Ranson v. Bank of America, N.A.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER The Court Denies in part Defendant's 4 Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claims for breach of contract, fraud, estoppel, and violations of the WVCCPA; however, the Court Grants in part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's negligence claim. Signed by Judge Robert C. Chambers on 3/14/2013. (cc: attys; any unrepresented party) (skm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:12-5616
BANK OF AMERICA, N.A.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Bank of America,
N.A. (BANA). ECF No. 4. Plaintiff Jason Ranson opposes the motion. For the following
reasons, the Court DENIES, in part, and GRANTS, in part, Defendant‟s motion.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On September 19, 2012, Defendant removed this action from the Circuit Court of
Putnam County based upon diversity of jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. In his
Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that he took out a mortgage with Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. to
purchase a house in 2007. The loan was originated pursuant to the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Program. Plaintiff alleges the loan “contained a contractual
guarantee by the . . . (VA), which requires—as incorporated into the contract—that Defendant
comply with regulations and laws governing VA guaranteed loans, including those regulations
governing Defendant‟s actions in the event of the borrower‟s default” as he was, and continues to
be, on active duty with the United States Army. Compl. at ¶5, in part. Defendant is the current
servicer and holder of the loan.
In 2009, Plaintiff became two months behind on the loan. Plaintiff asserts that
Defendant informed him he was eligible for a loan modification and requested he submit certain
documentation to have the modification finalized. Plaintiff claims that Defendant also told him to
stop making any payments as they would interfere with the finalization process. Plaintiff states
he had the means to make the two delinquent payments at that time or he could have sought
refinancing or taken other actions to save his house and credit. However, he relied upon
Defendant‟s statements and stopped making payments, pending its assurance that he was eligible
for a modification. In fact, Plaintiff states that Defendant returned his last payment without
applying it to his account.
Over the next several months, Plaintiff asserts he repeatedly submitted the
documentation requested by Defendant for the modification process. Plaintiff also contacted
Defendant on a weekly basis for updates. Plaintiff claims he was assured by Defendant it would
not foreclose, and Defendant discouraged him from calling by stating it would delay finalization of
the modification. Approximately eight months after the process began, Plaintiff contends that
Defendant informed him the loan would not be modified because VA loans do not qualify for
According to Plaintiff, Defendant nevertheless requested that he submit
documentation for another modification. Plaintiff states he complied with the request but,
approximately six months later, Defendant again told him the modification was denied because he
had a VA loan. Defendant further told him he should vacate the property because it was going to
foreclose. Plaintiff asserts he asked Defendant if he could short sell the house, but Defendant said
no and stated the only way he could save his house would be by full reinstatement. As fourteen
months had passed since he was told to stop making payments, Plaintiff states that he could not
afford to pay the full amount owed.
As a result of these alleged activities, Plaintiff filed this action, alleging five counts
of action. Count I is for breach of contract, Count II is for negligence, Count III is for fraud,
Count IV is for estoppel, and Count V is for illegal debt collection. Defendant now moves to
dismiss each of the counts.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme
Court disavowed the “no set of facts” language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957),
which was long used to evaluate complaints subject to 12(b)(6) motions. 550 U.S. at 563. In its
place, courts must now look for “plausibility” in the complaint. This standard requires a plaintiff
to set forth the “grounds” for an “entitle[ment] to relief” that is more than mere “labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Accepting the factual allegations in the
complaint as true (even when doubtful), the allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level . . . .” Id. (citations omitted). If the allegations in the complaint,
assuming their truth, do “not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should . . .
be exposed at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.”
Id. at 558 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court explained the
requirements of Rule 8 and the “plausibility standard” in more detail. In Iqbal, the Supreme
Court reiterated that Rule 8 does not demand “detailed factual allegations[.]” 556 U.S. at 678
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
However, a mere “unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” is insufficient. Id. “To survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to „state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.‟“ Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Facial plausibility
exists when a claim contains “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The Supreme Court
continued by explaining that, although factual allegations in a complaint must be accepted as true
for purposes of a motion to dismiss, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions. Id.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citation omitted). Whether a plausible claim is stated in a
complaint requires a court to conduct a context-specific analysis, drawing upon the court‟s own
judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. If the court finds from its analysis that “the
well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,
the complaint has alleged-but it has not „show[n]‟-‟that the pleader is entitled to relief.‟“ Id.
(quoting, in part, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). The Supreme Court further articulated that “a court
considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are
no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can
provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id.
Breach of Contract
In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that the Deed of Trust and the VA Guaranteed Loan and
Assumption Policy Rider provide that “Defendant‟s rights upon the borrower‟s default are limited
by Title 38 of the United States Code and any regulations issued thereunder.” Compl., at ¶22.
According to Plaintiff, the contract also provides that Defendant must apply all payments to his
account. Plaintiff asserts Defendant breached the contract by (1) discouraging him from making
payments, (2) returning his payments, (3) allowing the accumulation of arrears until it was
impossible for him to reinstate the loan, (4) initiating foreclosure and failing to grant a
modification after assuring him it would be granted, and (5) “failing to comply with VA
regulations and guidance requiring, inter alia, that the Defendants [sic] consider Plaintiff for a
variety [of] loss mitigation options, and provide notice of such rejection(s) in writing, prior to
foreclosure.” Id. at ¶24(d).
To avoid dismissal of a breach of contract claim under Rule 12(b)(6), West
Virginia law requires: “the existence of a valid, enforceable contract; that the plaintiff has
performed under the contract; that the defendant has breached or violated its duties or obligations
under the contract; and that the plaintiff has been injured as a result.” Executive Risk Indem., Inc. v.
Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 681 F. Supp.2d 694, 714 (S.D. W. Va. 2009) (citations omitted).
For a claim of breach of contract to be sufficient, “a plaintiff must allege in his complaint „the
breach on which the plaintiffs found their action . . . [and] the facts and circumstances which entitle
them to damages.‟” Id. In this case, Defendant argues Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege a
breach of contract because he has not specified what specific VA regulations purportedly were
violated and, in any event, the regulations only require the foreclosure be conducted in accordance
to West Virginia law. As Defendant maintains it complied with the West Virginia law, Defendant
asserts it has not breached the contract.
Plaintiff does not dispute that neither the contracts nor West Virginia law require a
loan modification. However, Plaintiff argues that the VA has promulgated regulations to limit
foreclosures of loans it has guaranteed and Defendant did not comply with those requirements.
Plaintiff quotes from the VA Guaranteed Loan and Assumption Policy Rider, which provides, in
If the indebtedness secured hereby be guaranteed or
insured under Title 38, United States Code, such
Title and Regulations issued thereunder and in effect
on the date hereof shall govern the rights, duties and
liabilities of Borrower and Lender. Any provisions
of the Security Instrument or other instruments
executed in connection with said indebtedness which
are inconsistent with said Title or Regulations,
including, but not limited to, the provision for
payment of any sum in connection with prepayment
of the secured indebtedness and the provision that
the Lender may accelerate payment of the secured
indebtedness pursuant to Covenant 18 of the
Security Instrument, are hereby amended or negated
to the extent necessary to confirm such instruments
to said Title or Regulations.
VA Guar. Loan and Assumption Policy Rider, at 2, ECF No. 4-1, at 15. Specifically, Plaintiff
cites 38 U.S.C. § 36.4350(f), (g), and (h), which requires, inter alia, Defendant to send Plaintiff a
letter outlining his loss mitigation options after he fell behind on his payments and, under certain
circumstances, have a face-to-face meeting with Plaintiff.
Likewise, 38 C.F.R. § 36.4319
provides incentives to servicers to engage in loss mitigation options in lieu of foreclosure, and 38
C.F.R. § 36.4315 expressly allows a loan modification under certain circumstances if it is in
veteran‟s and the Government‟s best interest. Plaintiff also cites a Servicer Guide for VA
guaranteed loans, which contains similar loss mitigation considerations.1 Plaintiff states that all
these requirements are incorporated into the contract, and Defendant violated the contract by
stating he could not receive a loan modification because he had a VA loan; by telling him to stop
making payments rather than placing him on a repayment plan; by not timely evaluating the loan
and considering him for loss mitigation and, instead, placing him in foreclosure; and by refusing to
allow Plaintiff to apply for a compromise sale because Defendant had started foreclosure.
Moreover, Plaintiff asserts Defendant violated his right to reinstate and failed to exercise its
discretion in good faith by refusing his payment; telling him to stop making payments; informing
he was qualified for loan modification, and then denying the modification; providing him
conflicting, inconsistent, and inaccurate information about his account; refusing to consider a short
sale; and never providing him a written explanation of why loss mitigation was denied.
Defendant responds by asserting that the VA regulations and the handbook are
permissive in nature, not mandatory, and the VA Servicer Guide is not binding. See VA Servicer
Guide, at 4 (“This manual does not change or supersede any regulation or law affecting the VA
Home Loan Program. If there appears to be a discrepancy, please refer to the related regulation or
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, VA Servicer Guide 6 (July 2009), available at
law.”); see also 38 C.F.R. § 36.4315(c) (stating “[t]his section does not create a right of a borrower
to have a loan modified, but simply authorizes the loan holder to modify a loan in certain situations
without the prior approval of the Secretary” 38 U.S.C. § 36.4315(c)). Thus, Defendant argues
they establish no affirmative duty for it to act. In support of its position, Defendant cites several
older cases which held certain regulations issued by the VA and other governmental agencies do
not have the force and effect of law.2
However, upon review of those cases, the Court finds that they generally involve
situations in which the plaintiffs were attempting to assert a cause of action based upon the
regulation itself, rather than as a breach of contract claim. An action based on a contract involves
a much different legal theory than one based solely on enforcement of a regulation apart from a
contractual duty. Indeed, Plaintiff cites a number of comparable mortgage cases in which courts
permitted homeowners to pursue claims against lenders based upon regulations issued by the
Federal Housing Authority (FHA) where it was alleged that the parties contractually agreed to
See First Family Mortg. Corp. of Fl. v. Earnest, 851 F.2d 843, 844-45 (6th Cir. 1988)
(finding that mortgagors could not state a cause of action based on VA publications against the VA
for allegedly failing to monitor lender servicing of VA-backed loans); Bright v. Nimmo, 756 F.2d
1513, 1516 (11th Cir. 1985) (rejecting the plaintiff‟s argument that he has an implied cause of
action against the VA or lender based upon the VA‟s manual and guidelines); United States v.
Harvey, 659 F.2d 62, 65 (5th Cir. 1981) (finding that the VA manual did not have the force and
effect of law by itself and it was not incorporated into the promissory notes or deeds to support a
contract claim); Gatter v. Cleland, 512 F. Supp. 207, 212 (E.D. Pa. 1981) (holding “that the
decision to implement a formal refunding program is one that squarely falls within the committed
to agency discretion exception [of the VA] and is not subject to judicial review” (footnote
omitted)); and Pueblo Neighborhood Health Ctrs., Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Serv.,
720 F.2d 622, 625 (10th Cir. 1983) (finding a pamphlet issued by the Department of Health and
Human Services, referred to as a Grant Application Manual, was not the product of formal
rule-making and did not have the force and effect of law).
comply with those regulations. As explained by the Court in Mullins v. GMAC Mortg., LLC, No.
1:09-cv-00704, 2011 WL 1298777, **2-3 (S.D. W. Va. Mar. 31, 2011), plaintiffs, who allege a
straightforward breach of contact claim, “are not, as defendants would have the court believe,
suing to enforce HUD regulations under some vague and likely non-existent cause of action
allowing a member of the public to take upon himself the role of regulatory enforcer. These two
theories of recovery are distinct and unrelated,” and the Court held the plaintiffs could proceed on
their express breach of contract claim. 2011 WL 1298777, *3. 3 Upon review, this Court is
persuaded that the same reasoning controls here. Therefore, the Court will not dismiss Plaintiff‟s
contract claim based upon Defendant‟s argument that the regulations and handbook do not have
full force and effect of law because Plaintiff has alleged the contract incorporates the limitations
set by the regulations. See Compl., at ¶22 (“The contract provides that Defendant‟s rights upon the
borrower‟s default are limited by Title 38 of the United States Code and any regulations issued
Defendant further argues, however, that some of the regulations cited by Plaintiff
are irrelevant to this case because, for instance, a face-to-face meeting with a borrower is required
See also Kersey v. PHH Mortg. Corp., 682 F. Supp.2d 588, 596-97 (E.D. Va. 2010),
vacated on other grounds, 2010 WL 3222262 (E.D. Va. Aug. 13, 2010) (finding, in part, that the
plaintiff sufficiently alleged a claim that the defendant breached an FHA regulation which was
incorporated in a Deed of Trust); Sinclair v. Donovan, Nos. 1:11-CV-00010, 1:11-CV-00079,
2011 WL 5326093, *8 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 4, 2011) (“find[ing] that the HUD-FHA regulations
concerning loss mitigation are enforceable terms of the mortgage contract between the parties and
that Plaintiffs cannot be denied the benefit of these provisions by virtue of the fact of simple
default”); and Baker v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 3:08-CV-0916-B, 2009 WL 1810336,
**5-6 (N.D. Tex. June 24, 2009) (stating that a “failure to comply with the [HUD] regulations
made part of the parties‟ agreement may give rise to liability on a contact theory because the
parties incorporated the terms into their contact”).
only under certain circumstances which do not exist in this case. See 38 C.F.R. § 36.4350(g)(iii).
In addition, Defendant asserts that, in any event, it did not breach the contract because it had no
duty to engage in loss mitigation and it otherwise complied with the contract‟s terms. The Court
finds, however, that whether or not Defendant violated any of the terms of the contract is a matter
best resolved after discovery.
Therefore, at this point, the Court finds that Plaintiff has
sufficiently alleged a breach of contract claim and, accordingly, DENIES Defendant‟s motion to
dismiss the claim.4
Negligence and Fraud
Defendant next argues that Plaintiff‟s claim for negligence and fraud in Counts II
and III, respectively, are duplicative of his illegal debt collection claim in Count V under the West
Virginia Consumer Credit Protection Act (WVCCPA) and cannot survive because Plaintiff fails to
allege Defendant owed him a special duty beyond the normal borrower-servicer relationship.
Therefore, Defendant asserts Counts II and III should be dismissed.
Plaintiff obviously disagrees with Defendant‟s argument and filed a “Notice of Additional
Authority” disputing Defendant‟s position that the VA regulations require holders to evaluate
borrowers for loss mitigation. Plaintiff cites the Veterans Benefits Administration, Revised VA
Making Home Affordable Program, Circular 26-10-6 (May 24, 2010), which states, in part:
“Before considering HAMP-style modifications, servicers must first evaluate defaulted mortgages
for traditional loss mitigation actions cited in Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations, section
36.4819 (38 CFR § 36.4819); i.e., repayment plans, special forbearances, and traditional loan
modifications. . . . If none of the traditional home retention loss mitigation options provide an
affordable payment, the servicer must evaluate the loan for a HAMP-style modification prior to
deciding that the default is insoluble and exploring alternatives to foreclosure.” (Available at
In Bailey v. Branch Banking & Trust Co., Civ. Act. No. 3:10-0969, 2011 WL
2517253 (S.D. W. Va. June 23, 2011), this Court held that the West Virginia Supreme Court in
Casillas v. Tuscarora Land Co., 412 S.E.2d 792 (W. Va. 1991), made it clear a plaintiff can
pursue claims under the WVCCPA and common law at the same time. 2011 WL 2517253, *3.
The Court reasoned that “[i]t would be contrary to both the legislative intent of the WVCCPA and
the whole crux of Casillas if the Court were to preclude consumers from bringing actions for
violations of the WVCCPA and common law merely because the claims are based upon similar
The Court found that “[n]either the WVCCPA nor Casillas makes a consumer choose
between the two options. A consumer clearly can choose to pursue both avenues provided
“separate” claims are set forth in a complaint.” Id.
However, under West Virginia law, a plaintiff “cannot maintain an action in tort for
an alleged breach of a contractual duty.” Lockhart v. Airco Heating & Cooling, 567 S.E.2d 619,
624 (W. Va. 2002) (footnote omitted). Rather, “[t]ort liability of the parties to a contract arises
from the breach of some positive legal duty imposed by law because of the relationship of the
parties, rather than a mere omission to perform a contract obligation.” Id. (emphasis added).
Whether a “special relationship” exists between the parties beyond their contractual obligations is
“determined largely by the extent to which the particular plaintiff is affected differently from
society in general.” Aikens v. Debow, 541 S.E.2d 576, 589 (W. Va. 2000).
lender-borrower context, courts consider whether the lender has created such a „special
relationship‟ by performing services not normally provided by lender to a borrower.” Warden v.
PHH Mortgage Corp., No. 3:10-cv-00075, 2010 WL 3720128, at *9 (N.D. W. Va. Sept. 16. 2010
(citing Glascock v. City Nat’l Bank of W. Va., 576 S.E.2d 540, 545-56 (W. Va. 2002) (other
Here, Plaintiff‟s negligence claim is quite simple.
He alleges that, where
“Defendant engaged in significant communications and activities with Plaintiff and the loan,
Defendant owed a duty to Plaintiff to provide him with accurate information about his loan
account and its obligations and rights thereunder.” Compl., at ¶27.
Next, Plaintiff asserts
“Defendant breached that duty by instructing Plaintiff not to make payments, advising Plaintiff
that he would receive a loan modification, and then instead allowing arrears to accrue for months
and ultimately denying Plaintiff assistance and pursuing foreclosure.” Id. at ¶28. Upon review
of these allegations, the Court finds Plaintiff has failed to allege any positive legal duty beyond
Defendant‟s purported contractual obligations. There is nothing about these allegations that
creates a “special relationship” between the parties. Indeed, a duty to provide accurate loan
information is a normal service in a lender-borrower relationship.
In support of their claim Plaintiff relies, inter alia, on Glasock v. City National
Bank of West Virginia, 576 S.E.540 (W. Va. 2002), where the West Virginia Supreme Court found
that a special relationship existed between a lender and the borrowers. In Glascock, the bank
maintained oversight and was significantly involved in the construction of the borrowers‟ house.
The bank possessed information that there were substantial problems with the house, but it failed
to reveal those problems to the borrowers. 576 S.E.2d at 545. The West Virginia Supreme Court
found that the bank‟s significant involvement in the construction created a special relationship
between the parties which carried “with it a duty to disclose any information that would be critical
to the integrity of the construction project.” Id. at 546 (footnote omitted).
To the contrary, Plaintiff‟s negligence claim in this case rests merely on the fact
Defendant had a duty to provide him accurate information about the loan and failed to do so.
Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege any facts which support a special relationship between the
parties as existed in Glascock. Therefore, the Court GRANTS Defendant‟s motion to dismiss
Plaintiff‟s negligence claim in Count II.
Turning next to Plaintiff‟s fraud claim, Defendant argues the claim must be
dismissed because it fails to meet the heightened pleading standard found in Rule 9(b) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 9(b) provides that, "[i]n alleging fraud or mistake, a party
must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake. Malice, intent,
knowledge, and other conditions of a person's mind may be alleged generally.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
9(b). Under this heightened pleading standard, a plaintiff is required to “at a minimum, describe
the time, place, and contents of the false representations, as well as the identity of the person
making the misrepresentation and what he obtained thereby.” U.S. ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown
& Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 379 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah
River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (4th Cir. 1999)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In other words,
the plaintiffs must describe the “„who, what, when, where, and how‟ of the alleged fraud.” Id.
(quoting U.S. ex rel. Willard v. Humana Health Plan of Texas Inc., 336 F.3d 375, 384 (5th Cir.
2003) (other citation omitted)).
In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he had trouble making his mortgage
payments around 2009. Compl, at ¶6. When he was approximately two months behind on his
payments, Defendant informed him that he qualified for a loan modification, but he needed to
complete the necessary paperwork to have it finalized. Id. at ¶7(a). “At this time,” Defendant also
informed Plaintiff not to make any more payments until the modification was finalized. Id. at
About eight months later, Defendant told Plaintiff that he did not qualify for a
modification, but Defendant instructed him to submit documentation for another modification. Id.
at ¶13. After approximately six more months passed, Plaintiff was notified again that he was
being denied assistance. Id. at ¶14. Plaintiff further alleges that, before May of 2012, Defendant
never gave him “a written decision on his loan modification applications or any explanation for
why he had denied him for assistance, other than its statements by telephone that he did not qualify
for assistance because he had a VA loan.” Id. at ¶18.
In addition to these alleged facts, Plaintiff specifically states in his cause of action
for fraud that “[i]n or around 2009,” Defendant told him to stop making payments and it would
modify his loan rather than pursue foreclosure. Id. at ¶31. Plaintiff asserts these “representations
were false and material,” and they were made knowingly, recklessly, and/or intentionally. Id. at
Plaintiff further claims he detrimentally relied upon these misrepresentations by
stopping his payments and not attempting reinstatement, after which Defendant sought
foreclosure. Id. at ¶¶34-35.
In considering these allegations, the Court is mindful of the fact it should be
hesitant “to dismiss a complaint under Rule 9(b) if the court is satisfied (1) that the defendant has
been made aware of the particular circumstances for which she will have to prepare a defense at
trial, and (2) that plaintiff has substantial prediscovery evidence of those facts.” Harrison v.
Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (4th Cir. 1999). Here, the Court finds that
Plaintiff adequately alerts Defendant as to “the time, place, and contents of the false
representation[.]” U.S. ex rel. Wilson, 525 F.3d at 379 (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Plaintiff clearly alleges the fraudulent activity consisted of Defendant instructing him
to stop making payments and assuring him he would receive a loan modification instead of
foreclosure. He also asserts the representations were made over the telephone and occurred in
2009, when his payments were two months in arrears, and before Defendant returned his payment.
In addition, Plaintiff states that he continued to call Defendant approximately once a week and was
assured that it would not proceed with foreclosure. Compl., at ¶12(a), (b), and (c). Given this
information, Defendant should be able to prepare its defense based upon the allegations made. In
addition, the allegations provide enough information that Defendant also should be able to identify
and review its customer service notes, call logs, account records, and any phone recordings it may
have during the specified time period. Thus, the Court DENIES Defendant‟s motion to dismiss
Plaintiff‟s claim for fraud.
Defendant further argues that Plaintiff‟s claim in Count IV for estoppel must be
dismissed. To maintain a claim for estoppel in West Virginia, a plaintiff must show:
[(1)] a false representation or a concealment of
material facts; [(2)] it must have been made with
knowledge, actual or constructive of the facts; [(3)]
the party to whom it was made must have been
without knowledge or the means of knowledge of the
real facts; [(4)] it must have been made with the
intention that it should be acted on; and [(5)] the
party to whom it was made must have relied on or
acted on it to his prejudice.
Syl. Pt. 3, Folio v. City of Clarksburg, 655 S.E.2d 143 (W. Va. 2007) (quoting Syl. Pt. 6, Stuart v.
Lake Washington Realty Corp., 92 S.E.2d 891 (W. Va. 1956)). Defendant asserts Plaintiff had
actual knowledge via correspondence it sent to Plaintiff that he was not guaranteed loan assistance
and loan assistance would not impact Defendant‟s right to foreclose. Defendant attached the
correspondence to its Motion to Dismiss as Exhibit D. In addition, Defendant argues that
Plaintiff admits to missing two payments before the alleged misrepresentations occurred so he
cannot state he relied upon those alleged misrepresentations in failing to make his payments.
“[W]hen a defendant attaches a document to its motion to dismiss, „a court may
consider it in determining whether to dismiss the complaint [if] it was integral to and explicitly
relied on in the complaint and [if] the plaintiffs do not challenge its authenticity.‟ ” Am.
Chiropractic Ass'n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Phillips
v. LCI Int'l, Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999)). In this case, Plaintiff asserts that, “at this
point there is no evidence that the letter was actually sent to or received by Plaintiff, nor has
Plaintiff had the opportunity to present mailings, call logs, or testimony supporting his claim.”
Pl.’s Res. in Opp. to Def.’s Mot. to Dis., ECF No. 7, at 16.5 Therefore, the Court will not consider
In addition, the Court notes that the letter appears undated and Defendant sometimes
the letter. Likewise, the Court finds no merit to the argument that Plaintiff‟s admission that he
was two months behind on his loan extinguishes his estoppel claim. It is clear from the Complaint
that Plaintiff‟s claim is that he relied upon the alleged misrepresentations after he was two months
delinquent. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendant‟s motion to dismiss the estoppel claim.
Finally, Defendant asserts Plaintiff‟s claim under the WVCCPA in Count V must
be dismissed because it fails to meet the requirements of Rules 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) provides that “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . .
a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 8(a)(2). Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to meet this requirement because he merely pled a
legal conclusion that Defendant engaged in illegal debt collection and he does not plead sufficient
factual content to support that conclusion. In addition, Defendant states it had a contractual right
to return Plaintiff‟s partial payment so returning the payment cannot support a WVCCPA claim.
Plaintiff, however, argues that his claims under the WVCCPA are based on three
First, Plaintiff asserts Defendant used fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading
representations to collect the debt or get information about him, in violation of West Virginia Code
§ 46A-2-127.6 Second, he claims that Defendant used unfair or unconscionable means to collect
refers to it as a 2009 letter and sometimes as a 2010 letter. At the top right-hand side of the letter,
there is a statement providing: “Please complete, sign and return all the enclosed documents by
December 5, 2009.” Exhibit D, ECF No. 4-4, at 1.
Section 127 provides, in part: “No debt collector shall use any fraudulent, deceptive or
misleading representation or means to collect or attempt to collect claims or to obtain information
the debt, in violation of West Virginia Code § 46A-2-128. 7 Third, Plaintiff contends that
Defendant‟s refusal to apply payments to his account violated West Virginia Code § 46A-2-115.
Plaintiff then argues that the first two claims are sufficiently supported in opposition to a motion to
dismiss based upon his allegations that (1) Defendant told him he qualified for loan modification
and would receive one if he completed the requested financial information; (2) Defendant told him
to stop making payments because it would interfere with the modification process, but in reality it
increased the likelihood of foreclosure; (3) Defendant assured Plaintiff it would not foreclose on
his home during the time the loan modification application was being processed; (4) Defendant
ultimately represented it could not modify the loan because it was a VA loan; and (5) Defendant
would not consider a short sale of the house and, instead, proceeded with foreclosure. Plaintiff
argues that each of these misrepresentations made by Defendant were intended to collect financial
information about him through the modification process or collect the debt via foreclosure. He
also states the delay and improper refusal of payments greatly increased the amount he was in
arrears, which allowed Defendant to attempt to collect the debt through foreclosure.
Upon consideration of these allegations, the Court finds they are sufficient to state a
claim under the WVCCPA. As stated by the Honorable Thomas E. Johnston stated in Koontz v.
Wells Fargo, N.A., Civ. Act. No. 2:10-cv-00864, 2011 WL 1297519 (S.D. W. Va. Mar. 31, 2011),
West Virginia “§ 46A-2-127 applies to both „misrepresentations made in collecting a debt‟ and
concerning consumers.” W. Va. Code § 46A-2-127, in part.
Section 128 states, in part: “No debt collector shall use unfair or unconscionable means to
collect or attempt to collect any claim.” W. Va. Code §46A-2-128, in part.
„misrepresentations . . . [made] when obtaining information on a customer.‟” 2011 WL 1297519,
at *6. Therefore, allegations that a financial institution misrepresented to the borrower that it
would reconsider a loan modification and, thereby, obtained additional financial information from
the borrower, are sufficient to state a claim. Id. Likewise, the Court finds the allegations are
sufficient to state a claim that Defendant used “unfair or unconscionable means to collect or
attempt to collect any claim” pursuant to West Virginia Code §46A-2-128, in part. Cf. Wilson v.
Draper v. Goldberg, P.L.L.C., 443 F.3d 373, 376 (4th Cir. 2006) (stating “Defendants‟ actions
surrounding the foreclosure proceeding were attempts to collect that debt” under the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act (citations omitted)).8
With respect to Plaintiff‟s third claim that Defendant illegally returned his payment
pursuant to West Virginia Code § 46A-2-115(c), this provision states:
All amounts paid to a creditor arising out of any
consumer credit sale or consumer loan shall be
credited upon receipt against payments due:
Provided, That amounts received and applied during
a cure period will not result in a duty to provide a
new notice of right to cure; and provided further that
partial amounts received during the reinstatement
period set forth in subsection (b) of this section do
not create an automatic duty to reinstate and may be
Defendant asserts that a debt collection does not give rise to a claim under the WVCCPA.
Citing Spoor v. PHH Mortgage Corp., Civ. Act. No. 5:10CV42, 2011 WL 883666 (N.D. W. Va.
Mar. 11, 2011). The Court has reviewed Spoor and finds that it primarily focused only on the
plaintiff‟s request for a loan modification with respect to her WVCCPA claims. The district court
in Spoor stated that the defendant‟s consideration of the request is not an attempt to collect a debt.
2011 WL 883666, at *7. In the present case, however, the allegations Plaintiff argues supports his
claim extend beyond a mere “request” for a modification. Moreover, the Court finds that, to the
extent Spoor is contrary to the reasoning in Wilson and Koontz, the Court declines to apply it to this
returned by the creditor. Default charges shall be
accounted for separately; those set forth in
subsection (b) arising during such a reinstatement
period may be added to principal.
W. Va. Code § 46A-2-115(c). Plaintiff argues that § 46A-2-115(b) defines the reinstatement
period as the time “beginning with the trustee notice of foreclosure and ending prior to foreclosure
sale,” and he made clear it clear in his Complaint that Defendant returned his payment prior to the
requesting a trustee notice of the foreclosure sale. See Compl., at ¶¶7 & 10. Defendant responds
by stating that it was within its contractual right to refuse the payment. However, West Virginia
Code § 46A-1-107 makes it clear that, “[e]xcept as otherwise provided in this chapter, a consumer
may not waive or agree to forego rights or benefits under this chapter or under article two-a,
chapter forty-six of this code.” W. Va. Code 46A-1-107. Therefore, upon review, the Court
finds that Plaintiff‟s claim is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Thus, for the foregoing
reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant‟s motion to dismiss Count V for alleged violations of the
Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant‟s Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff‟s claims for breach of contract, fraud, estoppel, and violations of the WVCCPA.
However, the Court GRANTS Defendant‟s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff‟s negligence claim.
The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Memorandum Opinion and
Order to all counsel of record and any unrepresented parties.
March 14, 2013