Palmer v. Champion Mortg., 06-1246.

Decision Date29 September 2006
Docket NumberNo. 06-1246.,06-1246.
Citation465 F.3d 24
PartiesAmy PALMER, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. CHAMPION MORTGAGE, Defendant, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Christopher M. Lefebvre, with whom Family and Consumer Law Center was on brief, for appellant.

W. Scott O'Connell, with whom Paul M. Lanagan and Nixon Peabody LLP were on brief, for appellee.

Before SELYA, Circuit Judge, SILER,* Senior Circuit Judge, and HOWARD, Circuit Judge.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

This case requires us to determine whether a consumer's professed lack of comprehension of a notice of right to rescind alone suffices to pave the way for belated rescission under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1601-1667. The district court concluded that a bald assertion of subjective confusion did not trump the plain language of the disputed notice and dismissed the plaintiff's amended complaint. The court then rebuffed the plaintiff's two-pronged endeavor either to obtain reconsideration or to restate her claim. This appeal followed. After careful consideration, we affirm.


Because this appeal follows the granting of a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), we rehearse the facts as set forth in the plaintiff's amended complaint. See Chongris v. Board of Appeals, 811 F.2d 36, 37 (1st Cir.1987). Consistent with the case law, however, we eschew reliance on the pleader's rhetorical flourishes, including unsupported conclusions and assertions. See id.; see also Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc. v. Feliciano de Melecio, 406 F.3d 1, 5-6 (1st Cir.2005).

In March of 2003, plaintiff-appellant Amy Palmer obtained a debt-consolidation loan, secured by a mortgage on her residence, from defendant-appellee Champion Mortgage. The closing took place on March 28, 2003. The plaintiff executed, then and there, a promissory note, a mortgage, a TILA statement, and a settlement sheet. She left without receiving copies of any of these documents.

Several days later, the plaintiff received by mail copies of the closing documents. Included among these papers was a notice of right to cancel (the Notice) — a notification required by the TILA. See 15 U.S.C. § 1635(a). In relevant part, the Notice informed the plaintiff that:

You have a legal right under federal law to cancel this transaction, without cost, within three (3) business days from whichever of the following events occurs last:

(1) the date of the transaction, which is MARCH 28, 2003; or (date)

(2) the date you received your Truth-in-Lending disclosures; or

(3) the date you received this notice of your right to cancel.

The Notice further provided: "If you cancel by mail or telegram, you must send the notice no later than midnight of APRIL 01, 2003 (or midnight of the third business day following the latest of the three (3) events listed above)."

Although the plaintiff cannot remember the specific date on which she received the documents, she alleges—and for present purposes we accept—that they arrived in early April of 2003, but after April 1. At any rate, nothing happened for well over a year. Then, on or about August 6, 2004, the plaintiff notified Champion of her intent to rescind the transaction.

When Champion failed to respond to the plaintiff's importunings, she sued in federal district court. Her complaint alleged that the inclusion of the April 1 deadline was confusing and that, therefore, she retained the right to rescind the transaction under 15 U.S.C. § 1635, which provides for an extended three-year rescission period when a creditor fails to make one or more material disclosures required under the TILA.

After some procedural skirmishing, not relevant here, the plaintiff served an amended complaint. In tandem with the section 1635 claim, the amended complaint asserted that a right to rescind the transaction also existed under the TILA's state-law counterpart, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140D, § 32. Champion moved to dismiss on the ground that the amended complaint failed to state a cognizable claim. See Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The lower court allowed this motion, concluding that "[t]he Notice the plaintiff received clearly and conspicuously advised her of her right to cancel the transaction within three business days from the last to occur of three events, one of which was the date she received the notice of right to cancel." Thus, the court reasoned, the plaintiff had received the full complement of disclosures stipulated by the TILA and her belated attempt to rescind the transaction was time-barred.2

Undaunted, the plaintiff moved for reconsideration, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), or in the alternative, for leave to file a second amended complaint, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). The district court denied both entreaties. In refusing leave to amend, the court emphasized that the complaint had already been amended once and that the motion to dismiss had been pending for several months before the court disposed of it. This timely appeal followed.


On appeal, the plaintiff contests the district court's allowance of Champion's motion to dismiss, as well as the denial of her requests for reconsideration and for leave to file a second amended complaint.3 We discuss these claims of error sequentially.

A. The Motion to Dismiss.

We review dismissals for failure to state a claim de novo, accepting all well-pleaded facts as true and giving the party who has pleaded the contested claim the benefit of all reasonable inferences. See Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir.1999). Thus, our primary task here is to determine whether, viewing the facts in the light most flattering to the plaintiff, she articulated an actionable TILA claim.

We begin this inquiry with a synopsis of the relevant portions of the federal statute. Congress enacted the TILA in 1968 "to assure a meaningful disclosure of credit terms" and "to protect the consumer against inaccurate and unfair credit . . . practices." 15 U.S.C. § 1601(a). To this end, the TILA requires creditors to disclose clearly and accurately all the material terms of a credit transaction. See Beach v. Ocwen Fed. Bank, 523 U.S. 410, 412, 118 S.Ct. 1408, 140 L.Ed.2d 566 (1998).

With respect to non-purchase-money mortgages on residential dwellings—the type of credit transaction at issue here— the TILA confers upon the debtor a right to rescind within three days of the transaction's consummation or three days from delivery of the material disclosures, whichever occurs later.4 See 15 U.S.C. § 1635(a). The creditor also must clearly disclose this rescission right to the debtor. See 12 C.F.R. § 226.23(b)(1). Should a creditor fail to deliver any of the required material disclosures (including notice of the right to rescind), the debtor may rescind at any time up to three years following the consummation of the transaction. See id. § 226.23(a)(3). If a creditor does not respond to a rescission request within twenty days, the debtor may file suit in federal court to enforce the rescission right. See Belini v. Wash. Mut. Bank, 412 F.3d 17, 20 (1st Cir.2005); see also 15 U.S.C. § 1635(b).

We move now from the general to the particular. The plaintiff in this case concedes that she received copies of all the material disclosures mandated under the TILA but alleges that the Notice was "defective" and "confusing." She points specifically to the inclusion of a date-certain deadline for rescission (April 1, 2003) and complains that the designated date already had passed by the time she received the Notice. Relying on our admonition that "a misleading disclosure is as much a violation of TILA as a failure to disclose at all," Barnes v. Fleet Nat'l Bank, 370 F.3d 164, 174 (1st Cir.2004) (quoting Smith v. Chapman, 614 F.2d 968, 977 (5th Cir.1980)), she asseverates that the confusing nature of the Notice triggered the extended three-year rescission period.

Champion readily concedes, as it must, that the Notice included an April 1 deadline for rescission. But it hastens to add that the Notice twice indicated in plain language that, in the alternative, the debtor had three business days after receipt of the Notice within which to rescind. To strengthen its argument, Champion observes that the Notice is identical in all material respects to the model form authored by the Federal Reserve Board, and that other courts have found such adherence to be an impenetrable shield against TILA-based attacks. See, e.g., Gibson v. Bob Watson Chevrolet-Geo, Inc., 112 F.3d 283, 286 (7th Cir.1997); Murphy v. Empire of Am., 583 F.Supp. 1563, 1566 (W.D.N.Y.1984); see also In re Porter, 961 F.2d 1066, 1076 (3d Cir.1992) (explaining that "use of an appropriate model form necessarily complies with the [TILA]" (emphasis omitted)). Based on the Notice's plain language and its adherence to the model form, Champion urges us to disregard the plaintiff's subjective state of mind and join the district court in holding the Notice adequate as a matter of law.

We find Champion's argument compelling. Although we are required to view the well-pleaded facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need not "swallow [her] invective hook, line, and sinker." Aulson v. Blanchard, 83 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir.1996). As part and parcel of this approach, we must refrain from crediting her "bald assertions, unsupportable conclusions, and `opprobrious epithets.'" Chongris, 811 F.2d at 37 (quoting Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1, 10, 64 S.Ct. 397, 88 L.Ed. 497 (1944)); accord Aulson, 83 F.3d at 3. This methodology is particularly appropriate in the TILA context where we, like other courts, have focused the lens of our inquiry on the text of the disclosures themselves rather than on plaintiffs' descriptions of their subjective understandings. See, e.g., Barnes, 370 F.3d at 172-74 (examining the language of disputed disclosures in the face of plaintiff's claim that they were misleading); Zamarippa v. Cy's Car Sales, Inc., 674 F.2d 877, 879 (11th...

To continue reading

Request your trial
546 cases
  • In re DiVittorio
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Massachusetts
    • May 28, 2010
    ...American Fin. Co., 333 F.Supp. at 1248 (quoting Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. at 704, 65 S.Ct. 895). 174 Palmer v. Champion Mortgage, 465 F.3d 24, 28 (1st Cir.2006). 175 See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140D, § 176 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 259, § 1. 177 Id. 178 See Old Colony R. Corp. v. Evans, ......
  • DiFIORE v. American Airlines, Inc., Civil Action No. 07-10070-WGY.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • December 23, 2009 must either present previously unavailable evidence or show that a manifest error of law was committed. Palmer v. Champion Mortgage, 465 F.3d 24, 30 (1st Cir.2006). When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must decide whether the pla......
  • Sutton v. Purzycki
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • November 10, 2022
    ... ... arguments. See Palmer v. Champion Mortg., 465 F.3d ... 24, 30 (1st Cir. 2006) (stating motion ... ...
  • Manning v. Bos. Med. Ctr. Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • August 1, 2013
    ...diligence on the movant's part.’ ” Calderón–Serra v. Wilmington Trust Co., 715 F.3d 14, 19 (1st Cir.2013) (quoting Palmer v. Champion Mortg., 465 F.3d 24, 30 (1st Cir.2006)). We review the district court's denial of leave to amend for abuse of discretion. Platten v. HG Bermuda Exempted Ltd.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT