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White v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 25, 2019

CRYSTAL WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendant.

          RULING ON MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND OR CORRECT COMPLAINT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Crystal White (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, sued Wells Fargo, N.A. (“Wells Fargo” or “Defendant”) for false advertising under the Lanham Act, promissory fraud, and misrepresentation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Complaint, ECF No. 2 (“Compl.”).

         On October 21, 2018, Judge Stanton transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. Transfer Order, ECF No. 3.

         After reviewing the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, Magistrate Judge William Garfinkel recommends dismissing the case for lack of standing under 28 U.SC. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because the Lanham Act requires that a plaintiff be a competitor of the defendant that is alleging a competitive injury. Recommended Ruling, ECF No. 12, at 2.

         In response, Ms. White moved for leave to amend her Complaint. Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint, ECF No. 15.

         For the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Garfinkel's recommended ruling and DENIES leave to amend the Complaint.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Ms. White claims that World Savings Bank, a company that later merged with Wells Fargo, solicited her “to refinance her loan on her condominium from a prior loan with Astoria Federal Mortgage Corporation.” Compl. at ¶ 1. In doing so, Ms. White alleges that World Savings Bank “did not disclose to her that its intention was not to pay off the prior loan and instead file[d] a loan release from Nationwide Title Clearing Inc.” and then “pocketing the money earmarked for paying off Astoria.” Id. at ¶ 2.

         Ms. White also alleges that Nationwide Title Clearing “is under investigation for issuing false loan releases.” Id. at ¶ 3.

         Ms. White then alleges that “she will be able to prove by discovery that federal agencies are involved as parties to her loan.” Id. at ¶ 6.

         Ms. White also contends that she was “cheated out of her modification promised through her settlements in regard to [World Savings Bank] that Defendant was part of, including by falsely filing affidavits in Connecticut Superior Court.” Id.at ¶ 7.

         Ms. White's core allegations are that Wells Fargo “colluded in an arrangement harmful to the Plaintiff by concealing that it was involved in a ‘bait and switch', false advertising, intending to keep the money earmarked for paying off her prior loan instead of paying off her prior loan. Instead it had a false loan release issued by Nationwide and filed it with the local Town Clerk.” Id. at ¶ 14.

         B. Procedural History

         On September 25, 2018, Ms. White filed her Complaint against Wells Fargo. Compl. The same day, she filed a request to proceed in forma pauperis. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 1.

         On October 24, 2018, the case was referred to Magistrate Judge William Garfinkel to deal with the motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Order Referring Case, ECF No. 10.

         On December 5, 2018, Magistrate Judge Garfinkel granted Ms. White's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis but recommended that the Complaint be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Order Granting Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 11; Recommended Ruling, ECF No. 12.

         On February 1, 2019, Ms. White filed a motion to amend or correct her Complaint. Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, ECF No. 15.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Section 1915 Dismissal

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), a court “shall dismiss a case at any time if it determines that” the complaint or amended complaint “is frivolous or malicious . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Dismissal of a complaint or amended complaint on those grounds is required “regardless of whether the prisoner has paid the filing fee” or is proceeding in forma pauperis. See Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions,' . . . ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '” or “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement'” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). “Even after Twombly” and Iqbal, courts “remain obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally, ” but the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         B. Leave to Amend

         Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that parties may either amend once as a matter of course or, once the period has elapsed, move for leave to file an amended complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Parties who fail to file an amended complaint within 15(a)(1)'s time period, or who seek additional amendments, may seek the consent of their opposing party or the court's leave to amend. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The “court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id.

         The decision to grant leave to amend under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 is within the discretion of the court, but the court must give some “justifying reason” for denying leave. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Reasons for denying leave to amend include “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment.” Id.; see also Lucente v. IBM, 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir. 2002) (noting leave to amend may be denied when amendment is “unlikely to be productive, ” such as when an amendment is “futile” and “could not withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” (Internal citations omitted)); Park B. Smith, Inc. v. CHF Indus. Inc., 811 F.Supp.2d 766, 779 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (“While mere delay, absent a showing of bad faith or ...


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