Kloth-Zanard v. Bank of America et al
ORDER. For the reasons set forth in the attached: (i) Wells Fargo's 62 motion to dismiss is granted; and (ii) Bank of America's 49 motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. The following claims remain against Bank of America: the Telephone Consumer Protection Act claim (count 2) and the Connecticut Creditors Collections Practices Act claim (count 3). Signed by Judge Michael P. Shea on 10/5/2017. (Howard, H.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
JOAN T. KLOTH-ZANARD,
No. 3:15-cv-1208 (MPS)
BANK OF AMERICA, ET. AL.
RULING ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS
Pro se Plaintiff, Joan T. Kloth-Zanard, has sued Bank of America, N.A. (“Bank of
America”), Specialized Loan Services, LLC, Wells Fargo/Northwest Bank Minnesota (“Wells
Fargo”), Mortgage Electronic Registration Services, Inc., and The Bank of New York Mellon.
She alleges defendants violated: (i) Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Rehabilitation Act”) (count one); (ii) the Telephone
Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 et. seq. (“TCPA”) (count two); (iii) the Connecticut
Creditors Collection Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 36a-645 et. seq. (“CCPA”) (count three);
(iv) 18 U.S.C. § 242 (count four); (v) the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (count five);
and (iv) 18 U.S.C. §§ 471-74 (count six). Bank of America and Wells Fargo have filed separate
motions to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint. 1 (ECF Nos. 49, 62.) For the reasons set forth below,
Defendants Bank of New York Mellon, Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC, and Mortgage
Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. also moved to dismiss the complaint. (ECF No. 26)
Because they failed to provide Plaintiff, who is pro se, the requisite notice under the Local Rules
when their motion to dismiss was filed, I dismissed that motion without prejudice to renewal
once those defendants served Plaintiff with proper notice. (ECF No. 68.) They have done so.
(i) Bank of America’s motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. All of Plaintiff’s
claims against Bank of America are dismissed except for her TCPA and CCPA claims; and
(ii) Wells Fargo’s motion to dismiss is granted.
Plaintiff makes the following factual allegations, which I assume to be true.2
Countrywide Home Loans provided an adjustable rate, subprime mortgage loan to the
Plaintiff secured by her home in Southbury, Connecticut. (ECF No. 17 at 7); (ECF No. 49-2 at
2) 3 In 2008, Countrywide transferred that mortgage to Bank of America. (Id.) On October 1,
2008, Bank of America approved Plaintiff for a loan modification. (Id. at 9.) Under the terms of
the loan modification, the interest due on Plaintiff’s loan was 1.5% interest for five years. (Id.)
Bank of America did not disclose to Plaintiff that the interest rate would return to an adjustable
rate interest after the five-year term expired. (Id.)
Some time during 2008 or 2009, Plaintiff became disabled. (Id.) Two years later, in April
2010, Plaintiff became “legally disabled.” (Id.) That same month, Plaintiff informed Bank of
America of her legal disability and that she was “on a small fixed income that would only
support the present loan modification.” (Id.) Despite knowledge of her disability and her fixed
income, Bank of America “refused to work with [the Plaintiff]” in modifying her loan. (Id. at
(ECF No. 69.) In accordance with my order (ECF No. 68), Plaintiff has until October 17, 2017 to
file a response, after which time, I will consider the motion to be fully briefed.
I cite Plaintiff’s amended complaint by ECF page number because of duplicative paragraphs in
the amended complaint.
I may consider the mortgage documents because Plaintiff relies on them in her complaint. See
Cortec Industries, Inc. v. Sum Holdings, L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 48 (2d Cir. 1991)(“Where Plaintiff
has actual notice of all the information in a movant’s papers and has relied upon these documents
in framing the complaint the necessity of translating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one under Rule
56 is largely dissipated.”)(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
10.) Bank of America “deliberate[ly] stall[ed]” the loan modification process. (Id. at 3.) Bank
of America’s delays caused Plaintiff to restart the loan modification application process six times
in two years. (Id. at 10.) Bank of America also dispatched an agent on six different occasions to
post foreclosure notices on Plaintiff’s front door. (Id.)
Beginning in February 2014, Bank of America – without Plaintiff’s permission – began
calling her using an “automatic telephone dialing system.” (Id. at 11.) Using that system, over
the next fourteen months until April 2015, Bank of America called Plaintiff’s cellular and home
phones “no less than 104 times.” (Id.) The next month, on May 6, 2015, Plaintiff contacted
Bank of America and Specialized Loan Servicing for “Investor Information pertaining to her
supposed mortgage debt.” (Id. at 10.) Neither Bank of America nor Specialized Loan Services
responded. (Id.) Specialized Loan Servicing, however, did send a “strange man” driving a “blue
Prius type vehicle” to Plaintiff’s home. (Id. at 11.) On November 5, 2015, Plaintiff received a
delinquency notice. (Id. at 12.)
In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), I must construe the complaint
liberally, “accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and drawing all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff’s favor.” Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir.
2002). A court may allow a case to proceed only if the complaint pleads “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded
content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
When a plaintiff submits a complaint pro se, the court must construe the allegations liberally,
raising “the strongest arguments [they] suggest.” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d. 636, 639 (2d Cir.
2007). A pro se plaintiff, however, still must meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Hogan
v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013)(“[A] pro se complaint must state a plausible claim
for relief.”)(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
At the outset, I note that the amended complaint names Wells Fargo as a defendant but
makes no allegations concerning any conduct that Wells Fargo allegedly engaged in that gave
rise to any of Plaintiff’s claims. She only makes a single allegation concerning it: that on
January 19, 2005, there was a release of the mortgage from “what looks like [Wells Fargo.]”
(ECF No. 17 at 6.) Even liberally construed, this does not describe actionable conduct.
Accordingly, because there are no allegations to support her causes of action against Wells
Fargo, all of Plaintiff’s claims against Wells Fargo are dismissed. I now consider Bank of
America’s motion to dismiss the claims against it.
A. The ADA and Rehabilitation Act Claims (count 1)
In count one, Plaintiff invokes Title II of the ADA -- 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134 and 28
C.F.R. §§ 35 --, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and 28 C.F.R. § 36. (ECF No.17 at 12.) Her Title II claims
fail – for the same reason noted in the Court’s earlier order – because Bank of America is a
private entity (a national banking association), not a “public entity,” and as a private entity, it
may not be sued under Title II. (ECF No. 12 at 11); see Positano v. Zimmer, 2013 WL
12084482, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 9, 2013)(observing Title II “does not [apply to] private
individuals or private entities”); Warren v. Goord, 2006 WL 1582385, at *17 (W.D.N.Y. May
26, 2006)(noting “Title II of the ADA does not recognize a cause of action for discrimination by
private [entities], but rather, only public entities”)(internal quotation marks and citations
Her claim under 29 U.S.C. § 794 suffers from a similar flaw, which was also noted in the
Court’s earlier order: she does not allege, as she must, that she was subject to discrimination
under a program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, and other than her conclusory
allegation that she is “legally disabled,” she does not allege that she is a “qualified individual
with a disability.” (ECF No. 12 at 11.) That claim is therefore dismissed.
Finally, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under 28 C.F.R. § 36. First, that regulation
implements Title III, not Title II, of the ADA, and Plaintiff makes no claim under Title III. 28
C.F.R. 36.101 (a)(“The purpose of this part is to implement subtitle A of title III of the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990…”) In any event, that rule applies to “any (1) public
accommodation; (2) commercial facility; or (3) private entity that offers examinations or courses
related to applications licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary
education, professional, or trade purposes.” Id. at § 36.102. Plaintiff makes no allegation that
the regulation applies to Bank of America (nor are there factual allegations in the complaint that
B. The TCPA Claim (count 2)
Plaintiff has plausibly stated a claim that Bank of America violated the TCPA. Under the
TCPA, it is unlawful for any person within the United States to make any call using an “automatic
telephone dialing system . . . to any telephone number assigned to . . . any service for which the
called party is charged for the call . . . .” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1). An “automatic telephone dialing
system” is equipment that can call telephone numbers that are stored or produced “using a random
or sequential number generator . . . .” Id. at § 227(a)(1). There is a private right of action for
violations of this law. Id. at § 227(b)(3).
Plaintiff alleges that Bank of America called her cellar and home phones at least 104 times
using an “automatic telephone dialing system.” (ECF No. 17 at 31-32.) She also alleges, contrary
to Bank of America’s assertion, that she did not give Bank of America consent to call her cell
phone. (Id. at 31.) As with her initial complaint, she does not specifically allege that she was
“charge[d] for the call[s]” but, when all reasonable inferences are drawn in her favor, it is
reasonable to conclude that she was charged at least for the use of her cell phone.
Bank of America’s arguments are without merit. Bank of America cites Lundestedt v.
Deutsche Bank, Nat’l Trust Co., No, 3:13-cv-001423, 2016 WL 3101999, at *4 (D. Conn. June 2,
2016) for the proposition that “simply alleging that defendants used an [an automatic telephone
dialing system] is fatal to a plaintiff’s claim.” (ECF No. 49-1 at 13.) That case is plainly
distinguishable from this one because there, unlike here, “[p]laintiff did not plead in his complaint
either that he was called on a cellular phone or that defendants used ATDS.” Lundestedt, 2016
WL 3101999 at *4 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Bank of America also argues
the TCPA claim fails – without citing any authority – because the amended complaint does not
distinguish between the calls Plaintiff received in violation of the TCPA and the calls Plaintiff
received in connection with the loan modification process. (ECF No. 49-1 at 13.) But the amended
complaint need not do so to plead a cognizable claim, and its allegations regarding Bank of
America are reasonably specific and, in any event, suggest that Bank of America was calling her
more than necessary to discuss a loan modification. (ECF No. 17 at 31)(“Defendant [Bank of
America]…has [not complied] with [the TCPA] by using an automatic telephone dialing system
to call the Plaintiff’s cellular and home phone number no less than 104 times.”)
C. The CCPA Claim (count 3)
The CCPA makes it unlawful for a creditor to use “any abusive, harassing, fraudulent,
deceptive or misleading representation, device or practice to collect or attempt to collect any
debt.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 36a-646. First, Bank of America argues that Plaintiff has failed to
allege that it was a “creditor” within the CCPA. (ECF No. 49-1 at 14.) Plaintiff alleges that
Bank of America assumed her loan from Countrywide, and that she entered into a loan
modification agreement with Bank of America. (ECF No. 17 at 7, 10.) Those allegations easily
satisfy the CCPA’s definition of a creditor which includes “any person to whom a debt is owed
by a consumer debtor and such debt results from a transaction occurring in the ordinary course of
such person’s business . . . .” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 36a-645(2). Bank of America next argues that
there are no allegations that it was engaged in “any abusive, harassing, fraudulent, deceptive or
misleading representation, device or practice.” (ECF No. 49-1 at 14.) Calling the Plaintiff
nearly 7 times a month for 14 months concerning a debt without her permission and sending an
agent no less than six times to post foreclosure notices on her property amount to harassing and
abusive conduct.4 (ECF No. 17 at 10-11.) Finally, Bank of America argues that the CCPA claim
fails because Plaintiff failed to plead the claim with particularity as required under Fed. R. Civ.
P. 9(b). Rule 9(b) applies to averments of fraud or mistake, neither of which is essential to a
CCPA claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b)(“In alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with
particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.”) And the case Bank of America
cites for that proposition does not apply Rule 9(b)’s requirement to the abusive and harassing
elements of the CCPA claim. See Claude v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, 2014 WL 4073215, at
The Court assumed in its January 22, 2016 order that the 104 calls were evenly divided over the
fourteen months Plaintiff alleged that she received them. (ECF No. 12 at 8.) The same
assumption is made here.
* 6 (D. Conn. Aug. 14, 2014)(“…The Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts required by Rule 9(b)
to maintain a claim that Wells Fargo used a fraudulent, deceptive or misleading representation,
device or practice…..There remains, however, the issue of whether the Plaintiff has alleged any
abusive or harassing behavior in violation of [the CCPA.]”)(internal quotation marks and
D. Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (count 5)
Plaintiff asserts a claim for breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing. (ECF No. 17
at 35.) But she makes no factual allegations as to that count. Accordingly, that claim is
E. Remaining Counts (counts 4 and 6)
Plaintiff also claims violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 242, 471-474. These are federal criminal
statutes and do not provide a private right of action. Sheehy v. Brown, 335 Fed. Appx. 102, 104
(2d Cir. 2009)(“[F]ederal criminal statutes do not provide private causes of action”)(internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). Accordingly, counts four and six of the amended
complaint are dismissed.
For the foregoing reasons, (i) Wells Fargo’s motion to dismiss is granted; and (ii) Bank of
America’s motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. The following claims remain
against Bank of America: the TCPA claim (count 2) and the CCPA claim (count 3). The Clerk is
directed to terminate Wells Fargo as a defendant from the case.
Bank of America also moves to dismiss this claim and the TCPA claim on the grounds that
those claims are time barred, but as discussed above, Plaintiff alleges Bank of America called her
no less than 104 times between February 2014 and April 2015 – conduct that is plainly within
the statute of limitations.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
October 5, 2017
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