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Foster v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

August 13, 2014

HOLLY J. FOSTER, Plaintiff,
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendant.


NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.


Holly J. Foster ("Plaintiff") filed her complaint in the Circuit Court of Fluvanna County seeking declaratory judgment and preliminary and permanent injunctions regarding her rights to certain property on April 4, 2014. Plaintiff claimed title to her residence at 246 The Cross Road, Scottsville, VA (hereinafter the "Cross Road Property"), and sought injunctions prohibiting Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Defendant") from removing her from the property. On April 30, 2014, Defendant timely removed the case to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See Notice of Removal ¶¶ 5-7; 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). On May 7, 2014, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint as failing to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On May 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed her amended complaint, changing her declaratory judgment request to a request for an "Order to Quiet Title." Am. Compl. 9. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (hereinafter "Motion to Dismiss") on June 3, 2014, asserting that Plaintiff's claim is time-barred in law and equity and that she is not entitled to injunctive relief. The Motion to Dismiss has been fully briefed by both parties. Because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the material before the court, oral argument would not aid the decisional process; accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss will be decided without holding a hearing.[1]

Since Plaintiff's claims are barred at law and in equity by the applicable statute of limitations and do not request relief which this Court could provide, this Court will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint.


Plaintiff purchased the Cross Road Property at a foreclosure sale in 1999. In 2005, Wachovia Bank, N.A. issued a $70, 000 mortgage loan, listing the Cross Road Property as securing the loan. A signature appearing to be Plaintiff's is present on the deed of trust for that mortgage, but she claims she did not "seek or obtain the 2005 Deed of Trust, " "was not a party to this transaction, and [that] it happened without her knowledge or consent." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8. In 2006, Plaintiff granted her mother, Elaine Foster, an undivided one-half interest in the property through a Deed of Gift. Shortly thereafter, Wachovia Bank, N.A. issued another mortgage loan on the Cross Road Property, for about $122, 000. Only Elaine Foster was listed as a borrower, but what appears to be Plaintiff's signature is present on the deed of trust for the 2006 mortgage. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11. Again, Plaintiff avers that she was not a party to this transaction and that it happened without her knowledge or consent. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. In 2009, Wells Fargo merged with Wachovia, and Wells Fargo became the holder of the mortgage loans over the Cross Road Property. Later in 2009, Wells Fargo refinanced the 2006 loan, for a new loan amount of $113, 000. Both Plaintiff and her mother, Elaine Foster, were listed as borrowers, and both of their signatures appear to be present on the deed of trust and note. Plaintiff claims she was not a party to this transaction and that it occurred without her knowledge or consent. Am. Compl. ¶ 15.

Plaintiff avers that she only learned of these mortgage loans secured by the Cross Road Property in 2010 and 2011, when her mother began experiencing difficulties paying the loans. In 2010, Plaintiff began trying to help her mother, but at first did not know the loans her mother referenced were secured by the Cross Road Property. But she contends that "[d]uring 2010 and 2011, as a result of communications with Wells Fargo and other entities [regarding her mother's financial difficulties], [Plaintiff] learned of the existence of the mortgages set up in 2005, 2006 and 2009 which included Deeds of Trust listing her home as security for these loans." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 16-17. "Prior to this, " Plaintiff claims she "had no knowledge of these mortgage transactions." Am. Compl. ¶ 17. Plaintiff pleads that she contacted Wells Fargo and informed the company that she was not a party to the mortgage transactions at issue.

By 2011, the 2009 mortgage loan was in default. Wells Fargo sold and purchased the Cross Road Property at a foreclosure sale on August 21, 2012. Plaintiff claims this sale was defective because the "foreclosure sale was organized by a substitute trustee who was given authority to conduct such a sale by a legally ineffective document, " and because "[a]lthough the foreclosure sale was supposed to be a public auction, in fact the public was not invited to bid at the sale when it was held." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22-23. Instead, Plaintiff contends that Wells Fargo made a private bid for the property and was declared the purchaser. Am. Compl. ¶ 24.

After Plaintiff refused to move out of the Cross Road Property, Wells Fargo filed an unlawful detainer action against her in Fluvanna County General District Court on September 26, 2012. Wells Fargo nonsuited this action before judgment was entered, but re-filed an unlawful detainer action in the same court on April 5, 2013.[3] On July 9, 2013, the Fluvanna County General District Court entered judgment for Wells Fargo, which Plaintiff appealed to the Fluvanna County Circuit Court. On February 7, 2014, that court affirmed the district court and entered judgment for Wells Fargo. Both parties agree that neither court decided the validity of title issues presented before this Court, because the circuit court found the district court "did not have jurisdiction to make such a ruling, and that the Circuit Court was bound by those limitations in considering the case on appeal." Am. Compl. ¶ 35. Plaintiff claims she was not represented by counsel during this process, despite efforts to obtain counsel, and only obtained counsel in February 2014. Plaintiff's counsel has appealed the Fluvanna Circuit Court's decision through a notice of appeal filed in March 2014, and Plaintiff claims that appeal is still pending.

Plaintiff's amended complaint requests an order to quiet title from this Court, declaring her the rightful owner of the Cross Road Property, nullifying, rescinding, and declaring void the 2005, 2006, and 2009 mortgages, and declaring void the 2012 foreclosure sale. Am. Compl. 9. Plaintiff also requests preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing Wells Fargo from removing Plaintiff from the Cross Road Property, both during the pendency of this action and thereafter. Am. Compl. 9-10.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint to determine whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim; "it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Legal conclusions in the guise of factual allegations, however, are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950-51 (2009). Although a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of [her] entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and quotations omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " id., with all the allegations in the complaint taken as true and all reasonable inferences drawn in the plaintiff's favor. Chao v. Rivendell Woods, Inc., 415 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2005). In sum, Rule 12(b)(6) does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Consequently, "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.


It is well established that federal courts sitting in diversity apply the substantive law of the forum state, including the forum state's choice of law rules. See Salve Regina Coll. v. Russell, 499 U.S. 225, 226 (1991) (citing Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). In Virginia, the substantive law of the place of the wrong governs the proceeding. See Frye v. Commonwealth, 345 S.E.2d 267, 272 (Va. 1986). Accordingly, in the case at hand, Virginia law applies.[4] As acknowledged by the parties, this Court has proper jurisdiction and venue over this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, because Plaintiff is a resident and citizen of Fluvanna County, Virginia, while ...

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