1977). The cost of complying with the injunction is " an appropriate consideration when determining whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been met." Republic Bank & Trust Co. v. Kucan, 245 F. App'x 308, 314-15 (4th Cir. 2007); see also JTH Tax, Inc. v. Frashier, 624 F.3d 635, 639 ...


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