Nwonwu v. Brill Title Company
ORDER granting 19 motion to dismiss case. Clerk's Office ordered to mail a copy of order to Plaintiff's address of record. Signed District Judge M. Douglas Harpool November 21, 2022. (CLC)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CORDELIA O. NWONWU,
BRILL TITLE COMPANY,
Case No. 6:22-cv-03061-MDH
Before the Court is Defendant Brill Title Company’s (“Defendant’s”) Motion to Dismiss.
(Doc. 20). Pro se Plaintiff Cordelia O. Nwonwu (“Plaintiff”) responded to Defendant’s Motion
(Doc. 25) and Defendant’s responded in turn. (Doc. 26). For reasons herein, Defendant’s Motion
to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim is GRANTED.
Plaintiff filed three separate complaints against various defendants in the United States
District Court for the District of Columbia. (Doc. 1). Due to lack of venue in the District of
Columbia, Plaintiff’s cases were transferred to the Western District of Missouri. (Doc. 3). Though
unclear, Plaintiff appears to generally allege violation of various state and federal laws stemming
from a 2019 foreclosure of a residence in Willow Springs, Missouri. (Doc. 1 at 1). Plaintiff’s
compliant nearly mirrors other complaints Plaintiff filed under separate cause numbers,
implicating other defendants unnamed in the present complaint. Though unclear, Plaintiff appears
to allege Defendant acted as the title company associated with the real estate transaction underlying
Plaintiff’s allegations. (Doc. 1 at 1, 2). Plaintiff’s twenty-two page complaint references Defendant
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only a handful of times, rendering unclear how Plaintiff believes Defendant remains culpable visà-vis defendants listed in other complaints. Plaintiff alleges she obtained a loan from Zachary
Johnson (defendant in separate case) during January 2012, making regular payments on the loan
until December 2014. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 13.1, 15.2). Plaintiff alleges her debts were discharged via
Chapter VII bankruptcy. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 15.2a, 15.2b, 15.2.c). Plaintiff then contends Zachary
Johnson foreclosed her residence during June 2019. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 15.4, 15.5). Specific claims
Plaintiff raises against Defendant remain unclear. Overall, this Court believes Plaintiff intends to
allege the following specific causes of action against Defendant: 1) wrongful foreclosure; 2)
violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”); 3) violation of the Truth in
Lending Act (“TILA”); 4) breach of contract; 5) violation of Federal Trust and Lien Laws; 6)
slander of title; 7) slander of credit; 8) infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1 at 19-20).
A complaint must contain factual allegations, when accepted as true, sufficient to state a
claim of relief plausible on its face. Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 848 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The Court “must accept the allegations contained in
the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Coons
v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005) (internal citations omitted). The complaint’s factual
allegations must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level,” and the motion
to dismiss must be granted if the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). “The tenet that
a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal
conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
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statements, do not suffice. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Though
pro se complaints are to be construed liberally…they still must allege sufficient facts to support
the claims advanced.” Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).
It remains unclear how Plaintiff believes Defendant engaged in the alleged wrongful
foreclosure. In various parts of Plaintiff’s complaint dealing with other causes of action, Plaintiff
claims Defendant “aided” the lender and trustee in the alleged wrongful foreclosure. (Doc. 1 at 24). Plaintiff also claims Defendant recorded documents. (Doc. 1 at 20). Defendant generally argues
Plaintiff failed to implicate Defendant in her wrongful foreclosure allegations. (Doc. 20 at 4-5).
A wrongful foreclosure tort action requires Plaintiffs show: “(1) the commencement of a
foreclosure by sale (as distinguished from judicial action) of a deed of trust; (2) that at the time the
foreclosure proceeding began, there was no default on the defendant's part that would give rise to
a right to foreclose; so that (3) the foreclosure is absolutely void.” Union Bank v. Murphy, No.
4:10-CV-00714-DGK, 2012 WL 4404372, at *8 (W.D. Mo. Sept. 24, 2012) (citations omitted).
Plaintiff’s allegations fail to state a claim for wrongful foreclosure implicating Defendant, a title
company. Any reference to Defendant in the alleged wrongful foreclosure is merely conclusory,
void of sufficient alleged facts.
Defendant argues Plaintiff has generally failed to plead a prima facie FDCPA claim. (Doc. 20
at 5-6). Specifically, Defendant argues Plaintiff has failed to allege Defendant constitutes debt
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collectors within the meaning of the FDCPA statute. (Doc. 20 at 5-6). Plaintiff’s complaint does
not appear to specify under which provision of the FDCPA she intends to raise her claims.
Generally, though, an FDCPA claim requires: “(1) the plaintiff is a ‘consumer’ within the meaning
of the statute; (2) the defendant collecting the debt is a ‘debt collector’ within the meaning of the
statute; and (3) the defendant has violated by act or omission a provision of the FDCPA.” Somlar
v. Nelnet Inc., No. 4:16-CV-01037-AGF, 2017 WL 35703, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 4, 2017) (citations
omitted). The FDCPA statute defines “debt collector” as follows.
Any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any
business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly
collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be
owed or due another. 15 U.S.C.A. § 1692a.
Plaintiffs may not simply label in a complaint a defendant as a “debt collector” for statutory
purposes; rather, plaintiffs must plead sufficient facts to show defendants constitute “debt
collectors.” Somlar at 3. A creditor using its own name to collect its own debt fails to qualify as a
debt collector for FDCPA purposes. Duhart v. LRAA Collections, 652 F. App'x 483, 484 (8th Cir.
Taking Plaintiff’s complaint as a whole, Plaintiff appears to assert Defendant was simply
the title company associated with the real estate transaction. Plaintiff does not appear to allege
Defendant, a title company, constituted a debt collector. Plaintiff’s pleadings fail to establish
Defendant constitutes a debt collector for FDCPA statute purposes.
Plaintiff argues, “The defendant… aided [the trustee and lender] in violating the [TILA],
Regulation Z, 12 CFR § 226.23, which states that the security agreement signed with a lender can
be rescinded if they have not provided the proper disclosures.” (Doc. 1 at ¶ 3.1). Defendant argues
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Defendant is not a party to the debt contract nor the deed of trust, therefore having nothing to do
with the TILA allegations. (Doc. 20 at 6). This Court agrees with Defendant, as Plaintiff’s
allegations fail to implicate Defendant beyond mere conclusory statements.
Breach of Contract
Plaintiff appears to allege breach of contract against Defendant. (Doc. 1 at 11-12). Plaintiff
argues Defendant fails to allege the existence of a contract, a prerequisite for a breach of contract
allegation. (Doc. 20 at 6). This Court agrees with Defendant, as Plaintiff has failed to argue a
contract existed between Defendant and Plaintiff.
Federal Trust and Lien Laws Violation
Plaintiff claims Defendant, “violated Federal Trust and Lien Laws when he/she/it signed title
papers clearing the way for non-judicial foreclosure.” (Doc. 1 at 20). Defendant argues it remains
unclear what laws Plaintiff refers to, failing to assert any claim for which relief may be granted.
(Doc. 20 at 6-7). Defendant argues that, to the extent Plaintiff attempts to implicate any provision
of the Dodd-Frank Act, the act fails to allow private causes of action. (Doc. 20 at 6-7). This Court
agrees with Defendant. Plaintiff’s Count Five allegations are conclusory and state no cognizable
right to relief.
Slander of Title
Plaintiff asserts Defendant, “caused to be recorded various documents including a Notice of
Trustee Sale which has impaired [Plaintiff’s] title which constitutes slander of title.” (Doc. 1 at
20). Defendant argues Plaintiff has failed to allege Defendant published anything with malice.
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(Doc. 20 at 8). A slander of title claim under Missouri law requires, “1) some interest in the
property, 2) that the words published were false, 3) that the words were maliciously published, and
4) that [the Plaintiff] suffered pecuniary loss or injury as a result of the false statement.” Lau v.
Pugh, 299 S.W.3d 740, 748–49 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009) (citations omitted). Malice pleading in a
slander of title action requires, “factual allegations sufficient to create a plausible claim that [a
defendant] acted with a reckless disregard for the truth, despite a high degree of awareness of
probable falsity. Dunbar v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 709 F.3d 1254, 1258 (8th Cir. 2013) (citations
omitted). Plaintiff has failed to plead any facts indicating reckless disregard by Defendant.
Slander of Credit
Plaintiff alleges, “the actions and inactions of the defendant [have] impaired her credit.” (Doc.
1 at 2). Defendant argues generally that Missouri courts treat slander of credit claims as defamation
allegations and Plaintiff failed to plead a prima facie case. (Doc. 20 at 8). Defendant is correct that
Missouri courts analyze slander of credit allegations through a lens of defamation. Glanzer v. Bank
of Am., N.A., No. 14-0298-CV-W-REL, 2014 WL 6604788, at *11 (W.D. Mo. Nov. 20, 2014).
“The elements of a defamation claim are (1) publication, (2) of a defamatory statement, (3) that
identifies the claimant, (4) that is false, (5) that is published with the requisite degree of fault, and
(6) that damages the plaintiff's reputation.” Glanzer v. Bank of Am., N.A., No. 14-0298-CV-WREL, 2014 WL 6604788, at *11 (W.D. Mo. Nov. 20, 2014). Plaintiff simply claims Defendant’s
actions and inactions have impaired her credit. (Doc. 1 at 20). Plaintiff offers no additional facts
in support. Plaintiff’s allegations under Count Seven are simply conclusory and fail to plead a
prima facie defamation case.
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VIII. Infliction of Emotional Distress
Plaintiff asserts, “the defendants have intentionally or negligently taken actions which have
caused the plaintiffs severe emotional distress.” (Doc. 1 at 20). Plaintiff offers no additional facts
in support of this claim. Defendant argues generally Plaintiff has failed to plead a prima facie case
of either negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 20 at 9-10). This Court
agrees, finding Plaintiff’s claims to be conclusory, void of supporting factual allegations.
For foregoing reasons Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED. This Court
dismisses Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant with prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: November 21, 2022
/s/ Douglas Harpool______
United States District Judge
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