United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Harold Blick ("Plaintiff") filed this case against Defendant Deutsche Bank National Trust Company ("Defendant"), alleging fraud and misrepresentation in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-178. Deutsche Bank timely filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5), 12(b)(6), and 12(b)(1). I gave Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint to properly allege subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and once Plaintiff filed his amended complaint, Defendant filed a renewed motion to dismiss. Because of the exhibits attached to both Plaintiff's complaint and Defendant's motion to dismiss, I issued an order on July 18, 2014 advising the parties that I would convert Defendant's motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, giving the parties fourteen days to present any affidavits or further evidence. With the case now properly before me, I find that Plaintiff's claim is barred by res judicata and, alternatively, by Virginia Code § 8.01-243's two year statute of limitations for fraud-based claims. I will therefore grant the motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff in this case possessed two adjacent parcels of property in Albemarle County at 6525 Dick Woods Road and 6527 Dick Woods Road. This case arises out of a threatened foreclosure of the property at 6525 Dick Woods Road. Plaintiff previously filed in state court a complaint related to the foreclosure against JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and Deutsche Bank National Trust Company as "Trustee" for Long Beach Mortgage Loan Trust 2005-3 and Long Beach Mortgage Loan Trust 2005-WL3. Defendants removed that case to this Court, and I dismissed Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice on March 27, 2012. See Blick v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. 3:12-cv-00001, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41265 (W.D. Va. Mar. 27, 2012) [hereinafter " Blick I "]. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit subsequently affirmed on August 23, 2012. See Blick v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 475 Fed.App'x 852 (4th Cir. 2012) (per curiam). Plaintiff then brought another complaint relating to the same occurrence, which I dismissed on res judicata grounds on March 29, 2013. See Blick v. Long Beach Mortgage Loan Trust 2005-WL3, No. 3:13-cv-0002, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46442 (W.D. Va. Mar. 29, 2013) [hereinafter " Blick II "]. The Fourth Circuit affirmed on September 9, 2013. See Blick v. Long Beach Mortgage Trust 2005-WL3, 539 Fed.Appx. 126 (4th Cir. 2013) (per curiam).
In this case, essentially the third in a series of cases whose claims arise from the foreclosures, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant conspired with Jason C. Hacks and Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice to falsely convert Plaintiff's non-negotiable specially endorsed mortgage note into a negotiable blank bearer note. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Deutsche Bank "provided Womble Carlyle [a] stamped blank endorsement with the intent to misrepresent the Blick/Conroy Note as a negotiable bearer Note to the United States District Court." Pl.'s Am. Compl. at 13. Plaintiff claims that the fraudulent actions of Defendant influenced this Court and the Fourth Circuit and requests that Defendant be held liable for its misrepresentations.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A court may grant a motion for summary judgment only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits... show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [the moving party] is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The "party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and "demonstrat[ing] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists under Rule 56 "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When evaluating a motion under Rule 56, the Court must construe all "facts and inferences to be drawn from the facts... in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Miller v. Leathers, 913 F.2d 1085, 1087 (4th Cir. 1990) (internal quotations omitted).
In order to allow for the development of a potentially meritorious claim, federal courts have an obligation to construe pro se pleadings liberally. See, e.g., Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (citation omitted). Moreover, "[l]iberal construction of the pleadings is particularly appropriate where... there is a pro se complaint raising civil rights issues." Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978)). Nevertheless, "[p]rinciples requiring generous construction of pro se complaints are not... without limits." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
1. Res Judicata
Defendant asserts that the doctrine of res judicata bars Plaintiff's claim from proceeding because the complaint "is predicated upon the same legal theories as those presented in Blick I and II. " When a defendant seeks to dismiss a suit based on res judicata (i.e., claim preclusion) and the original suit was decided by a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction, the court deciding the preclusion issue must apply the law of the state in which the first federal court sits. See Semtek Int'l Inc. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 531 U.S. 497, 508 (2001); Q Intern. Courier Inc. v. Smoak, 441 F.3d 214, 218 (4th Cir. 2006). The original suit was decided by a federal court sitting in Virginia, so Virginia law applies when deciding whether the new suit is precluded.
Rule 1:6 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia addresses "Res Judicata Claim Preclusion, " and provides that:
A party whose claim for relief arising from identified conduct, a transaction, or an occurrence, is decided on the merits by a final judgment, shall be forever barred from prosecuting any second or subsequent civil action against the same opposing party or parties on any claim or cause of action that arises from that same conduct, transaction or occurrence, whether or not the legal theory or rights asserted in the second or subsequent action were raised in the prior lawsuit, and regardless of the legal elements or the evidence upon which any claims in the prior proceeding depended, or the particular remedies sought.
While Virginia law previously required that the party seeking to show claim preclusion demonstrate that the later claim required the same evidence and sought the same remedy as the earlier claim, "[b]y promulgating Rule 1:6, the Supreme Court of Virginia has discarded the same-evidence and same-remedy requirements, adopting instead a same conduct, transaction, or occurrence' test." Martin-Bangura v. Va. Dept. of Mental Health, 640 F.Supp.2d 729, 738 (E.D. Va. 2009); see also Ghayyada v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., No. 3:11-cv-00037, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102279, at *11 n.5 (W.D. Va. Sept. 12, 2011). Under Rule 1:6, Defendant must show that: (1) there was a prior claim for relief decided on the merits by a valid and final ...