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Stiriling v. Ramsey

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 19, 2018

JAMISON STIRILING, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES RAMSEY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint by Defendants John Ramsey; WMAC 2013, LLC; WMAC 2014, LLC; Richard Robinson; Carlton Black; Michael DeLuca; Chad Cooper; Invest Services, LLC; Christiana Trust, a Division of Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB; and Deed Co. LLC (collectively "Defendants"). (ECF No. 72) Also pending is a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants St. Louis County Collector of Revenue; Ashley Greely, employee of St. Louis County Department of Revenue; Richard Robinson, Manager of Revenue Services as an employee of St. Louis County Department of Revenue; and Mark Devore, Collector of Revenue for St. Louis County Department of Revenue (collectively "County Defendants"). (ECF No. 69) In response to the County Defendants' motion, Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Continuance Pursuant to Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 78) Upon thorough review of the motions and related documents, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Background

         On September 27, 2017, Plaintiff acting pro se filed a First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 86) Plaintiff, as the owner of 11931 Roseview Lane, St. Louis, Missouri 63138 ("Property"), failed to pay real estate taxes owed on the Property for the years 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. (County Defs.' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts ["SUMF"] ¶ 1, ECF No. 70) On August 24, 2014, the Property was sold to Defendant WMAC 2014, LLC for $13, 129.00, which amount equaled the unpaid real estate taxes owed. (Id. at ¶ 2) WMAC 2014, LLC received a Tax Sale Certificate of Purchase for the Property on that same date. (Id. at ¶ 3) No other person or entity was involved in the purchase of the Property. (Id.) On February 18, 2017, WMAC 2014, LLC filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus against Defendant Mark R. Devore, the St. Louis County Collector of Revenue, seeking the issuance and recording of a Collector's Deed for the Property, which was then issued on May 4, 2017. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-6) In his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants violated his constitutional rights in the sale and purchase of the Property.[1] Plaintiff also alleges fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, an action to quiet title, civil conspiracy, slander of title, unfair debt collection practices, and an action for declaratory judgment.

         II. Legal Standards

         With regard to motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must be dismissed if it fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45- 46 (1957)). While the Supreme Court cautioned that the holding does not require a heightened fact pleading of specifics, "a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his' entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555.

         Courts must liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the factual allegations as true. See Id. at 555; see also Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (stating that in a motion to dismiss, courts accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint); Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (explaining that courts should liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff). Further a court should not dismiss the complaint simply because the court is doubtful that the plaintiff will be able to prove all of the necessary factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. However, "[w]here the allegations show on the face of the complaint there is some insuperable bar to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate." Benton v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 524 F.3d 866, 870 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Courts '"are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). When considering a motion to dismiss, a court can "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations to survive a motion to dismiss. Id.

         "Summary judgment is proper 'if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2)). "At the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (citation omitted).

         The moving party has the initial burden to establish the non-existence of any genuine issue of fact that is material to a judgment in its favor. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988); see also Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042. To meet this burden, the movant must inform the district court of the basis for the motion "and must identify 'those portions of [the record] ... which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'" Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). When the movant meets this burden, "the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). '"Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (quoting Matsushita Elec, 475 U.S. at 587). Conclusory allegations are insufficient to establish a material question of fact required to defeat summary judgment. Boude v. City of Raymore, Missouri, 855 F.3d 930, 935 (8th Cir. 2017); Quinn v. St. Louis Cty., 653 F.3d 745, 752 (8th Cir. 2011).

         "Rule 56(d) . . . authorizes a district court to defer considering a motion for summary judgment if a party opposing the motion 'shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition.'" Chambers v. Travelers Companies, Inc., 668 F.3d 559, 568 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d)). "Rule 56(d), however, 'is not a shield that can be raised to block a motion for summary judgment without even the slightest showing by the opposing party that his opposition is meritorious.'" All-Am. Hose, LLC v. LaBarge Prod., Inc., No. 4:12CV215 TIA, 2013 WL 64524, at *5 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 4, 2013) (quoting Duffy v. Wolle, 123 F.3d 1026, 1040 (8th Cir.1997)). Merely speculating that the party moving for summary judgment controls relevant facts is an insufficient basis to defer consideration of a summary judgment motion. Id. at *6.

         III. Discussion

         A. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss Counts II through IX of Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed. R Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Defendants allege that Plaintiffs complaint fails to make any factual allegations at all and should therefore be dismissed. The Court agrees that dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is warranted as to Defendants John Ramsey; WMAC 2013, LLC; WMAC 2014, LLC; Richard Robinson; Carlton Black; Michael DeLuca; Chad Cooper; Invest Services, LLC; Christiana Trust, a Division of Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB; and Deed Co. LLC.

         i. Count II Fraud

         In Count II against Defendants John Ramsey, Richard Robinson, Carlton Black, Michael DeLuca, Chad Cooper, and "Alter Ego Entities," Plaintiff alleges that these named Defendants fraudulently concealed and transferred assets to purchase Tax Sale Certificates, including Plaintiffs Property.[2] To state a claim for fraud under Missouri law, a plaintiff must allege:

"(1) a false, material representation; (2) the speaker's knowledge of the falsity or his ignorance of the truth; (3) the speaker's intent that the hearer act upon the representation in a manner reasonably contemplated; (4) the hearer's ignorance of the representation; (5) the hearer's reliance on the truth of the representation; (6) the hearer's right to rely thereon; and (7) the hearer's consequent and proximately caused injury."

Kulovic v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, L.P., No. 4:10-CV-2058 CAS, 2011 WL 1483374, at *12-13 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 19, 2011) (quoting Kempton v. Dugan, 224 S.W.3d 83, 87 (Mo.Ct.App. 2007)). "When a plaintiff alleges a defendant committed fraud, Rule 9(b) requires the plaintiff to 'state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud.'" McKay v. GMAC Mortg., LLC, No. 4:10CV507 CDP, 2010 WL 2518590, at *2 (E.D. Mo. June 14, 2010) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b)). '"Conclusory allegations that a defendant's conduct was fraudulent and deceptive are not sufficient to satisfy the rule.'" Id. (quoting Commercial Prop. v. Quality Inns Int'l, 61 F.3d 639, 644 (8th Cir. 1995)).

         Here, Plaintiff merely states conclusory allegations based on information and belief. However, "[a]negations pleaded on information and belief usually do not meet Rule 9(b)'s particularity requirement." Drobnak v. Andersen Corp.,561 F.3d 778, 783 (8th Cir. 2009). Allegations pleaded on information and belief may satisfy Rule 9(b) only where "the facts constituting the fraud are peculiarly within the opposing party's knowledge." Id. at 783-84 (citation omitted). Such allegations must be "accompanied by a statement of facts on which the belief is founded." Id. at 784 (citation omitted). The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts to support his conclusory allegations of fraud against Defendants John Ramsey, Richard ...


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