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Smulley v. Webster Financial Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 9, 2016



          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Pro se plaintiff Dorothy Smulley owns and lives in a condominium townhouse in Connecticut. In 2004, she allegedly executed a note to defendant Webster Financial Corporation (Webster), secured by a mortgage on the property. Plaintiff contends that, because of the subsequent assignment and securitization of her mortgage, she is now unable to confirm who currently owns the note and that there is a "cloud" over her ownership. She has filed this lawsuit against Webster, as well as against several other defendants whom she believes have some connection to her mortgage obligation. She alleges three claims: for quiet title to her property, for discharge of the lien against her property, and for an injunction preventing defendants from asserting any rights to the property. Defendants have moved to dismiss. Because plaintiff does not allege any facts that suffice to establish plausible grounds for relief, I will grant defendants' motions to dismiss. In addition, I will deny plaintiff's motion to recuse.


         The following facts are based on the allegations of plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff owns a condominium townhouse in Stratford, Connecticut. When she purchased the property, she executed a note for $140, 000 to defendant Webster, secured by a mortgage on the property. This mortgage was recorded on the land records. Defendant Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) is listed on the land records as nominee for Webster. Plaintiff alleges that Webster then transferred its right to the mortgage to defendant Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and that defendant J.P. Morgan Chase Bank is the loan servicer. Plaintiff states that she is continuing to pay her mortgage and that she is current on the payments. She further alleges:

Upon information and belief, no currently named defendant is a holder in due course of plaintiff's note. In fact, no true beneficiary existed after the claimed assignment by Webster because the interest in plaintiff's note, purportedly held by investors in the mortgage-backed securities, was destroyed by the parsing and combining of plaintiff's debt with other borrower's debts.

Doc. #1 at 10. Defendants have moved to dismiss the action.


         The background principles governing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss are well established. The Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same). Moreover, "'[a]lthough a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint, that tenet is inapplicable to legal conclusions, and threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice'" to survive a motion to dismiss. Ibid. (quoting Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir.2009)); see also Krys v. Pigott, 749 F.3d 117, 128 (2d Cir. 2014) (noting that court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual conclusion" or "to accept as true allegations that are wholly conclusory") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         To be sure, "[p]ro se complaints 'must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)). Still, even a pro se complaint must plead enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. "We have noted our obligation to construe pro se complaints liberally, even as we examine such complaints for factual allegations sufficient to meet the plausibility requirement." Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011). In short, my role in reviewing the motions to dismiss is to determine whether the complaint-apart from any of its conclusory allegations and construing its pro se allegations liberally-sets forth sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief.

         Quiet Title

         Plaintiff first seeks to quiet title to her property under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 47-31. The statute provides:

An action may be brought by any person claiming title to, or any interest in, real . . . property . . . against any person who may claim to own the property, or any part of it, or to have any estate in it . . . or to have any interest in the property, or any lien or encumbrance on it, adverse to the plaintiff . . . for the purpose of determining such adverse estate, interest, or claim, and to clear up all doubts and disputes and to quiet and settle the title to the property.

Id. An action to quiet title is "a judicial mechanism for parties asserting competing interests in real or personal property to settle the issue of title." Remington Investments, Inc. v. National Properties, Inc., 49 Conn.App. 789, 797 (1998).In accordance with the statutory language, an action for quiet title may only be maintained against defendants who assert an interest in the property that is adverse to the plaintiff's interest. See Gager v. Carlson, 146 Conn. 288, 289 (1959) (the plaintiff's and the defendant's asserted interest in the land must be "in controversy"); Loeb v. Al-Mor Corp., 615 A.2d 182, 186 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1991) (Schaller, J.).

         Here, plaintiff acknowledges that she took out a mortgage on her property. She does not allege that it was induced fraudulently, that she has paid off the complete balance of the mortgage, or that there is any other reason that the mortgage is no longer valid. Importantly, there is no genuine dispute between any of the parties over the status of the property. All parties agree that plaintiff is the owner ...

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