United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
THE HEIRS AT LAW OF CATHERINE GETAW, et al. Plaintiffs,
CIT BANK, N.A., et al., Defendants.
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Defendants' motions to
dismiss the amended complaint. (Docs. 5, 8). Plaintiffs are
(1) Jeanette Bennett and Maggie Bell, who allege that they
are “the sole heirs” to Catherine Getaw's
estate; and (2) Ms. Bennett and Ms. Bell as the Personal
Representatives of Ms. Getaw's estate. (Doc. 1-2 at 36,
38). Defendants can be divided into two groups. The first
group is comprised of three related entities: CIT Bank, N.A.;
OneWest Bank, FSB b/d/a Financial Freedom; and OneWest Bank,
N.A. OneWest Bank, N.A., was a predecessor to CIT Bank, and
Financial Freedom is a division of CIT Bank. The court will
refer to those three defendants as the “CIT Bank
Defendants.” The second group is the Federal National
Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”).
allege that Ms. Getaw executed a reverse mortgage on her home
with the CIT Bank Defendants, and after she died, the CIT
Bank Defendants foreclosed on the home. Shortly before the
foreclosure sale, the home burned down. After the CIT Bank
Defendants sold the property to Fannie Mae at the foreclosure
sale, they collected the homeowners' insurance payout
from the fire. Eventually, “Defendants” sold the
property to an unnamed person or entity.
“Defendants” paid Plaintiffs a portion of the
insurance proceeds, but Plaintiffs allege that they were
entitled to the entire payout, plus the proceeds from the
second sale. Based on those allegations, Plaintiffs raise
various state law causes of action against all of the
defendants. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint. (Docs.
court notes that the amended complaint is a classic shotgun
pleading in two ways. First, it contains “multiple
counts where each count adopts the allegations of all
preceding counts, causing each successive count to carry all
that came before and the last count to be a combination of
the entire complaint.” Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty.
Sheriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1321 (11th Cir.
2015). Second, it is “replete with conclusory, vague,
and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any
particular cause of action.” Id. at 1322.
Nevertheless, Defendants did not move for a more definite
statement, and the court has done its best to parse the
relevant facts for purposes of this motion to dismiss.
move to dismiss the complaint on various grounds, but this
court will address only one of those grounds. (See
Docs. 5-1, 9). The court concludes that Plaintiffs lack
standing to bring this lawsuit, and WILL DISMISS the amended
complaint WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of jurisdiction.
filed the initial complaint in the Circuit Court of Jefferson
County on November 1, 2016. (Doc. 1-1 at 3). They filed an
amended complaint on October 2, 2017, (doc. 1-2 at 36), and
Defendants removed the case on October 30, 2017. (Doc. 1).
to the amended complaint, before her death, Catherine Getaw
executed a reverse mortgage on real property that she owned
in Birmingham, Alabama. The servicer of the reverse mortgage
was one of the CIT Bank Defendants. The amended complaint
identifies Pacific Reverse Mortgage, Inc., as the lender, but
it does not name that entity as a defendant.
do not attach a copy of the reverse mortgage to their amended
complaint, but they do refer vaguely to some of its terms.
They allege that the reverse mortgage provided that a
foreclosure would extinguish any deficiency under the
mortgage. They also refer to a “one-year redemption
period, ” although they do not explain what that means,
what is required to redeem, or when the redemption period
starts. (Doc. 1-2 at 36-37, 40).
April 2015, Ms. Getaw died, “leaving Jeanette Bennett
and Maggie Bell as the sole heirs” to the property.
After she died, “the Lender and/or [one of the CIT Bank
Defendants]” began the foreclosure
process. But on October 31, 2015, a few days before
the scheduled foreclosure sale, the house burned down. (Doc.
1-2 at 38).
immediately filed a claim on the homeowners' policy, and
within a few days, the insurance company approved the claim
for payment. After the insurance company approved the claim,
on November 2, 2015, the CIT Bank Defendants sold the
property at the foreclosure sale to Fannie Mae for $25, 000.
Plaintiffs allege that “[p]ractically, though not in
name, [the CIT Bank Defendants] and [Fannie Mae] acted as one
and the same entity throughout the foreclosure
process.” And they assert that, after the foreclosure
sale, “Defendants became trustee(s) for the benefit of
Plaintiffs during the one-year redemption period.”
(Doc. 1-2 at 39- 40).
days after the foreclosure sale, on November 10, 2015, the
insurance company issued a $62, 262.13 payment to the CIT
Bank Defendants. In June 2016, during the one-year redemption
period, “Defendants, or one of them, ” sold the
property for $8, 000 to an unnamed person or entity. And in
October 2016, one of the CIT Bank Defendants sent Plaintiffs
a check for an undisclosed amount, telling Plaintiffs that it
was an “insurance refund” for the amount
Plaintiffs were entitled to receive. Plaintiffs allege that
the insurance refund “was incorrect and intended to
deceive Plaintiffs into accepting less than they were
entitled to receive.” (Doc. 1-2 at 39-40).
raise claims for unjust enrichment, conversion, fraud and
breach of quasi-fiduciary duty, wantonness, and “Unfair
Trade Practices.” They seek the entirety of the
insurance proceeds, the proceeds from the $8, 000
post-foreclosure sale, punitive damages, and attorneys'
fees. (Doc. 1-2 at 41-44).
court has diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. The parties are completely diverse because the
CIT Bank Defendants are citizens of California, Fannie Mae is
a citizen of the District of Columbia, the Personal
Representatives of Ms. Getaw's Estate are citizens of
Alabama, and Plaintiffs in their individual capacities are
citizens of Indiana. (Doc. 1 at 8-9; Doc. 32). Although
Plaintiffs seek only $70, 262.13 in compensatory damages,
they also seek punitive damages, so “the amount in
controversy more likely than not exceeds the [$75, 000]
jurisdictional requirement.” Roe v. Michelin North
Am., Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010)
(quotation marks omitted); id. at 1064 (stating that
the court can “rely[ ] on its judicial experience and
common sense” to determine whether a claim satisfies
the amount in ...