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Kaauamo v. Legacy Development, LLC

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 12, 2019




         This action alleges violations of the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act (PTFA), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and various state law provisions.[1] Compl., Dkt. No. 1. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions to dismiss (Dkt. Nos. 17, 19) are GRANTED as to Kaauamo's PTFA and FDCPA claims, the defects of which cannot be cured by amendment. Because these federal claims are the only federal claims asserted in this case premised on jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331, and because there is no reason for this Court to exercise its discretion otherwise, the Court declines supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. Those state law claims are therefore also DISMISSED, albeit without prejudice.


         In Spring 2018, Legacy Development purchased the real property located at 942 Akaiki Place, Wailuku, Maui, Hawai‘i (the "Property"). Compl. ¶¶5, 7. Kaauamo had been a lessee of the Property for five years at the time it was foreclosed on by Wells Fargo and sold to Legacy. Compl. ¶¶5, 8, 9. Legacy retained Maui Process Services (MPS) and MPS employee, Christopher Williams, to assist with evicting Kaauamo. Compl. ¶6; Dkt. No. 17 at 2.

         On December 14, 2018, the MPS and Legacy Defendants[2] separately filed motions to dismiss. Dkt Nos. 17, 19. Collectively, these motions assert that: (1) Kaauamo failed to state a PTFA claim because her lease was void and, thus, she had no right to possession of the Property; (2) Kaauamo failed to state a PTFA claim because she is not a bona fide tenant within the meaning of the Act; (3) Kaauamo failed to state a FDCPA claim because none of the defendants are “debt collectors” within the meaning prescribed by the FDCPA; and (4) the Complaint is incomprehensible and should be re-pled under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). In addition, the Legacy Defendants argue that they were not properly served.

         Through supplemental briefing (Dkt. Nos. 36-37, 40), the parties also addressed the impact of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine on this case and whether the PTFA claim is barred for the additional reason that it affords no private right of action. This disposition follows.


         I. Rule 12 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the Court to dismiss a complaint that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Rule 12(b)(6) is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a), which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In addition, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id. Accordingly, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, “[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). Factual allegations that only permit the court to infer “the mere possibility of misconduct” do not show that the pleader is entitled to relief as required by Rule 8(a)(2). Id. at 679.

         II. Pro Se Status

         Because Kaauamo is proceeding pro se, the Court liberally construes her filings. Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987). With that in mind, “[u]nless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect . . . a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action.” Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995).

         A court, however, may deny leave to amend where, inter alia, amendment would be futile. Gardner v. Martino, 563 F.3d 981, 990 (9th Cir. 2009); Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Publ'g, 512 F.3d 522, 532 (9th Cir. 2008).


         Though at times difficult to decipher, the gravamen of Kaauamo's federal claims focus on two elements: (1) that her eviction violates the PTFA, and (2) that the means employed by Defendants to effectuate her eviction violate the FDCPA. Because neither theory can be sustained under the circumstances presented here, ...

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