United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the Court on Defendant United States of
America, on behalf of the United States Department of
Agriculture, Rural Housing Service (“USDA”)'s
Motion to Dismiss, [Doc. No. 45], Defendant John
Robinson's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative,
Motion to Stay the Proceedings, [Doc. No. 68], and Defendant
Ann L. Mell's Motion to Dismiss, [Doc. No.
For the reasons set forth below, the Motions will be granted.
March 1, 2018, plaintiff Vance Clark
(“Plaintiff”), acting pro se, filed this lawsuit
in the St. Francois County, Missouri, Circuit Court against
the United States of America (the “United
States”) concerning a property Plaintiff purchased in
2009 using a loan from the United States Department of
Agriculture, (“USDA”). The United States, on
behalf of the USDA (“Defendant”) subsequently
removed this case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
November 2009, Plaintiff purchased property located at 3416
Hildebrecht Road, Doe Run, Missouri 63637 (the
“Hildebrecht Property”). To finance the purchase,
Plaintiff sought and obtained a $122, 000 loan from the USDA.
Plaintiff executed a Deed of Trust in favor of the USDA,
which the USDA recorded with the St. Francois County Recorder
of Deeds at Document No. 2009R-10926, and rerecorded at
condition of the loan, Plaintiff was required to obtain
property insurance. Plaintiff applied for and received a
homeowner's insurance policy from Farm Bureau Town and
Country Company of Missouri (hereinafter, “Farm
Bureau”). In September 2010, the Hildebrecht Property
suffered damage from fire. Plaintiff submitted a claim to
Farm Bureau, which denied coverage.
December 28, 2010, Farm Bureau filed a lawsuit in Missouri
state court naming Plaintiff and the USDA. See Mo.
No. 10SF-CC00289 (St. Francois County) (the “Farm
Bureau Lawsuit”). Farm Bureau alleged that on the
application for insurance, Plaintiff concealed the fact that
he had prior felony convictions. Farm Bureau alleged that the
USDA, as the mortgagee on the Hildebrecht Property, was
“subject to the same terms, exclusions, and conditions
that apply to the named insured.” The United States
counter-claimed, alleging Farm Bureau owed the United States
for the property loss under the homeowner's policy
because the United States was the mortgagee on the property.
Bureau and the USDA settled the claims between them, whereby
Farm Bureau agreed to pay the USDA an undisclosed amount of
money. On February 21, 2014, the USDA and Farm Bureau agreed
to a voluntary dismiss the USDA from the Farm Bureau Lawsuit.
USDA applied the settlement proceeds to the outstanding
balance of Plaintiff's loan, although the settlement was
insufficient to satisfy the outstanding principal balance.
Farm Bureau is still prosecuting the Farm Bureau Lawsuit
against Plaintiff in the state court.
stopped making payments to the USDA on the remaining balance
of the $122, 000 loan. On February 21, 2012, the USDA sent
via certified mail an acceleration letter pursuant to the
promissory note signed by Plaintiff, demanding full payment
of the outstanding loan balance and accrued interest. When
Plaintiff failed to comply, the USDA contacted the caretaker
of Plaintiff's property, notifying him that the USDA
intended to foreclose on Plaintiff's property.
April 30, 2018, the Substitute Trustee under the Deed of
Trust conducted a foreclosure sale of the Hildebrecht
Property. The foreclosure sale netted a total of eleven
thousand dollars ($11, 000.00) in proceeds. Because the
foreclosure sale did not satisfy the outstanding principal
balance on the loan, there were no excess proceeds to remit
August 22, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a
fourth amended petition. Plaintiff filed his fourth amended
petition on August 27, 2018. In the fourth amended petition,
Plaintiff names Defendants United States, John Robinson, and
Ann L. Mell.
raises five counts in his fourth amended petition. In Counts
I and II, Plaintiff requests a declaratory judgment
interpreting provisions of the homeowner's contract
between Plaintiff and the Farm Bureau, and alleges the USDA
breached the terms of that contract. Count III alleges the
USDA wrongfully seized $1, 240.00 of Plaintiff's tax
refund, and alleges that Plaintiff sustained injury when the
United States removed his state court litigation to this
Court. Plaintiff demands the United States pay him damages
because the United States removed this case to federal court.
Count IV, Plaintiff once again alleges that the United States
breached the terms of his homeowner's insurance policy.
He further alleges that the defendants “had a meeting
of minds in circumventing Plaintiff's rights, ”
when it removed this case to federal court prior to him
having a hearing before the state-court judge. Plaintiff
further alleges that the foreclosure of his property was
wrongful and fraudulent. In Count V, Plaintiff alleges that
the United States and the individual defendants engaged in a
“conspiracy” causing Plaintiff damages.
USDA moves to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Defendant Mell moves to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.
Defendant Robinson moves to dismiss or alternatively stay
this proceeding pursuant to the Colorado River
“In order to properly dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), the complaint must
be successfully challenged on its face or on the factual
truthfulness of its averments.” Titus v.
Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th Cir. 1993) (Osborn v.
United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990)).
“In a facial challenge to jurisdiction, the court
presumes all of the factual allegations concerning
jurisdiction to be true and will grant the motion only if the
plaintiff fails to allege an element necessary for subject
matter jurisdiction.” Young Am. Corp. v. Affiliated
Comput. Servs., 424 F.3d 840, 843-44 (8th Cir. 2005)
(citing Titus, 4 F.3d at 593). In a factual
challenge to jurisdiction, “there is substantial
authority that the trial court is free to weigh the evidence
and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear
the case.” Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730. “In
short, no presumptive truthfulness attaches to
plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed
material facts will not preclude the trial court from
evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional
claims.” Iowa League of Cities v. EPA, 711
F.3d 844, 861 (8th Cir. 2013) (citing Osborn, 918
F.2d 724, 730). The plaintiff has the burden of proving
jurisdiction exists. Kennedy Bldg. Assocs. v. Viacom,
Inc., 375 F.3d 731, 745 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing Cty.
of Los Angeles v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631, 99 S.Ct.
1379, 59 L.Ed.2d 642 (1979)). “Once the evidence is
submitted, the district court must decide the jurisdictional
issue, not simply rule that there is or is not enough
evidence to have a trial on the issue.”
Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730.
issues, whether they involve questions of law or of fact, are
for the court to decide.” Id. at 729.
“Moreover, because jurisdiction is a threshold
question, judicial economy demands that the issue be decided
at the outset rather than deferring it ...