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Wills v. James B. Nutter Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

November 9, 2017

LARRY D. WILLS, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES B. NUTTER & COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Pending are two motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Champion Mortgage Company Inc., Champion Mortgage Reverse Mortgage Servicing Department, Nationstar Mortgage LLC d/b/a Champion Mortgage Company, Nationstar Mortgage, Nationstar Mortgage Holdings, Fortress Investment Group LLC, and SouthLaw P.C. Docs. #7, 12. For the following reasons, both motions are granted. Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants, except James B. Nutter & Company, [1] are dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, filed this action against James B. Nutter & Company (“Nutter”); Champion Mortgage Company Inc., Champion Mortgage Reverse Mortgage Servicing Department, Nationstar Mortgage LLC d/b/a Champion Mortgage Company, Nationstar Mortgage, and Nationstar Mortgage Holdings (collectively “Nationstar Defendants”); Fortress Investment Group LLC (“Fortress”); and SouthLaw P.C. (“SouthLaw”). Doc. #4. Plaintiff asserts several claims against Defendants related to the foreclosure of Plaintiff's mother's property, and his title rights to the property. Id.

         The Nationstar Defendants, Fortress, and SouthLaw move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. Doc. #7, 12. After Plaintiff failed to response to the motions to dismiss, the Court issued an order directing Plaintiff to show cause why the Court should not grant Defendants' motions. Doc. #16. In response, Plaintiff submitted a letter, and asked for additional time to respond to Defendants' motions to dismiss. Docs. #19, 21. The Court granted Plaintiff's request. Doc. #22. On October 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed a response to the motions to dismiss. Doc. #27. Thereafter, Defendants filed their replies. Docs. #30-31. These two motions to dismiss are now ripe for consideration.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Collectively, the Nationstar Defendants, Fortress, and SouthLaw argue Plaintiff's claims against them should be dismissed for several reasons: (1) the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents this Court from having legal authority to consider Plaintiff's claims, (2) Plaintiff's claims are barred by res judicata, (3) Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, (4) Plaintiff lacks standing, and (5) the matter is barred by Missouri Rule 67.01.

         A. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         This is the third action Plaintiff has filed based upon similar facts. In October 2016, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the same Defendants in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri.[2] Case No. 1616-CV25841 (“2016 state court matter”); Doc. #13-1. In the 2016 state court matter, Plaintiff sought declaratory relief finding him the rightful holder of title to property located at 3719 College Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64128, and requested judgment against the same Defendants in this matter. The 2016 state court matter arose from a reverse mortgage and note entered into between Lela Wills, the now-deceased borrower, and Champion. Upon Wills's death, the reverse mortgage became due and payable, and the property at issue was foreclosed upon ultimately.[3] Plaintiff sought to quiet title and obtain an injunction declaring him the sole owner of the property at issue. On March 8, 2017, the Honorable Joel Fahnestock dismissed Plaintiff's 2016 state court matter because he failed to state a claim upon relief could be granted against SouthLaw, and lacked standing to bring his claims against the Nationstar Defendants and Fortress. Doc. #8-2; Doc. #13-4. Plaintiff did not appeal the dismissal.

         One week later, on March 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed another lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, against the same Defendants. Case No. 1716-CV06602 (“2017 state court matter”); Doc. #8-3; Doc. #13-6. Instead of seeking quiet title, Plaintiff asserted claims of breach of fiduciary trust, violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, and wrongful foreclosure. On June 19, 2017, the Honorable Dale Youngs dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the Nationstar Defendants and Fortress because Plaintiff lacked standing, and even if he had standing, Plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Judge Youngs dismissed the entire lawsuit with prejudice. Doc. #8-4; Doc. #13-7. Plaintiff did not appeal the dismissal.

         Two days later, on June 21, 2017, Plaintiff initiated this matter. He brings a “suit in equity, wrongful foreclosure, quiet title, fraud, Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.” Although these claims appear in the caption, and at the bottom of every page of his Complaint, Plaintiff's Complaint also refers to violations of civil rights, breach of fiduciary trust, and the Uniform Commercial Code. The Nationstar Defendants, Fortress, and SouthLaw move to dismiss this matter, arguing this Court does not have jurisdiction to hear this matter.

         A lower federal court, such as this Court, is generally without jurisdiction (that is, legal authority) to hear “challenges to state court decisions in particular cases arising out of judicial proceedings even if those challenges allege that that state court's action was unconstitutional.” Dist. of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983). Federal courts, with the exception of the United States Supreme Court, do not have jurisdiction over an appeal of a state court decision. Id.; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1257; Keene Corp. v. Cass, 908 F.2d 293, 296 (8th Cir. 1990). The Eighth Circuit holds the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes jurisdiction over “cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Edwards v. City of Jonesboro, 645 F.3d 1014, 1018 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)).

         Plaintiff seeks the same redress in this Court for the injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit. It also appears Plaintiff wants this Court to reconsider the state court's decisions in the 2016 and 2017 state court matters. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits this Court from reconsidering claims already brought and considered by a state court. Simply, this Court does not have jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's challenge to state court actions. For this reason alone, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.

         B. ...


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