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Osagie v. U.S. Equities Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 24, 2017

ABEL OSAGIE Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. EQUITIES CORP., et al. Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Mr. Abel Osagie (“Mr. Osagie” or “Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint against Defendants U.S. Equities, Linda Strumpf (“Ms. Strumpf), and Joseph Doherty (“Judge Doherty”). Mr. Osagie brings six claims for relief, five against Defendants Strumpf and U.S. Equities, and one against Defendant Doherty, arising out of an action in Connecticut Superior Court in which Defendant U.S. Equities, represented by Ms. Strumpf, brought a complaint against Ms. Osagie's wife. In 2012, Defendant Doherty granted judgment against Ms. Osagie in this action. Before the Court are motions to dismiss from all Defendants. For the reasons that follow, these motions are GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         U.S. Equities is a New York corporation that does business in the State of Connecticut. Am. Compl. ¶ 3 (“Compl.”). Ms. Strumpf is an attorney in the State of Connecticut with office in New Canaan, Connecticut. Id. at ¶ 4. Judge Doherty was a Judge in the State of Connecticut Superior Court “at the time of his actions relevant to this case.” Id. at ¶ 5.

         On May 30, 2007, Mr. and Ms. Osagie signed an agreement with JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. for a home mortgage. Compl. ¶ 11. Ms. Osagie also used a Chase Bank credit card, which was subject to a cardmember agreement. Id. at ¶¶ 13-14; see also Credit Card Contract, Ex. 2 to Compl. (“Contract”), ECF No. 29-1. The Contract, Mr. Osagie alleges, included a choice of law clause stating that:

[t]he terms and enforcement of this Agreement and your account shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with Federal law and to the extent state law applies, the law of Delaware. Without regard to conflict-of-law principles, the law of Delaware where we and your account are located, will apply no matter where you live or use the account.

Id. at 4; see also Compl. ¶ 14. On July 1, 2007, Mr. and Ms. Osagie entered into an agreement, under which Mr. Osagie, “the indemnitor, ” was able to “use the credit from the joint open mortgage account with Chase Bank in financing his business ventures.” Ex. 5 to Compl. (“Indemnity Agreement”), ECF No. 29-1 at p. 33. The Chase Bank account at issue in the Complaint was listed in the agreement. Id. In the agreement, Mr. Osagie also agreed to “indemnify [Ms. Osagie] from any and all liability, loss, or damage [she] may suffer as a result of claims, demands, costs, or judgments . . . arising from the use of the accounts.” Id.

         In December 2008, because of a dispute about their Chase Bank mortgage, the Osagies “stopped paying on all the Chase Bank Accounts, ” including the credit card account. Id. at ¶ 20. In 2012, the Osagies raised claims against Chase relating to a mortgage dispute in a separate lawsuit in the District of Connecticut. Id. at ¶ 23 (citing Pride Acquisitions, LLC v. Osagie, No. 3:12-cv-00639-JCH (2015)).

         Meanwhile, U.S. Equities acquired Ms. Osagie's credit card agreement from Chase Bank. Compl. ¶ 24. Ms. Strumpf, a lawyer for U.S. Equities, wrote a demand letter to Ms. Osagie on August 2, 2011, identifying herself and Defendant U.S. Equities as the successors in interest to her Chase Bank credit card agreement. Id. at ¶ 25. Ms. Osagie informed her husband about this notice. Id. at ¶ 27. Mr. Osagie “promptly informed Ms. Strumpf through a series of communications (phone calls, fax) with her and staff of her law office that no money was owed to Chase Bank on [the Chase account] since the account was damaged by Chase Bank and that whatever was transferred to U.S. Equities Corp. was worthless.” Id. at ¶ 27.

         Defendants Strumpf and U.S. Equities attempted to collect the debt for the next nine months. Id. at ¶ 30. Then, on May 11, 2012, Ms. Osagie received a summons from the Connecticut Superior Court in Danbury, alleging. Id. at ¶ 31. Judge Doherty presided over the case. See U.S. Equities Corp. v. Osagie, No. DBD-CV-126009745-S available at http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/GetDocket.aspx (“Docket”).[1]

         On September 18, 2012, Ms. Osagie moved to substitute Mr. Osagie in the Superior Court action, claiming that Mr. Osagie was the assignee of the account and the “true owner of the rights under the [Chase account].” Compl. ¶ 32; see also Docket, ECF No. 104. On October 1, 2012, Judge Doherty denied this motion. See Docket, 104.05. On October 10, Ms. Osagie moved the Superior Court to reconsider this decision. Id. at 107.00. Twelve days later, Judge Doherty denied this request. Id. at 105.05.

         On January 17, 2013, Ms. Osagie filed an answer to U.S. Equities' Amended Complaint, raising two special defenses. First, she claimed that Chase Bank had breached the Contract before assigning the underlying debt to U.S. Equities, and, second, she argued that U.S. Equities had “dirty hands, ” and was “acting in concert with Chase Bank … in order to make it difficult for [the Osagies] to bring Chase Bank to justice by increasing the number of entities [the Ms. Osagie] ha[d] to chase (no pun intended) after.” Docket, No. 117.00, (Answer), p. 6.[2] On October 29, 2013, U.S. Equities moved for summary judgment. Id. at 118.00.

         On November 1, 2013, Ms. Osagie moved to join Mr. Osagie as a third party plaintiff and to implead Chase Bank. ECF No. 120.00. The motion was denied on November 14, 2013. Id. at 120.05. On December 2, 2013, Ms. Osagie moved the Superior Court to dismiss U.S. Equities' amended complaint, arguing that the Contract mandated that Delaware law apply to all disputes between the parties and therefore deprived the Superior Court of subject matter jurisdiction over the action. Id. at 120.00; Motion to Dismiss in DBD-CV-12-6009745-S, Ex. B to Mot. for Jud. Notice, ECF No. 27-2, p. 90. The Court denied the motion on December 23, 2013. Docket, ECF No. 126.50. Judge Doherty granted summary judgment as to Ms. Osagie's liability on January 22, 2014. On March 31, 2014, Judge Doherty docketed a memorandum of decision, in which he explained his reasons for denying Ms. Osagie's motion to join Mr. Osagie and implead Chase Bank, as well as his reasons for denying her motion to dismiss. Id. at 126.50.

         In his decision, Judge Doherty specifically referred to Ms. Osagie's argument that Connecticut law did not apply to the transaction at issue. He stated that:

The basis of the defendant's motion to dismiss is that the alleged credit card agreement, which the defendant claims governs this matter, states that Federal law and Delaware law governs the terms of the card member agreement and, since Delaware law may apply, this court has no subject matter jurisdiction. However, since the basis of the complaint is an account stated, the card member agreement would not be applicable. Even if the laws of another state would apply to this case, that would not deprive this court of subject matter jurisdiction.

         Mem. of Decision, Docket, ECF No. 126.50. Judge Doherty explained that the court had subject matter jurisdiction over the debt collection case because Ms. Osagie resided in Connecticut when it was commenced. Id. He explained that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act required a plaintiff in a debt collection case to bring a legal action against a consumer in the judicial district where the consumer signed the contract, or in the one where the consumer resided. Id. (citing 15 U.S.C. 1692i).

         As Mr. Osagie alleges, Ms. Osagie “did her best to fight Defendant Doherty's actions through an appeal.” Compl. ¶ 34. First, Ms. Osagie moved to appeal Judge Doherty's decisions on her motion for impleader and motion to dismiss, but the Appellate Court found that neither motion was an appealable final judgment and therefore dismissed the appeal. Docket, 139.00. Then, after a hearing on damages, Judge Doherty rendered judgment for U.S. Equities in the amount of $23, 325.82 and ordered Ms. Osagie to make weekly payments totaling $140.00 per month. Docket, 143.00. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision per curiam on October 13, 2015. Id. at 149.00; U.S. Equities Corp. v. Osagie, 160 Conn.App. 904 (2015).

         Mr. Osagie filed this case on September 29, 2016. His first five claims are against Defendants Strumpf and U.S. Equities Corp. The first claim seeks a declaratory judgment “that Connecticut common laws are not applicable to any collection effort on [the Chase account] and that [the] account is governed and can only be interpreted in accordance with Federal law and to the extent state law applies, the law of Delaware as agreed in the card member agreement.” Compl. ¶ 50. The second claim, a claim for “negligence per se, ” alleges that Defendants U.S. Equities and Ms. Strumpf negligently attempted to collect debt on the Chase account, although they knew that such an attempt was a violation of Delaware state law. Id. at ¶¶ 55-58. The third claim, for “negligence, ” alleges that the same two Defendants negligently “pursu[ed] a disputed debt based on the laws of the State of Delaware after recovery on the debt was time-barred was negligent under the laws of the State of Delaware.” Id. at ¶ 65. The fourth claim, for “fraudulent/intentional misrepresentation, ” alleges that the same two Defendants intentionally and fraudulently refused to provide a purchase agreement when attempting to collect the debt, “in order to hide their knowledge of” the agreement's “choice-of-law” provisions. Id. at ¶ 74. The fifth claim alleges that the same two defendants attempted to “collect on a time-barred debt, ” in violation of the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Id. at ¶ 83.

         Mr. Osagie brings only one claim against Defendant Doherty. In this claim, his sixth, he seeks a declaratory judgment that Judge Doherty lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Superior Court action, and alleges that Judge Doherty “aid[ed] and abet[ted] the fraudulent acts of U.S. Equities Corp. and Linda Strumpf in hearing [the Superior Court case] when he had no subject-matter jurisdiction, ” in violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. §§ 1983 and 1985. Compl. ¶¶ 89-94.

         In late September, all three Defendants moved to dismiss the case. See ECF Nos. 20 and 25. On September 29, 2016, Mr. Osagie filed a motion for leave to amend, as well as an amended complaint. See ECF No. 29. Before the Court ruled on the motion for leave to amend, Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint as well. See Defendant Doherty's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 30) (“Doherty Mot.”); Defendants' U.S. Equities and Linda Strumpf's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 32) (“Strumpf Mot.”). Accordingly, the Court grants Mr. Osagie's motion for leave to amend and accepts the Amended Complaint that he provided as the operative Complaint in this case.[3]

         II. ...


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