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Asamoah v. Wells Fargo Bank

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 19, 2014

HUGO ASAMOAH, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, et al., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

WILLIAM G. YOUNG, District Judge.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and directs the plaintiff to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. Background

State inmate Hugo Asamoah brings this action in which he claims that Wells Fargo Bank and foreclosure attorneys violated state and federal law by foreclosing on his property. According to the complaint, the plaintiff requested a loan modification and was told by Wells Fargo Bank ("Wells Fargo") that he would be eligible if he paid an increased payment for three months. Asamoah alleges that he made such payments in a timely fashion but thereafter Wells Fargo increased, rather decreased, his monthly payment. The plaintiff further alleges that, when the plaintiff became incarcerated in 2009, Harmon & Harmon Law Group ("Harmon & Harmon"), evicted his tenants, making it impossible for him to pay the mortgage. Thereafter, Wells Fargo allegedly foreclosed on his home without any notice to him.

Asmoah names as defendants Wells Fargo, Harmon & Harmon, and "other John Doe Defendants." He alleges that Wells Fargo violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p ("FDCPA") and the Home Owners Loan Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 1461-1470 ("HOLA"), and state law by refusing to enter into a loan modification agreement with the plaintiff. Asmoah also brings a claim against Wells Fargo and Harmon and Harmon "acting jointly" for violating, FDCPA, HOLA, and state law. The complaint also includes a separate claim against Harmon & Harmon for "negligent misrepresentation."

II. Discussion

A. Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Upon review of the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court concludes that he is without income or assets to pay the filing fee. The motion is therefore granted. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), an initial partial filing fee of $18.00 is assessed. The remainder of the fee, $332.00, will be collected in accordance with 28 U.S.C. 1915(b)(2).

B. Screening of the Complaint

1. Court's Authority to Screen the Complaint

When a plaintiff seeks to file a complaint without prepayment of the filing fee, summonses do not issue until the Court reviews the complaint and determines that it satisfies the substantive requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This statue authorizes federal courts to dismiss a complaint sua sponte if the claims therein are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). In conducting this review, the Court liberally construes the complaint because the plaintiff is proceeding pro se. See Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). However, the plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his claim "requires more than labels and conclusions." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A court is not "bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, " and "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id . (quoting in part Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ("Threadbare recitals of a cause action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.").

Further, a court has an obligation to inquire sua sponte into its own subject matter jurisdiction. See McCulloch v. Velez , 364 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2004). Federal courts are of limited jurisdiction, "and the requirement of subject-matter jurisdiction functions as a restriction on federal power.'" Fafel v. Dipaola , 399 F.3d 403, 410 (1st Cir. 2005) (quoting Insurance Corp. of Ireland v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee , 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982)). "The existence of subject-matter jurisdiction is never presumed.'" Fafel , 399 F.3d at 410 (quoting Viqueira v. First Bank , 140 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir. 1998)). Rather, federal courts "must satisfy themselves that subject-matter jurisdiction has been established." Id . "If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

Federal district courts may exercise jurisdiction over civil actions arising under federal laws, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("§ 1331"), and over certain actions in which the parties are of diverse citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332 ("§ 1332"). Where a party seeks to invoke the jurisdiction of a federal district court under § 1332, the parties must be of complete diversity. See Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis , 519 U.S. 61, 68 ...


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