Whiddon v. Chase Home Finance, LLC

Citation666 F.Supp.2d 681
Decision Date14 October 2009
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 1:09-CV-460.
PartiesChristopher WHIDDON, Plaintiff, v. CHASE HOME FINANCE, LLC, f/k/a Bank One, N.A., and Blake Borel Insurance, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas
666 F.Supp.2d 681
Christopher WHIDDON, Plaintiff,
v.
CHASE HOME FINANCE, LLC, f/k/a Bank One, N.A., and Blake Borel Insurance, Defendants.
Civil Action No. 1:09-CV-460.
United States District Court, E.D. Texas.
October 14, 2009.

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Brett Scot Thomas, Roebuck Thomas Roebuck & Adams, PLLC, Beaumont, TX, for Plaintiff.

William Lance Lewis, James M. Wortman, Quilling Selander Cummiskey & Lownds PC, Dallas, TX, Patrick Dean Brinkley, Alicia Kay Hall, Chambers Templeton Cashiola & Thomas, Beaumont, TX, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MARCIA A. CRONE, District Judge.


Pending before the court is Defendant Chase Home Finance, LLC's ("Chase") Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, and in the Alternative, Motion for More Definite Statement (#4). Chase seeks dismissal of Plaintiff Christopher Whiddon's ("Whiddon") action for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In the alternative, Chase moves the court to order Whiddon to file a more definite statement of his action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). Having reviewed the pending motion, the submissions of the

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parties, the pleadings, and the applicable law, the court is of the opinion that the motion should be granted in part.

I. Background

On May 18, 2009, Whiddon filed his original petition in the 58th Judicial District Court of Jefferson County, Texas, asserting claims against Chase for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("DTPA"), common law fraud, negligence, and breach of contract. In his petition, Whiddon claims that in May 2004, he purchased a home in Groves, Texas, and financed the purchase through Chase. At closing, Whiddon purchased fire and windstorm insurance for the home through Defendant Blake Borel Insurance, which was not renewed in December 2004. Whiddon alleges that Chase was notified of the non-renewal and, afterward, represented that it would obtain insurance for the home and that the insurance payments would be escrowed. On September 23, 2005, Hurricane Rita made landfall near the coast of southeast Texas, purportedly causing over $80,000.00 in damages to Whiddon's home. When Whiddon attempted to make a claim for insurance benefits for the damage, he learned there was no insurance coverage on the home. Whiddon contends that Chase represented that it would obtain and/or provide fire and windstorm insurance for the home, that Whiddon reasonably relied on these representations, and that Chase failed to provide such insurance, causing Whiddon to suffer damages. Whiddon seeks damages for the costs to repair the home, loss of use of the home, the cost of additional insurance, and mental anguish.

On June 12, 2009, Chase removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. On June 17, 2009, Chase filed the instant motion to dismiss the case, contending that Whiddon failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim and, in any event, Whiddon's claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitation. Alternatively, Chase argues that the pleadings are so vague that Chase cannot reasonably respond and, thus, Whiddon should be required to file a more definite statement of his claims.1

II. Analysis

A. Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim under Rule 12(b) (6)

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests only the formal sufficiency of the statement of a claim for relief and is "appropriate when a defendant attacks the complaint because it fails to state a legally cognizable claim." Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir.2001), cert. denied, 536 U.S. 960, 122 S.Ct. 2665, 153 L.Ed.2d 839 (2002). It is not a procedure for resolving contests about the facts or the merits of a case. See 5A CHARLES A. WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2d § 1356, at 294 (1990). In ruling on such a motion, the court must accept the factual allegations of the complaint as true, view them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974),

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abrogated on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982); In re S. Scrap Material Co., LLC, 541 F.3d 584, 587 (5th Cir. 2008); Lovick v. Ritemoney Ltd., 378 F.3d 433, 437 (5th Cir.2004); Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161; Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000). Nevertheless, "the plaintiff's complaint [must] be stated with enough clarity to enable a court or an opposing party to determine whether a claim is sufficiently alleged." Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (citing Elliott v. Foufas, 867 F.2d 877, 880 (5th Cir.1989)). The "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); accord Cuvillier v. Taylor, 503 F.3d 397, 401 (5th Cir.2007); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir.2007).

Generally, the court may not look beyond the four corners of the plaintiff's pleadings. See Indest v. Freeman Decorating, Inc., 164 F.3d 258, 261 (5th Cir. 1999); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir.1996); McCartney v. First City Bank, 970 F.2d 45, 47 (5th Cir.1992). Furthermore, "a complaint that shows relief to be barred by an affirmative defense, such as the statute of limitations, may be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action." Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1105, 103 S.Ct. 729, 74 L.Ed.2d 953 (1983); accord La Porte Constr. Co. v. Bayshore Nat'l Bank of La Porte, 805 F.2d 1254, 1255 (5th Cir.1986). Thus, a plaintiff's noncompliance with the applicable statute of limitations "`may support dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) where it is evident from the plaintiff's pleadings that the action is barred and the pleadings fail to raise some basis for tolling or the like.'" Davis v. Dallas County, 541 F.Supp.2d 844, 856 (N.D.Tex.2008) (quoting Jones v. Alcoa, Inc., 339 F.3d 359, 366 (5th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1161, 124 S.Ct. 1173, 157 L.Ed.2d 1206 (2004)); see Nationwide Bi-Weekly Admin., Inc. v. Belo Corp., 512 F.3d 137, 141 (5th Cir.2007); Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378-79 (5th Cir.2002), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 1200, 123 S.Ct. 1287, 154 L.Ed.2d 1041 (2003). "Although defendants bear the burden of pleading and proving affirmative defenses, where facts alleged in plaintiff's pleadings make clear that a claim is barred, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be granted." In re Dynegy, Inc. Secs. Litig., 339 F.Supp.2d 804, 819 (S.D.Tex.2004).

"`A motion to dismiss under rule 12(b)(6) "is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted."'" Gregson v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., 322 F.3d 883, 885 (5th Cir.2003) (quoting Collins, 224 F.3d at 498 (quoting Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc., 677 F.2d at 1050)); accord Harrington v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 563 F.3d 141, 147 (5th Cir.2009); Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009). "`The question therefore is whether in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and with every doubt resolved in his behalf, the complaint states any valid claim for relief.'" Collins, 224 F.3d at 498 (quoting 5A CHARLES A. WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, supra, § 1357, at 332-36); accord Lowrey v. Texas A & M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir.1997). "In other words, a motion to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim `admits the facts alleged in the complaint, but challenges plaintiff's rights to relief based upon those facts.'" Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161-62 (quoting Tel-Phonic Servs., Inc. v. TBS Int'l, Inc., 975 F.2d 1134, 1137 (5th Cir. 1992)).

In Twombly, the Supreme Court clarified the standard to be applied by courts when addressing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.

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550 U.S. at 553-62, 127 S.Ct. 1955. The Court noted that a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss must be read in conjunction with Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, holding that a district court should not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim unless a plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955; accord Reliable Consultants, Inc. v. Earle, 517 F.3d 738, 742 (5th Cir.2008).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Supreme Court elaborated on the two principles underlying its decision in Twombly. ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). First, under Rule 8(a)(2), plaintiffs are not required to include "`detailed factual allegations,'" but more than "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation' is needed." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 1950 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders `naked assertion[s]' devoid of `further factual enhancement.'" Id. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

Second, the Court noted that "[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." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955). Furthermore, "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a `probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955); accord Securities & Exch. Comm'n v. Cuban, 634 F.Supp.2d 713...

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