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Iglesia Cristiana El Buen Samaritano, Inc., et al v. Guardian Services

November 21, 2011

IGLESIA CRISTIANA EL BUEN SAMARITANO, INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GUARDIAN SERVICES, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



[CONSENT CASE]

ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

This Cause is before the Court on Plaintiff Regions Bank's motion to dismiss Counts II, III, and IV of Defendants' amended counterclaim or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement on Count II (DE 38). Co-Plaintiff Iglesia Cristiana El Buen Samaritano, Inc. joins in Regions' motion (DE 39). After reviewing the motion and associated briefing, and the pertinent portions of the record, the court will grant the motion in part as to Count III, for the reasons outlined below.

Background

Plaintiffs Iglesia and Regions brought this quiet title action against Defendants Guardian Services, LLC, The Liberty Group, Inc., and Bradley W. Skolnik, as receiver for Guardian and Liberty. Subsequently, Michael J. Rusnak was substituted for Skolnik as Liberty and Guardian's receiver. The Defendants counterclaimed for breach of the trust indentures (Count I), foreclosure (Count II), unjust enrichment (Count III), equitable lien (Count IV), and indemnification (Count V). The Court has diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Briefly, the background facts as alleged in the amended counterclaim (DE 37) are as follows: Between 1996 and 2003, Iglesia granted three mortgages to either Liberty or Guardian totaling approximately $4.5 million. In December 2004, an employee of Guardian, in response to a request from someone at Iglesia, sent an "estoppel letter" to Iglesia, indicating that the payoff value of all the mortgage loan balances was $3,296,228.00. In fact, that amount understated the balance by more than $1 million and, according to Defendants, arose out of an extensive fraud.*fn1 Nevertheless, relying on the estoppel letter, Iglesia wired money in the amount stated in the letter to Liberty, and the parties now dispute whether the mortgages have been satisfied or should be satisfied.

Standard of Review

In reviewing a motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts must be taken as true. Jackson v. Okaloosa County, Fla., 21 F.3d 1531, 1534 (11th Cir. 1994). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

Under the plausibilitystandard announced by the Supreme Court in Twombly, the facts pled in the complaint must "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" corroborating the plaintiff's claim. 550 U.S. at 556. When the plaintiffs "have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed." Id. at 570. Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must set forth sufficient factual matter to state a claim that is facially plausible; a claim is facially plausible when "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. Where the allegations in the complaint do not allow the court to "infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct," the plaintiff has not shown that he is entitled to relief. Id.

Count II

Regions first moves to dismiss Count II for failure to state a cause of action for foreclosure. Regions relies on Florida Rule of Civil Procedure Form 1.944, which can be used for a foreclosure action.*fn2 In particular, Regions points to paragraph 5, which states: "Defendant has defaulted under the note and mortgage by failing to pay the payment due .....(date)....., and all subsequent payments." Regions argues that the counterclaim should be dismissed because it does not allege the date of default.

In deciding a motion to dismiss, a federal court sitting in diversity must look to the liberal pleading standards of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:

Although Florida substantive law applies to this diversity action, federal procedural law governs. While Florida requires, perhaps wisely, specific allegations of publication in the complaint, . . . a federal court need not adhere to a state's strict pleading requirements but should instead follow Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). In contrast to Florida's strict pleading requirements, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), simply requires that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." This requirement means the complaint need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."

Caster v. Hennessey, 781 F.2d 1569, 1570 (11th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted). Under Rule 8(a)'s liberal pleading requirements, a complaint need not even allege every element of a cause of action so long as it contains sufficient "inferential allegations from which [the court] can identify each of the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683-84 (11th Cir. 2001).

Although the form mentions the date, Regions does not cite any law to support the argument that the date is an element which must be alleged even under Florida's more-rigid pleading requirements. The mere fact that the date is included in an illustrative form does ...


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