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This Latest 7th Circuit Result Materially Damages Conman Bill Erbey’s Claims

At the time this suit was filed, Ocwen was a limited liability company whose sole member was Ocwen Mortgage Servicing, a company incorporated in the U.S. Virgin Islands with its principal place of business there.

Published

on

…In His Ongoing St Croix Lawsuit

 “Defendants’ scheme was devious and unlawful: they secretly conspired to spread false accusations about and financially decimate Ocwen/Altisource.* Utilizing various nefarious tactics, including by improperly pressuring trustees and ratings agencies, Defendants first sought to prevent Ocwen from expanding its mortgage business…”

an extract from Bill Erbey’s lawsuit in St. Croix against Blackrock/PIMCO

*Bill Erbey’s $3 Billion dollar fined Ocwen/Altisource

7th Circuit Finds Insurer Has No Duty to Defend Mortgage Servicer Against Robocall Lawsuit

MAR 16, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAR 17, 2021

A liability insurance carrier that excluded any violation of telecommunications laws from coverage had no duty to defend a loan servicer from a class-action lawsuit that accused it of making harassing robocalls to more than 1 million cell phones.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed a U.S. District Court’s declaration that Zurich American Insurance Co. did not have to defend Ocwen Mortgage Servicing from the lawsuit. Ocwen settled the action in June 2019 by agreeing pay $21.5 million in damages, plus about $4.7 million for the plaintiff’s attorney fees.

Tracee A. Beecroft says that after she discharged a mortgage debt through bankruptcy, Ocwen, headquartered in the Virgin Islands, called her cell phone 58 times, using an an automated dialing system for at least some of those calls. Beecroft claimed the constant calls were so stressful that she suffered a miscarriage.

In 2015, Beecroft filed a lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota on behalf of herself and other people who received robocalls from Ocwen on their cell phones. The suit was consolidated with another lawsuit filed in Illinois.

Eventually, a U.S. District Court certified a class consisting of the owners of 1,685,757 unique cell phone numbers. The suit alleged that Ocwen had violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The TCPA prohibits the use of recorded or artificial voices on calls that are placed to consumers’ cell phones, while the FDCPA bars any calls that are made with an intent to “annoy, abuse or harass.”

Zurich was well aware of those laws and the potential liability they can impose. The carrier excluded damages caused by any violations of the TCPA and the FDCPA from coverage in the commercial general liability policies it issued to Ocwen from 2010 to 2016.

Ocwen, regardless, asked Zurich to defend it shortly after Beecroft filed suit. Instead, Zurich filed a lawsuit seeking a court declaration that it had no duty to defend. U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras ruled in Zurich’s favor.

On appeal, Ocwen argued that while some of the phone calls its agents made to Beecroft may have illegal, not all of them were. Some calls were made to her home phone. Also, prerecorded voices may have been used in some of the calls to Beecroft’s cellphone, but not all, the company’s lawyers argued.

Ocwen said that if there was no violation of law on some of the calls, Zurich had a duty to defend its policyholder against those allegations.

The 7th Circuit disagreed. The appellate panel said the evidence shows that Beecroft had asked Ocwen to stop calling her, meaning that any calls made to her after that were in violation of the FDCPA’s prohibition against harassment. The lawsuit mentions only calls that were in violation of the law, so any calls that were made that did not violate law are not relevant to the suit, the appellate court said.

“Because Zurich had no duty to defend based on the factual allegations in Beecroft’s complaint, we affirm the district court’s judgment,” the opinion concludes.

Ocwen was also accused of violating consumer-protection laws in 2013. The mortgage servicer entered into a consent order with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau agreeing to refund $125 million to 185,000 borrowers whose homes were foreclosed upon and agreed to help underwater borrowers by reducing the principle owed on their loans by $2 billion, the CFPB said in a press release at the time.

More recently, 33 state attorneys general objected to a proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit that would allow an Ocwen successor, PHH Mortgage Corp., to escape more serious penalties for allegedly collecting illegal fees from homeowners who used its online system to make mortgage payments.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office entered the fray this month, filing a motion on March 3 asking the U.S. District Court in Southern Florida to reject the proposed settlement because it is too generous to the plaintiff’s attorneys without fairly compensating consumers.

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Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. Ocwen Fin. Corp., No. 19-3052

(7th Cir. Mar. 12, 2021)

Before EASTERBROOK, ROVNER, and WOOD, Circuit Judges. WOOD, Circuit Judge.

Thanks to the diversity jurisdiction, federal courts are often asked to decide questions of insurance coverage;

state law almost always provides the rule of decision in such cases. This is one of them.

Zurich American Insurance sold a policy to Ocwen Financial, a debt-collection company. After a disgruntled consumer sued Ocwen, it tendered the dispute to Zurich, but Zurich asserted that policy exclusions relieved it of any duty to defend. Zurich then asked a federal court to decide whether this was indeed the case. The district court issued a judgment declaring that Zurich had no duty to defend Ocwen in the underlying litigation, and Ocwen has appealed.

We agree with the district court’s reading of the policy and therefore affirm.

I

At the time this suit was filed, Ocwen was a limited liability company whose sole member was Ocwen Mortgage Servicing, a company incorporated in the U.S. Virgin Islands with its principal place of business there. Zurich is incorporated in New York and has its principal place of business in Illinois.

Since the parties were of diverse citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, the district court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

Ocwen collects and services debts. In 2015, Tracy A. Beecroft sued Ocwen in federal court in Minnesota for its attempts to collect on a mortgage loan that Beecroft had discharged in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy discharge should have been the end of things, but it was not.

To Beecroft’s displeasure, Ocwen aggressively pursued her for this debt.

The effects were traumatic for Beecroft: she suffered emotional and physical distress, including a stress-induced miscarriage, and she was later denied a mortgage because Ocwen wrongly reported the alleged default to credit agencies. Counts I through III of her complaint relied on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA); Count IV alleged common-law defamation; and Count V alleged common-law invasion of privacy.

II

From September 2010 to September 2016, Zurich insured Ocwen under a series of commercial general liability policies—a type of policy that entitles the insured to indemnification for various types of tort claims brought against it. The policies were largely identical and covered all damages caused by both “bodily injury” and “personal and advertising injury.” But two provisions in the policies expressly excluded injuries resulting from conduct that violates certain laws.

The first exclusion, for “Recording and Distribution of Material or Information in Violation of Law,” precludes coverage for bodily injury and personal and advertising injury:

directly or indirectly arising out of or based upon any action or omission that violates or is alleged to violate:

The [TCPA] …

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 [Pub. L. No. 108-187] [and amendments] …

The Fair Credit Reporting Act [FCRA] … including the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act; or

Any federal, state statute, ordinance or regulation other than the TCPA, CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 or FCRA and their amendments and additions, or any other legal liability, at common law or otherwise, that addresses, prohibits or limits the printing, dissemination, disposal, monitoring, collecting, recording, use of, sending, transmitting, communicating or distribution of material or

The second exclusion, for “Violation of Communication or In- formation Law,” is similar in scope. It excludes bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury:

resulting from or arising out of any actual or alleged violation of:

the [TCPA], [Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, or DPPA], or [CAN-SPAM Act]; or

any other federal, state, or local statute, regulation or ordinance that imposes liability for the:

Unlawful use of telephone, electronic mail, internet, computer, facsimile machine or other communication or transmission device; or

Unlawful use, collection, dissemination, disclosure or re-disclosure of personal information of any manner

by any insured or on behalf of any insured.

Soon after Beecroft filed her suit, Ocwen asked Zurich to provide a defense pursuant to the insurance agreement. Zurich refused; instead, it filed this declaratory judgment action against Ocwen, arguing that the policy exclusions just noted absolved it of any duty to defend or indemnify Ocwen in the Beecroft lawsuit. See 28 U.S.C. § 2201.

Ocwen counterclaimed that Zurich breached its duty to defend, and Zurich responded with a motion for judgment on the pleadings. In order to resolve that motion, the court had to compare the policy language with the allegations in Beecroft’s complaint.

Beecroft’s initial complaint alleged that Ocwen frequently attempted to contact her as part of a debt-collection effort that included “letters, billing statements and repeated robocalls to [her] cellular phone.” She alleged that Ocwen “made approximately 58 phone calls to [her] cellular telephone using an automated telephone dialing system.”

The complaint described each of those 58 calls with specificity, including the date, time, and the caller ID. On two occasions, Beecroft picked up the phone and told Ocwen to stop calling.

In her first amended complaint, Beecroft expanded the list of the collection methods to “letters, billing statements and repeated robocalls to [her] cellular and home telephone.” (Our emphasis.) Her initial and amended complaints asserted that Ocwen used an autodialer because, on the two times that Beecroft actually answered, there “was a significant delay be- fore an operator would come onto the line and ask for [her]”—an allegedly telltale sign that Ocwen was using an autodialer before connecting her with a live operator.

Beecroft’s second amended complaint added an allegation that “some or all of the call to [her] cellular phone, including but not limited to the [58] calls listed above, were made using:

(a) Premier Global Dialer; (b) an IAT Predictive Dialer; (c) a Davox Dialer; (d) Aspect Dialer; or (e) similar dialing system that has the requisite capacity pursuant to the TCPA.”

In each version of the complaint, Beecroft maintained that Ocwen’s actions “were done unfairly, unlawfully, intentionally, deceptively and absent bona fide error, lawful right, legal defense, legal justification or legal excuse.”

In other parts of the com- plaint, Beecroft alleged that:

Ocwen and its agents intentionally and/or negligently caused emotional harm to [Beecroft] by engaging in highly offensive conduct in the course of collecting this debt, thereby invading and intruding upon [her] right to privacy.

This conduct included over 58 phone calls to [Beecroft’s] cellular telephone and additional calls to Plaintiff’s home phone … .

To similar effect, she asserted that Ocwen

“intentionally and/or negligently interfered, physically or otherwise, with the solitude, seclusion and/or private concerns or affairs of this Plaintiff, namely, by repeatedly and unlawfully calling Plaintiff’s cellular telephone with equipment prohibited by federal law.”

After reviewing the insurance policy and Beecroft’s complaint, the district court concluded that all of the factual allegations in Beecroft’s complaint fell within the scope of the policy exclusions. To the extent that Counts I through III alleged conduct that violated the TCPA, it found that the policy exclusion’s “catch-all” clause swept in the FDCPA as an “other statute” that regulates the communication of information.

Because the FDCPA prohibits calls made with the “intent to annoy, abuse or harass,” the court concluded that even if some of Ocwen’s calls to Beecroft did not violate the TCPA, they still violated the FDCPA because they were made after Beecroft had asked Ocwen to stop calling.

Calling someone after being asked to stop, the court thought, indicated an intent to abuse, harass, or at the very least annoy. The court also held that the common-law claims in Counts IV and V (defamation and invasion of privacy) were excluded because they were based on conduct “arising out of” the same operative facts as the conduct that was alleged to have violated the enumerated statutes.

Based on these findings, the court held that Zurich had no duty to defend Ocwen in the Underlying Litigation.1

This appeal followed. Ocwen does not disagree with the district court’s analysis of Counts I through IV; it argues only that the policy exclusion should not have applied to the common-law invasion-of-privacy claim in Count V. Ocwen contends that the potential for covered liability exists because the Beecroft complaint includes the possibility that (1) some calls were made to Beecroft’s home phone using a live operator, and (2) some calls were not made with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass. The first of these points would preclude TCPA liabil- ity, because that statute prohibits calls to landlines only if those calls use artificial or prerecorded voices.

The second is designed to knock out the FDCPA theory, because that law does not cover calls that were made negligently, rather than intentionally. According to Ocwen, the Beecroft complaint potentially alleges conduct that neither falls into the enumer- ated statutes nor “arises out of” conduct that is alleged to violate those statutes.

We evaluate a district court’s grant of a motion for judg- ment on the pleadings de novo, viewing “the facts in the com- plaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” ProLink Holdings Corp. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 688 F.3d 828 (7th Cir. 2012); Landmark Am. Ins. Co. v. Hilger, 838 F.3d 821, 824 (7th Cir. 2016). We may affirm “only if it appears beyond doubt that [Ocwen] cannot prove any facts that would support [its] claim for relief.” Landmark, 838 F.3d at 824. The parties agree that Illinois law applies.

1 Beecroft’s lawsuit was later consolidated with a class action, Keith Snyder v. Ocwen Loan Serv. LLC, No. 1:14-cv-8461, 2019 WL 2103379 (N.D. Ill. May 14, 2019). Final judgment (based on an approved settlement) was entered on July 1, 2019.

III A

A purchaser buys insurance to transfer risk onto an entity that is willing to bear it (for a price). Commercial general lia- bility insurance addresses the risk of tort liability: a commer- cial policyholder—the insured—sleeps easier knowing that if it should be sued in tort, the insurer will pay for its defense and, if need be, indemnify its losses.

An insurer has a duty to defend its insured “unless it is clear from the face of the underlying complaint that the facts alleged do not potentially fall within the policy’s coverage.”

G.M. Sign, Inc. v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 18 N.E.3d 70, 77 (Ill. App. Ct. 2014) . “If any portion of the suit potentially falls within the scope of coverage, the insurer is obligated to de- fend.” Health Care Indus. Liab. Ins. Program v. Momence Mead- ows Nursing Ctr., 566 F.3d 689, 694 (7th Cir. 2009). It is “the factual allegations in the complaint, and not the legal labels a plaintiff uses,” that matter. Id. at 696. And factual allegations “are only important insofar as they point to a theory of recov- ery.” Id. (citing U.S. Fid. & Guar. v. Wilkin Insulation Co., 578 N.E.2d 926, 932 (Ill. 1991) (“[A]n insurer has a duty to defend its insured if any theory of recovery alleges potential cover- age.”)).

When considering whether the facts alleged describe po- tentially covered liability, Illinois courts “liberally construe[]” the policy terms and the allegations in the complaint in the insured’s favor. Pekin Ins. Co. v. XData Sols., Inc., 958 N.E.2d 397, 400 (Ill. App. Ct. 2011). XData added that “[t]his is true even if the allegations are groundless, false, or fraudulent, and even if only one of several theories of recovery alleged in the complaint falls within the potential coverage of the pol- icy.” Id. Accordingly, a decision to excuse an insurer’s duty to defend based on an exclusionary clause in the contract “must be clear and free from doubt.” Evergreen Real Estate Servs., LLC v. Hanover Ins. Co., 142 N.E.3d 880, 887 (Ill. App. Ct. 2019). Reasonable disagreement about the applicability of an exclu- sion must be resolved in favor of the insured. Id.

To prevail against Zurich, Ocwen needs to establish that there are factual allegations in the Beecroft complaint that the policy exclusions do not remove from coverage. Even a single covered factual allegation would suffice to trigger Zurich’s duty to defend. See Title Indus. Assurance Co. v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., 853 F.3d 876, 887 (7th Cir. 2017).

Some of the language in the Zurich policy is straightforward. For example, injuries resulting from violations of the TCPA, CAN-SPAM Act, and FCRA are not covered—full stop. But there is also a catch-all clause that sweeps in more. The “arising out of” language excludes the underlying con- duct that forms the basis of the violation of an enumerated law, even if liability for that underlying conduct might exist under a legal theory that is not expressly mentioned in the policy exclusion (e.g., common-law invasion of privacy).

Stated differently, the “arising out of” phrase presents a “but-for” inquiry: if the plaintiff would not have been injured but for the conduct that violated an enumerated law, then the exclusion applies to all claims flowing from that underlying conduct regardless of the legal theory used. See G.M. Sign, Inc., 18 N.E.3d at 78 (“‘Arising out of’ means ‘originating from,’ ‘having its origin in,’ ‘growing out of,’ and ‘flowing from.’”).

G.M. Sign dealt with an arrangement quite similar to the one before us. In that case, State Farm issued a liability policy that excluded injuries “arising directly or indirectly out of” con- duct that “violates or is alleged to violate” the TCPA, the CAN-SPAM Act, or any other law that regulates the commu- nication of information. Id. at 74. The insured sent unsolicited faxes and was sued for alleged TCPA violations, common-law conversion, and violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Id. at 73. Because all three counts in the complaint referred only to the factual allegations of faxes that were also alleged to have violated the TCPA, the court held that the common-law conversion claim fell within the policy exclusion. Id. at 79; see also Mesa Labs., Inc. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 436 F. Supp. 3d 1092, 1098–99 (N.D. Ill. 2020) (“[Plain- tiff’s] common law and TCPA counts derive from ‘the very same conduct,’ namely ‘the sending of unsolicited fax adver- tisements …’ triggering the Information Exclusion.”).

B

With these legal standards in mind, we are ready to turn to Ocwen’s three suggested constructions of Beecroft’s com- plaint. Any of these, it argues, allows it to avoid the policy exclusions.

1

The TCPA prohibits people from initiating “any telephone call to any residential line using an artificial or prerecorded voice.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(B). It does not address calls that do not use artificial or prerecorded voices directed to residential lines.

Ocwen stitches together two components of Beecroft’s complaint to support an argument that it may have placed non-prohibited calls to Beecroft’s home phone.

First, it points to the complaint’s description of its collection efforts, which “include[d]” calls to Beecroft’s home phone (in addi-tion to cellular calls, letters, and billing statements).

Second, it cites the factual allegation in the complaint that Beecroft “answered approximately two calls from Ocwen,” and after answering the phone, “there was a significant delay before an operator would come onto the line and ask for” her. If these two sets of phone calls have any overlap, Ocwen argues, they would establish the potential for alleged behavior that does not violate the TCPA.

Calls to Beecroft’s home landline using a live operator would support her common-law invasion of privacy claim while steering clear of the exclusions.

2

The TCPA also forbids making

“any call … using any automatic telephone dialing system [(ATDS)] or an artificial or prerecorded voice” to “any telephone number assigned to … a cellular phone service.”

47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). A call to Beecroft’s cell phone without using an ATDS or artificial or prerecorded voices would not violate the TCPA.

Ocwen finds this scenario in the complaint by flipping Beecroft’s decision to answer two phone calls on its head. Although Beecroft inferred that Ocwen was using an ATDS because of the delay before an operator came on the line, Ocwen argues that this allegation of ATDS usage was “based on an assumption drawn from a limited sample size” of two out of the 58 alleged phone calls. Further, Ocwen declines to read Beecroft’s allegation that “some or all of the calls to [her] cell phone … were made using [the five specified ATDS systems]” as foreclosing the possibility that some of those calls used no ATDS. Because the conjunction “or” can impose an exclusive choice between “some or all,” and because “some” is not “all,”

Ocwen argues that there might be a residuum of cell phone calls placed with old-fashioned manual dialing, and any such calls did not violate the TCPA.

3

Even if all that were true, though, Ocwen would still have the FDCPA to worry about.

Setting aside the live-operator calls to Beecroft’s home and the manually dialed calls to her cell phone, and assuming that neither violated the TCPA, it remains true that if Ocwen caused “a telephone to ring … repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at that called number,” it violated the FDCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 1692d(5).

The district court reasoned that because “Beecroft pleaded for the calls to stop … the FDCPA [is] applicable as Ocwen’s calls were meant to annoy or harass.” Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. Ocwen Fin. Corp., 357 F. Supp. 3d 659, 672 (N.D. Ill. 2018).

Ocwen insists that such an inference is erroneous.

Beecroft’s complaints accuse Ocwen of “intentionally and/or negligently” invading her privacy. Seizing on the word “negligently,” Ocwen argues that this means that at least some calls were not made with the requisite intent for an FDCPA violation.

C

In Illinois civil practice, “[t]he pleader must state the facts essential to his cause of action.” Knox Coll. v. Celotex Corp., 430 N.E.2d 976, 984 (Ill. 1981). “A pleading which merely para- phrases the law, ‘as though … to say that (the pleader’s) case will meet the legal requirements, without stating the facts,’ is insufficient.” Id.

While the duty to defend is not dependent on a complaint’s ability to satisfy a jurisdiction’s pleading standards, Illinois has harmonized the principles animating its fact-pleading rules with those guiding the duty-to-defend inquiry.

When reviewing a complaint to determine whether it alleges covered liability, Illinois courts “give little weight to the legal label that characterizes the underlying allegations.” Lexmark Int’l, Inc. v. Transp. Ins. Co., 761 N.E.2d 1214, 1221 (Ill. App. Ct. 2001).

Even the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which use the more liberal notice-pleading standard, require more than “‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

Our job is to focus on the pleaded facts, not on the labels attached to those facts. See Momence Meadows Nursing Ctr., 566 F.3d at 696.

Fairly read, Beecroft’s complaint does not allege that Ocwen called her home phone using a live operator.

The best Ocwen can do is to point to Paragraph 17 of the complaint, in which Beecroft states that she answered two phone calls with a live operator on the other end, and link it to the complaint’s separate references to calls to her home. But the natural reading of the complaint precludes such a linkage.

In the paragraph immediately before Beecroft’s description of those two phone calls, she alleges:

16. Throughout the months from October 1, 2013, until February 1, 2014, Defendant Ocwen made approximately 58 calls to Plaintiff’s cellular telephone using an automatic telephone dialing system in an attempt to collect the al- leged balance due on the Loan from Plaintiff. The phone calls are detailed in paragraphs 37–95 of this Complaint. The phone calls violated the Telephone Consumer Protec- tion Act and were an invasion of Plaintiff’s privacy.

“The phone calls” identified in the final sentence are the same “phone calls” referenced in the preceding sentence: the 58 calls to her cell phone. Significantly, the complaint contains no other factual allegations of “phone calls” other than those mentioned in paragraphs 37–95. This is the setting against which paragraph 17 must be read. There is no basis for as- suming that the “two phone calls from Ocwen” that Beecroft answered (as alleged in paragraph 17) came from a source other than the set of calls addressed in paragraph 16.

Paragraph 17 confirms this interpretation: its point was not to establish that there was a live operator, but that “there was a significant delay before an operator would come onto the line,” and “[t]his delay indicated that Ocwen used an automated dialer to call Plaintiff.”

Automated dialers are relevant only for establishing TCPA liability for calls made to cellular phones.

Compare 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A), with 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(B). Thus, we decline to read paragraph 17 in tandem with the stray references to calls to Beecroft’s home.

Whether Ocwen on one or more occasions did call Beecroft’s “home phone” is not pertinent for the TCPA if Beecroft is not complaining about such a (hypothetical) call in her lawsuit.

And in our view, a fair reading of the complaint reveals that she is not.

Furthermore, it remains true that the complaint contains no factual allegations that would substantiate the existence of calls that Ocwen placed to her home phone.

Ocwen’s assertion that the complaint potentially alleges calls made to Beecroft’s cell phone without the use of ATDS also goes nowhere.

We agree with the point that a sample size of two tells us nothing from a scientific point of view. But the complaint alleges that “some or all” of the calls to Beecroft’s cell phone “were made using” one of four specified ATDS systems or a “similar dialing system that has the requisite capacity pursuant to the TCPA.”

That signals that Beecroft is complaining about the ATDS calls, not a stray direct call.

While Ocwen’s proffered rules of grammatical construction hold true in isolation—no one disputes that “or” is disjunctive and that “some” does not mean “all”— these rules do not override the text taken as a whole. And that text does not say “some but not all” of the calls were placed using an ATDS system. It says that “some or all of the calls to Plaintiff’s cell phone, including but not limited to the [58] calls listed above,” (our emphasis.) were made using the specified ATDS systems.

If the word “some” stood alone (without the “or all”), it would still expressly “includ[e]” all 58 calls made to Beecroft’s cell phone. “Some,” in this context, cannot be read impliedly to omit calls in the group that it specifically purports to classify.

More likely, the word “some” plays a distributive role in relation to the specified ATDS systems Ocwen was using. “Some” of the calls were placed using Global Dialer, “some” were placed using IAT Predictive Dialer, “some” were placed using a Davox Dialer, “some” using Aspect Dialer, and the rest used “a similar dialing system … .”

It is also possible that Ocwen used only two or three of those systems. Either way, the reference to “some” calls serves only to distribute the group of 58 among the five options.

Finally, even if there were calls to Beecroft’s home or cell phone that did not violate the TCPA, Ocwen must still deal with the FDCPA.

Because the FDCPA requires an intent to annoy, abuse, or harass, Ocwen seeks refuge in Beecroft’s vague references to negligent conduct in Count V, where she says that Ocwen “intentionally and/or negligently” invaded her privacy by calling her repeatedly. But these are precisely the types of “legal labels” that Illinois courts refuse to credit without factual elaboration. See G.M. Sign, 18 N.E.3d at 79 (where a complaint is “so bereft of factual allegations” and is so vague that “myriad unpleaded scenarios could fall within its scope,” it cannot trigger a duty to defend).

Count V expressly incorporates by reference the 58 calls to Beecroft’s cell phone (and potential calls to her home). It was from this set of calls that the district court inferred Ocwen’s intent to “annoy or harass” when it continued to call Beecroft after she asked it to stop. “[T]here is no bright line rule for how many calls are sufficient to support an inference of an intent to harass, oppress or abuse.” Holliday v. Virtuoso Sourc- ing Grp., LLC, No. 11-CV-314-JPG-PMF, 2011 WL 5375062, at *2 (S.D. Ill. Nov. 4, 2011). The inference depends on the circumstances. Id.

Several district courts have found the requisite intent when the caller continues to call after being requested to stop. See Light v. Seterus, Inc., 337 F. Supp. 3d 1210 (S.D. Fla. 2018);

Masuda v. Citibank, N.A., 38 F. Supp. 3d 1130 (N.D. Cal. 2014);

Holliday, 2011 WL 5375062, at *2; Arteaga v. Asset Acceptance, LLC, 733 F. Supp. 2d 1218, 1227 (E.D. Cal. 2010) (discussing Fox v. Citicorp Credit Servs., Inc., 15 F.3d 1507 (9th Cir. 1994)) (“[A]a debt collector may harass a debtor by continuing to call the debtor after the debtor has requested that the debt collector cease and desist communication.”);

Chiverton v. Fed. Fin. Grp., Inc., 399 F. Supp. 2d 96, 104 (D. Conn. 2005).

The district court did not err in drawing a similar inference from Ocwen’s persistence in the face of Beecroft’s requests that they stop calling her.

IV

Because Zurich had no duty to defend based on the factual allegations in Beecroft’s complaint, we AFFIRM the district court’s judgment.

Appellate Judges

The Eleventh Circuit Issues Another Glossed Opinion to Dismiss a Pro Se Lawyer’s Appeal

All motions under Rule 60(b) OTHER THAN those based on Rule 60(b)(4) must be made within a reasonable time.

Published

on

Henry v. City of Mount Dora, No. 21-14120 (11th Cir. Sep. 16, 2022)

REPUBLISHED BY LIT: SEP 17, 2022

Before LUCK, LAGOA, and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges. PER CURIAM:

Marie Henry, proceeding pro se, appeals the district court’s denial of her Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4), (d)(3) motion seeking relief from the court’s order dismissing her federal claims raised pursuant to several federal statutes, and remanding to state court her state law claims raised pursuant to Florida state law.

After filing an ethics complaint against one of the defendants and a pro se motion to disqualify a judge in a predatory lending case, Henry was referred to a Florida Bar grievance committee on two counts of misconduct and, after disciplinary proceedings that she challenged as defective, she was suspended for 6 months.

She originally filed her complaint in Florida state court, but the Florida Bar removed her case to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

On appeal, she argues, first, that the district court erred by denying her Rule 60 motion as untimely.

Second, she contends that the court abridged her due process right to an impartial tribunal, notice, and an opportunity to be heard by dismissing her federal claims where the defendants did not unanimously consent to removal, the court judicially noticed facts without a hearing, and the judge was a member of an adverse party.

Third, she asserts that the court erred by failing to analyze fraud on the court.

Finally, she argues that the court’s denial of an extension to file objections to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation violated 28 U.S.C. § 2072.

I.

LIT OBJECTS TO THE PANEL SUMMARY, WHICH DOES NOT PROVIDE DATES FOR THE FLORIDA BAR SUSPENSION, WHICH WAS IN MARCH 2015 , AND GLOSSES OVER THE FACT IT TOOK THE BAR YEARS TO PROSECUTE AND REACH ITS FINAL DISPOSITION.

We review de novo the denial of a motion to set aside a judg-ment for voidness under Rule 60(b)(4).

Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colom., 771 F.3d 713, 736 (11th Cir. 2014).

Motions pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4) are not subject to a reasonable timeliness requirement or a typical laches analysis.

Id. at 737-38.

But “Rule 60(b)(4) does not provide a license for litigants to sleep on their rights.”

United Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa, 559 U.S. 260, 275 (2010).

When considering whether a movant slept on her rights, we have noted that subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived and have addressed the merits of the movant’s jurisdictional argument.

See Stansell, 771 F.3d at 737

(holding that movant waived “his right to object to any defects in the service of process or to any denial of his right to be heard” because he “sat on his rights for nine months” but addressing alleged jurisdiction issues).

We may affirm for any reason supported by the record.

Bircoll v. Miami-Dade Cnty., 480 F.3d 1072, 1088 n.21 (11th Cir. 2007).

Here, the district court applied a reasonable time requirement to Henry’s Rule 60(b)(4) motion, but that requirement was inappropriate.

See Stansell, 771 F.3d at 737.

However, Henry sat on her rights by waiting more than 2 years to file her Rule 60(b)(4) motion.

See id. at 737-38.

Thus, we affirm the district court as to any issues raised by Henry that do not relate to subject matter jurisdiction because she slept on her rights for over two years.

Bircoll, 480 F.3d at 1088 n.21.

Like in Stansell, however, we next consider Henry’s arguments that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

See Stansell, 771 F.3d at 737.

LIT DISAGREES WITH THE PANEL OPINION WHICH CONTRADICTS ITSELF AND THIS COURT’s OWN RULINGS TO RELY UPON A SCOTUS BANKRUPTCY CASE, WHICH IS INAPPOSITE TO THE FACTS HERE.

FURTHERMORE, THE CITE, WHEN READ FULLY, IS NOT ABOUT DELAY IN APPEALING AT ALL:

“United had actual notice of the filing of Espinosa’s plan, its contents, and the Bankruptcy Court’s subsequent confirmation of the plan. In addition, United filed a proof of claim regarding Espinosa’s student loan debt, thereby submitting itself to the Bankruptcy Court’s jurisdiction with respect to that claim…. United therefore forfeited its arguments regarding the validity of service or the adequacy of the Bankruptcy Court’s procedures by failing to raise a timely objection in that court.

United Student Aid Funds v. Espinosa, 559 U.S. 260, 275 (2010)

—————

Before HULL, MARCUS and WILSON, Circuit Judges.:

“All motions under Rule 60(b) other than those based on Rule 60(b)(4) must be made within a reasonable time. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c). ” Sec. & Exch. Comm’n v. J&J Mgmt. Consulting, No. 15-14628, at *4 (11th Cir. Oct. 3, 2016)

II.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) provides relief from a final judgment or order if the judgment is void.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(4).

A judgment is not void under Rule 60(b)(4) merely because it was erroneous.

Espinosa, 559 U.S. at 270.

Generally, it is void solely if it is premised on a jurisdictional error depriving the court of even arguable jurisdiction or on a due process violation that deprived a party of notice or the opportunity to be heard.

See id. at 271.

Federal courts always have jurisdiction to determine their own jurisdiction.

In re Nica Holdings, Inc., 810 F.3d 781, 789 (11th Cir. 2015).

The Rooker-Feldman1 doctrine is a narrow jurisdictional doctrine concerning a court’s subject matter jurisdiction that bars parties who lose a case in state court from appealing their loss in a federal district court.

Behr v. Campbell, 8 F.4th 1206, 1208 (11th Cir. 2021);

Alvarez v. Att’y Gen for Fla., 679 F.3d 1257, 1264 (11th Cir. 2012).

Neither res judicata nor the requirement that all defendants consent to removal is jurisdictional.

See Narey v. Dean, 32 F.3d 1521, 1524-25 (11th Cir. 1994);

In re Bethesda Mem’l Hosp., Inc., 123 F.3d 1407, 1410 n.2 (11th Cir. 1997).

An appellant abandons any argument not briefed before us, made in passing, or raised briefly without supporting arguments or authority.

Access Now, Inc. v. Sw. Airlines Co., 385 F.3d 1324, 1330 (11th Cir. 2004);

Sapuppo v. Allstate Floridian Ins. Co., 739 F.3d 678, 681 (11th Cir. 2014).

We can consider sua sponte an abandoned issue if a forfeiture exception applies and extraordinary circumstances warrant review.

United States v. Campbell, 26 F.4th 860, 873 (11th Cir. 2022) (en banc), petition for cert. filed (U.S. May 17, 2022) (No. 21-1468).

Here, Henry was not entitled to relief pursuant to her Rule 60(b)(4) motion because she did not identify any jurisdictional defect depriving the district court of arguable jurisdiction.

See Espinosa, 559 U.S. at 271.

The requirement that all defendants consent to removal is not jurisdictional.

See In re Bethesda Mem’l Hosp., Inc., 123 F.3d at 1410 n.2.

Res judicata is not jurisdictional either.

Narey, 32 F.3d at 1524–25.

Moreover, to the extent Henry argues that the district court erred by concluding the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applied, that is an argument over which the court had jurisdiction because a court always has jurisdiction to determine its own jurisdiction.

See In re Nica Holdings, Inc., 810 F.3d at 789.

Moreover, Henry points to no error in the district court’s application of the doctrine, nor to any other possible jurisdictional problem that might have deprived the district court of arguable jurisdiction.

Thus, we affirm the district court’s denial of Henry’s Rule 60(b)(4) motion.

1 Rooker v. Fid. Tr. Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feld- man, 460 U.S. 462 (1983).

III.

We review a district court’s denial of a Rule 60(d)(3) motion for relief from a judgment due to the opposing party’s fraud on the court for abuse of discretion.

See Cox Nuclear Pharm., Inc. v. CTI, Inc., 478 F.3d 1303, 1314 (11th Cir. 2007) (Rule 60(b)(3) motion).

Rule 60 does not limit a court’s power to set aside a judgment for fraud on the court.

Fed. R. Civ. P 60(d)(3).

A movant must prove fraud on the court with clear and convincing evidence.

See Booker v. Dugger, 825 F.2d 281, 283-84 (11th Cir. 1987)

(appealing denial of Rule 60(b) motion after denial of § 2254 petition).

Fraud on the court is limited to exceptional conduct like bribery or evidence falsification involving an attorney.

Rozier v. Ford Motor Co., 573 F.2d 1332, 1338 (5th Cir. 1978) (prior version of Rule 60).

We have held that, in independent actions challenging a judgment for fraud on the court, the alleged fraud must not have been raised in the original litigation, and it must not have been possible for the complaining party to raise the issue through reasonable diligence.

See Travelers Indem. Co. v. Gore, 761 F.2d 1549, 1552 (11th Cir. 1985).

Here, the district court addressed fraud on the court, and it correctly found that Henry failed to show sufficiently egregious conduct.

The conduct Henry points to on appeal, even if true, does not fall within the category of egregious conduct that can constitute fraud on the court, but instead amounts to, at most, arguably erroneous legal arguments, or conduct that occurred before she filed her complaint, neither of which come close to the necessary showing of fraud on the court.

See Rozier, 573 F.2d at 1338.

Furthermore, she does not challenge any conduct that was not raised before her Rule 60 motion or that she could not have raised through reasonable diligence.

See Travelers Indem. Co., 761 F.2d at 1552;

Bircoll, 480 F.3d at 1088 n.21.

Thus, we affirm the denial of her Rule 60(d)(3) motion.

LIT OBJECTS TO THE PANEL SUMMARY, WHICH DOES NOT PROVIDE THE ‘CONDUCT’ AT ISSUE, AND BLANKS HENRY’S ARGUMENTS.

IV.

We review a district court’s denial of a motion for extension of time for abuse of discretion.

See Lizarazo v. Miami-Dade Corr. & Rehab. Dep’t, 878 F.3d 1008, 1010-11 (11th Cir. 2017)

(extension of time to file motion for substitution).

A request for an extension should be granted if good cause is shown. Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b).

Here, Henry arguably has shown good cause for an extension in her motion for an extension to file objections to the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation concerning her Rule 60 motion because she asserted that she did not receive the report and recommendation until after the time for her to file objections had passed and she had been occupied caring for a family member.

We assume arguendo that she showed good cause for an extension.

However, the consequence for failing to object to the magistrate’s report and recommendation is waiver of the right to challenge those issues on appeal.

11th Cir. R. 3-1.

Because we have reviewed Henry’s arguments as if she had not waived them for failing to object, we affirm the denial of her motion for the reasons discussed above.

See R. 3-1; Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b).

AFFIRMED.

LIT OBJECTS TO THE SCANT LEGAL ANALYSIS OF THE ‘CONSEQUENCE FOR  FAILING TO OBJECT TO THE MAGISTRATE REPORT’.

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Appellate Circuit

Constance Daniels, Student of Hard Knocks, Admonished Florida Lawyer and Friend of The Eleventh Circuit

LIF cannot comprehend how the People of Florida and the United States of America are so accepting of Brazen Corruption.

Published

on

LIF UPDATE

OCT 26, 2022

Five months after the 11th Circuit saved a colleague and lawyer from foreclosure, the mandate issued (without en banc hearing) and as instructed (reversed and remanded) the lower court has reopened the case.

LIT will be tracking this case closely, stay tuned.

LIF COMMENTARY

The article below starts with Constance Daniels failure to pay for her law school tuition loan issued in 2003. She defaulted in 2005 per the complaint. The USA won a judgment of $164k+ in 2011.

In 2010, Wells Fargo commenced foreclosure proceedings in state court, Hillsborough County.

While all this was going on, Ms Daniels, a Republican, was attempting to become a State judge in 2014, which failed.

In late November of 2017 a settlement was reached, dismissing the Wells Fargo foreclosure complaint.

In 2017-2018, lawyer Daniels was failing to look after her client(s). Many moons later, in 2021, that would result in a slap on the wrist by the referee, Hon. Daniel D. Diskey for Fl. Bar.

Then we move onto the June 2018 complaint, filed by Daniels against the mortgage servicer. It was removed to the lower court in Middle District  of Florida Federal Court.

The court, via one of the Moody clan of judges, sided with Select Portfolio Servicing, LLC and this formed the appeal which was decided this week by the 11th Circuit.

In Nov. 2020, Wells Fargo filed a renewed foreclosure complaint against Daniels and her homestead in State court. In Sept 2021, Wells Fargo voluntarily dismissed the case and terminated the lis pendens ‘due to loan modification’.

The issue for LIF in this case is quite clear. Who the 11th Circuit has chosen to upend it’s prior stance that mortgage servicers can do no wrong under the FDCPA, despite irrefutable facts confirming otherwise.

For example, LIF refers to the case we highlighted regarding a deficiency judgment (State case, March 2022):

Florida Lawyer Stephanie Schneider Appeals a Mortgage Foreclosure Deficiency Judgment

In that case, LIF investigated beyond the court opinions to discover the wife is a Florida Lawyer and her husband, Laurence Schneider is owner of S&A Capital, Inc., a mortgage investment company, has built a national portfolio of performing mortgages that have been written off by other financial institutions.

Our angst is clear. Lawyers are being treated preferentially by the courts over regular citizens and homeowners.

In the case of Daniels, whilst she may have legitimate arguments, there have been many citizens who have failed before her by the wordsmithing by the Federal and Appellate Court(s), which has refused to apply the correct legal interpretation of the FDCPA, or clarify the question(s) with the federal consumer agency, the CFPB.

Whilst LIF is unhappy with the anti-consumer watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which is a revolving door for staff to leave the Bureau and go work for a creditor rights law firm without any restriction or time limit (non-compete), the Daniels case should have been referred to the CFPB for interpretation about the matters of ‘first impression’.

The Second Circuit recently did so for a RESPA question in Naimoli v Ocwen and we highlighted the case on our sister website, LawsInTexas.com (Laws In Texas). Instead of doing so in Daniels, there is a dissenting opinion by Judge Lagoa, who’s father in law is a  senior judge in SD Florida (Paul C. Huck) and her hubby is a Jones Day Partner and apparently the leader of the Miami Chapter of the Federalist Society. Lagoa herself is a former Florida Supreme Court justice appointed by Gov DeSantis who ‘ensured he puts conservatives on the bench so that anyone coming to court knows how the court will rule’.

LIF anticipates the Daniels case will be subject to a rehearing petition and presented to the full en banc court for reconsideration. The opinion here is similar to the recent Newsom FDCPA opinion, which was too negative towards Wall St and the financial banking services community. As such, it was vacated by the en banc panel while they reconsider. The courts’ decision is currently pending.

In this case, there is still time for the 11th Circuit to correctly ask the CFPB to provide its opinion on the underlying facts raised on appeal and decided by the 3-panel.

However, what the judiciary won’t do is apply this retroactively to the thousands of cases which have been incorrectly tossed in the last 14 years, resulting in homeowners losing their homes to wrongful foreclosures.

United States v. Daniels (2011)

(8:11-cv-01058)

District Court, M.D. Florida

MAY 13, 2011 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 26, 2022

USA Motion for Summary Judgment with Exhibits, Doc. 13, Aug 17, 2011

ORDER granting  Motion for summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiff and against the defendant in the amount of $109,813.74,

together with accrued interest in the amount of $54,097.10 as of February 28, 2011,

plus interested at the rate of 8.25 percent per annum and a daily rate of $24.80, until the date of judgment;

for post-judgment interest, at the legal rate, from the entry of final judgment until the date of payment;

and for such other costs of litigation otherwise allowed by law.

The Clerk of Court is directed to close the case.

Signed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich on 9/22/2011.

(SN) (Entered: 09/22/2011)

U.S. District Court
Middle District of Florida (Tampa)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 8:11-cv-01058-EAK-AEP

USA v. Daniels
Assigned to: Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich
Referred to: Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli
Demand: $164,000
Cause: 28:1345 Default of Student Loan
Date Filed: 05/13/2011
Date Terminated: 09/22/2011
Jury Demand: None
Nature of Suit: 152 Contract: Recovery Student Loan
Jurisdiction: U.S. Government Plaintiff
Plaintiff
USArepresented byI. Randall Gold
US Attorney’s Office – FLM
Suite 3200
400 N Tampa St
Tampa, FL 33602-4798
813/274-6026
Fax: 813/274-6247
Email: FLUDocket.Mailbox@usdoj.gov
LEAD ATTORNEY
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED
V.
Defendant
Constance Danielsrepresented byConstance Daniels
PO Box 6219
Brandon, FL 33608
PRO SE

 

Date Filed#Docket Text
05/13/20111COMPLAINT against Constance Daniels filed by USA. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Civil Cover Sheet)(MRH) (Entered: 05/13/2011)
05/13/20112Summons issued as to Constance Daniels. (MRH) (Entered: 05/13/2011)
05/13/20113ORDER regulating the processing of civil recovery actions. Service must be perfected by 09/10/2011. Signed by Deputy Clerk on 5/13/2011. (MRH) (Entered: 05/13/2011)
05/13/20114STANDING ORDER: Filing of documents that exceed twenty-five pages. Signed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich on 7/15/08. (MRH) (Entered: 05/13/2011)
05/19/20115NOTICE of designation under Local Rule 3.05 – track 1 (CLM) (Entered: 05/19/2011)
05/20/20116CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE re 3 ORDER regulating the processing of civil recovery actions by USA (Gold, I.) Modified on 5/20/2011 (MRH). (Entered: 05/20/2011)
05/25/20117CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by USA (Notice of Designation Under Local Rule 3.05) (Gold, I.) (Entered: 05/25/2011)
07/06/20118RETURN of service executed on 7/5/11 (Marshal 285) by USA as to Constance Daniels. (MRH) (Entered: 07/06/2011)
07/27/20119MOTION for default judgment against Constance Daniels by USA. (Gold, I.) Modified on 7/27/2011 (MRH). NOTE: TERMINATED. INCORRECT MOTION RELIEF. ATTORNEY NOTIFIED. ATTORNEY TO REFILE. (Entered: 07/27/2011)
07/27/201110MOTION for entry of clerk’s default against Constance Daniels by USA. (Gold, I.) Motions referred to Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli. (Entered: 07/27/2011)
07/28/201111CLERK’S ENTRY OF DEFAULT as to Constance Daniels. (MRH) (Entered: 07/28/2011)
07/29/201112ANSWER to 1 Complaint by Constance Daniels.(BES) (Entered: 07/29/2011)
08/17/201113MOTION for summary judgment by USA. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B)(Gold, I.) (Entered: 08/17/2011)
09/09/201114ENDORSED ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE as to Constance Daniels.. The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on 8/17/11. The defendant had up to and including 9/3/11 to respond to the motion. To date no response has been filed. Therefore, it is ORDERED that the defendant has up to and including 9/19/11 in which to show cause why the pending motion should not be granted. Signed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich on 9/9/2011. (SN) (Entered: 09/09/2011)
09/22/201115ORDER granting 13 Motion for summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiff and against the defendant in the amount of $109,813.74, together with accrued interest in the amount of $54,097.10 as of February 28, 2011, plus interested at the rate of 8.25 percent per annum and a daily rate of $24.80, until the date of judgment; for post-judgment interest, at the legal rate, from the entry of final judgment until the date of payment; and for such other costs of litigation otherwise allowed by law. The Clerk of Court is directed to close the case.. Signed by Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich on 9/22/2011. (SN) (Entered: 09/22/2011)
10/12/201116ABSTRACT of judgment as to Constance Daniels. (DMS) (Entered: 10/12/2011)

Order GRANTING Summary Judgment for $164k Student Loan Debt, Doc. 15, Sep 22, 2011

Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc.

(2018-Present)

(8:18-cv-01652)

District Court, M.D. Florida

ORDER

THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint (Dkt. 24) and Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition (Dkt. 27).

The Court, having reviewed the motion, response, and being otherwise advised in the premises, concludes that Defendant’s motion should be granted.

Specifically, Plaintiff’s second amended complaint will be dismissed with prejudice because any further amendment is futile.

BACKGROUND

As the Court explained in its prior Order granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss, (see Dkt. 22), Plaintiff Constance Daniels initially filed suit in Florida state court against Defendant Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (“SPS”) alleging three Florida claims, which included a claim under Florida’s civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act.

On July 10, 2018, SPS removed the case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction.

On August 6, 2018, SPS moved to dismiss the entire complaint.

In relevant part, SPS argued that the complaint failed to allege any of the elements of a RICO claim.

On August 27, 2018, Daniels filed an amended complaint, which mooted SPS’s motion to dismiss.

Daniels’ amended complaint alleged two claims: a claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and a claim under the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act (“FCCPA”).

Both claims relied on the same allegations.

To summarize, Daniels alleged that SPS had “improperly servic[ed]” her mortgage loan “in reckless disregard” of her consumer rights. (Dkt. 12).

The amended complaint did not attach any mortgage statements.

SPS moved to dismiss Daniels’ amended complaint based on her failure to allege that SPS ever attempted to collect the mortgage balance.

The Court granted SPS’s motion.

The Court noted that the amended complaint did not identify or attach any communication from SPS to Daniels.

The Court also surmised that the dispute was more akin to a dispute about an improper accounting of Daniels’ mortgage.

The Court dismissed the FDCPA and FCCPA claims and provided Daniels a final opportunity to amend her complaint.

Daniels filed a second amended complaint.

The allegations are largely unchanged.

But, significantly, Daniels attaches multiple monthly mortgage statements that SPS sent to her.

She now claims that these mortgage statements constitute debt collection activity under the FDCPA and FCCPA.

SPS’s motion to dismiss argues that the monthly mortgage statements comply with Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act (the “TILA”)—they were not communications in connection with the collection of a debt—and therefore do not constitute debt collection activity under the FDCPA and FCCPA.

As explained further below, the Court agrees with SPS’s position based on the Court’s detailed review of the monthly mortgage statements.

Therefore, the second amended complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a court to dismiss a complaint when it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

When reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all factual allegations contained in the complaint as true.

Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal citation omitted).

It must also construe those factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.

Hunt v. Aimco Properties, L.P., 814 F.3d 1213, 1221 (11th Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted).

To withstand a motion to dismiss, the complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

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).

Pleadings that offer only “labels and conclusions,” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action,” will not do.

Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

DISCUSSION

The FDCPA and FCCPA prohibit debt collectors from using a “false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.”

See e.g. 15 U.S.C. § 1692e (emphasis added);

Fla. Stat. § 559.72 (“In collecting debts, no person shall . . .”) (emphasis added).

It is axiomatic then that the “challenged conduct is related to debt collection” to state a claim under either statute.

Reese v. Ellis, Painter, Ratterree & Adams, LLP, 678 F.3d 1211, 1216 (11th Cir. 2012);

see also Garrison v. Caliber Home Loans, Inc., 233 F. Supp. 3d 1282, 1286 (M.D. Fla. 2017) (“the FCCPA is a Florida state analogue to the federal FDCPA.”) (internal citations omitted).

“[T]he Eleventh Circuit has not established a bright-line rule” as to what qualifies as “in connection with the collection of any debt.”

Dyer v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., 108 F. Supp. 3d 1278, 1280 (M.D. Fla. 2015).

“As a general principle, the absence of a demand for payment is not dispositive,” and courts should “instead consider whether the overall communication was intended to induce the debtor to settle the debt.”

Wood v. Citibank, N.A., No. 8:14-cv-2819-T-27EAJ, 2015 WL 3561494, at *3 (M.D. Fla. June 5, 2015) (citations omitted).

The second amended complaint attaches multiple monthly mortgage statements.1

Because the communications at issue here are all monthly mortgage statements, a discussion of the TILA is necessary.

The TILA requires SPS, a servicer, to send monthly mortgage statements.

12 C.F.R. § 1026.41. Specifically, 12 C.F.R. § 1026.41(d) requires that servicers provide debtors with detailed monthly mortgage statements containing, among other things: the “amounts due;” the “payment due date;” “the amount of any late payment fee, and the date that fee will be imposed if payment has not been received;” “an explanation of amount due, including a breakdown showing how much, if any, will be applied to principal, interest, and escrow and, if a mortgage loan has multiple payment options, a breakdown of each of the payment options;” “any payment amount past due;” a breakdown of “the total of all payments received since the last statement” and “since the beginning of the current calendar year;” “a list of all transaction activity that occurred since the last statement;” “partial payment information;” “contact information;” and detailed “account information” and “delinquency information.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”) has issued a bulletin providing that a

“servicer acting as a debt collector would not be liable under the FDCPA for complying with [monthly mortgage statement] requirements.”

Implementation Guidance for Certain Mortgage Servicing Rules, 10152013 CFPB GUIDANCE, 2013 WL 9001249 (C.F.P.B. Oct. 15, 2013).

Courts have largely followed this guidance.

See, e.g., Jones v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., No. 18-cv-20389, 2018 WL 2316636, at *3 (S.D. Fla. May 2, 2018) (citing 12 C.F.R. § 1026.41(d));

Brown v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., No. 16-62999-CIV, 2017 WL 1157253 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 24, 2017) (noting the guidance and finding that monthly mortgage statements in compliance with the TILA were not debt collection).

The monthly mortgage statements at issue here were in conformity with the TILA requirements.

Moreover, the subject statements were substantially similar to model form H-30(B) provided by Appendix X to Part 1026 of TILA Regulation Z.

See also Jones, 2018 WL 2316636, at *4 (noting the similarities between a monthly mortgage statement and the model form in concluding no debt collection).

Although the monthly mortgage statements may not be identical to model form H-30(B), the differences are not significant deviations.

Notably, the plaintiff in Brown brought a nearly identical lawsuit against SPS.

The court explained in detail why the plaintiff was unable to state a claim under the FDCPA and FCCPA because the monthly mortgage statement was required to be sent pursuant to the TILA.

The complaint in Brown was dismissed with prejudice because “amendment would be futile” given that the basis for the claims was a monthly mortgage statement that was not actionable as a matter of law.

See 2017 WL 1157253, at *2-*4.

Also, the Jones court discussed in detail the numerous prior decisions addressing this issue, including multiple cases from this district that have held that monthly mortgage statements

“are almost categorically not debt collection communications under the FDCPA.”

2018 WL 2316636, at *5 (citing cases).

The particular monthly mortgage statements before the court in Jones were also sent by SPS and were substantively identical to the statements at issue in this case and in Brown.

Most recently, in Mills v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., No. 18-cv-61012- BLOOM/Valle, 2018 WL 5113001 (S.D. Fla. Oct. 19, 2018), the court “agree[d] with the reasoning in Jones and [concluded] that the Mortgage Statements at issue [were] not communications in connection with a collection of a debt.” Id. at *2.

In conclusion, the substance of the monthly mortgage statements at issue in this case is substantially similar to model form H-30(B).

Any minor discrepancies in the language—when taken in the context of the document as an otherwise carbon copy of form H-30(B)—do not take the statements out of the realm of a monthly mortgage statement and into the realm of debt collection communications.

It is therefore ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that:

1. Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint (Dkt.

24) is granted.

2. Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

3. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case and terminate any pending motions as moot.

DONE and ORDERED in Tampa, Florida on December 18, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Copies furnished to: Counsel/Parties of Record

Judge Bert Jordan’s “Reputation” Warning to New Florida Lawyers

Constance Daniels Admonished by the Florida Bar (2021)

Constance Daniels, P.O. Box 6219, Brandon, admonishment in writing and directed to attend Ethics School effective immediately following a November 24 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1995)

Daniels failed to act with reasonable diligence and failed to communicate with her client in connection with a dissolution of marriage action.

Daniels also failed to timely respond to the Bar’s formal complaint.

(Case No: SC21-683)

Constance Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (2022)

11th Cir., Published Opinion

(19-10204, May 24, 2022)

“A matter of first impression” 14 Years after the great recession and greatest theft of citizens homes in the history of the United States.

It’s quite incredulous how the 11th Circuit selects a Sanctioned Fl. Republican Lawyer, a failed judicial candidate and one who is facing foreclosure, for this ‘landmark’ published opinion in 2022.

Panel Author, Judge Bert Jordan, joined by Judge Brasher with a dissenting opinion by Judge Babs Lagoa

11th Circuit revives FDCPA lawsuit over mortgage statement language

How Westlaw is Summarizing the Latest Eleventh Circuit Opinion

(May 26, 2022)

Resolving an issue of first impression, a divided federal appeals panel has held that mortgage servicers can be liable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for inaccuracies in monthly mortgage statements that contain additional debt-collection language.

Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servicing Inc., No. 19-10204, (11th Cir. May 24, 2022).

In a 2-1 decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 24 reinstated Constance Daniels’ lawsuit against Select Portfolio Servicing Inc., in which she alleges the company used faulty mortgage statements to try to collect payments she did not owe.

Writing for the panel majority, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto J. Jordan acknowledged that Select Portfolio was required to issue the mortgage statements under the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1638.

However, the mortgage statements fell within the scope of the FDCPA’s prohibition on false or misleading representations, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1692e, because they included additional debt-collection language — “this is an attempt to collect a debt” — the opinion said.

Judge Jordan reasoned that “in determining whether a communication is in connection with the collection of a debt, what could be more relevant than a statement in the communication than ‘this is an attempt to collect a debt’?”

U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Lagao dissented, saying the majority treated the language like “magic words” that could convert an otherwise routine mortgage statement into a communication covered by the FDCPA.

Judge Lagoa also argued that the decision created a circuit split, although the panel majority insisted that the facts of Daniels’ case distinguished it from others in which federal circuit courts seemed to reach a contrary result.

District Court tosses FDCPA claims

Daniels sued Select Portfolio in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in July 2018.

According to the suit, Daniels had prevailed in a state court foreclosure action brought by lender Wells Fargo in 2015, with the judge sanctioning Wells Fargo and enforcing an earlier loan modification agreement between the parties.

But Daniels’ mortgage servicer, Select Portfolio, later issued several monthly mortgage statements misstating the principal balance and amount due, and falsely claiming that her loan was in arrears, the suit says.

At least three of the mortgage statements included the sentence, “This is an attempt to collect a debt,” according to the suit.
Daniels accuses Select Portfolio of using false or misleading representations in connection with the collection of a debt, in violation of the FDCA and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 559.72.

Select Portfolio moved to dismiss, saying Daniels was attempting hold it liable for issuing mortgage statements that are required under the Truth in Lending Act.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. agreed and dismissed the suit in December 2018. Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servs. Inc., No. 18-cv-1652, (M.D. Fla. Dec. 18, 2018).

Judge Moody said that any discrepancies in language between Select Portfolio’s monthly statements and what is required under TILA “do not take the statements out of the realm of a monthly mortgage statement and into the realm of debt collection communications.”

On appeal, Daniels argued that compliance with TILA does not make a mortgage servicer immune from suit under the FDCPA and, even if it did, the monthly statements at issue included language beyond what is necessary under TILA.

Kaelyn S. Diamond and Michael A. Ziegler of the Law Office of Michael A. Ziegler represented Daniels.

Benjamin B. Brown and Joseph T. Kohn of Quarles & Brady LLP represented Select Portfolio.

By Dave Embree

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Appellate Circuit

Deutsche Bank and Nationstar Watch as 11th Circuit Discharge the Shotgun Despite Hunt’s Pleadings

There can be no doubt that this is a frivolous appeal and we would not hesitate to order sanctions if appellant had been represented by counsel.

Published

on

Hunt v. Nationstar Mortg., No. 21-10398

(11th Cir. May 27, 2022)

MAY 27, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 30, 2022

Before ROSENBAUM, GRANT, and MARCUS, Circuit Judges. PER CURIAM:

Christopher M. Hunt, Sr., proceeding pro se, appeals following the district court’s dismissal of his civil complaint arising out of his 2006 purchase of residential property located in Atlanta, Georgia (the “Property”).

Hunt purchased the Property using proceeds from a loan that he eventually defaulted on, which prompted Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (“Nationstar”), then servicer of the loan, to seek a non-judicial foreclosure on the Property.

After filing or being named in a variety of related lawsuits,1 Hunt filed the instant pro se complaint in Georgia state court in June 2020 and named as defendants Nationstar, the Deutsche Bank National Trust

1 See, g., Hunt v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, 684 F. App’x 938 (11th Cir. 2017) (unpublished) (“Hunt I”);

[MARCUS, ROSENBAUM AND ANDERSON]

Hunt v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, 779 F. App’x 669 (11th Cir. 2019) (unpublished);

[PRYOR,W., GRANT AND ANDERSON]

Hunt v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, 782 F. App’x 762 (11th Cir. 2019) (unpublished);

[PRYOR,W., GRANT AND ANDERSON]

Deutsche Bank Tr. Co. Am., as Tr. for Fifteen Piedmont Ctr. v. Hunt, 783 F. App’x 998 (11th Cir. 2019) (unpublished).

[TJOFLAT, JORDAN AND NEWSOM]

Companies (“Deutsche Bank”), and Jay Bray, the CEO of Nationstar.

He alleged that they had committed, inter alia, mortgage fraud and wrongful foreclosure in violation of federal laws, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act.2

The district court denied a variety of preliminary motions filed by Hunt;

dismissed, without prejudice, the complaint as to defendant Bray for failure to effect proper service;

and

dismissed, with prejudice, the complaint as to Deutsche Bank and Nationstar, because it was a “shotgun” pleading, was barred by res judicata, and failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.3

After thorough review, we affirm.

I.

Whether a court has subject-matter jurisdiction, including removal jurisdiction, is a question of law that we review de novo.

See McGee v. Sentinel Offender Servs., LLC, 719 F.3d 1236, 1241 (11th Cir. 2013).

We also review de novo a denial of a motion to

2 Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745 (hereinafter “Sarbanes-Oxley Act”), and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Con- sumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376 (2010) (hereinafter “Dodd-Frank Act”).

3 Hunt also named Christian Sewing, the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of Deutsche Bank, as a defendant, but he later voluntarily dismissed him.

And after filing the complaint, Hunt sought to add yet another defendant, the Albertelli Law Firm (“Albertelli Law”).

Bray, Sewing and Albertelli Law have not filed any briefs on appeal.

remand to state court. Conn.

State Dental Ass’n v. Anthem Health Plans, 591 F.3d 1337, 1343 (11th Cir. 2009).

A district court’s decision regarding the indispensability of a party is reviewed for abuse of discretion.

United States v. Rigel Ships Agencies, Inc., 432 F.3d 1282, 1291 (11th Cir. 2005).

We will disturb a district court’s refusal to change venue only for a clear abuse of discretion.

Robinson v. Giarmarco & Bill, P.C., 74 F.3d 253, 255 (11th Cir. 1996).

We also review the district court’s denial of a motion for recusal for abuse of discretion.

Jenkins v. Anton, 922 F.3d 1257, 1271 (11th Cir. 2019).

We review a district court’s grant of a motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process, under Rule 12(b)(5), by applying a de novo standard to questions of law, and a clear error standard to the court’s findings of fact.

Albra v. Advan, Inc., 490 F.3d 826, 829 (11th Cir. 2007).

But when a party fails to object to a magistrate judge’s findings or recommendations in a report and recommendation, he “waives the right to challenge on appeal the district court’s order based on unobjected-to factual and legal conclusions.” 11th Cir. R. 3-1.

Under the circumstances, we review a claim on appeal only “for plain error,” if “necessary in the interests of justice.” Id.

We review the dismissal of a “shotgun” pleading under Rule 8 for abuse of discretion.

Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1294 (11th Cir. 2018).

When appropriate, we will review a district court’s dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) de novo.

Am. United Life Ins. Co. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1056–57 (11th Cir. 2007).

We will also review a dismissal

based on res judicata de novo.

Jang v. United Techs. Corp., 206 F.3d 1147, 1149 (11th Cir. 2000).

We review de novo a district court’s conclusions on collateral estoppel, but review its legal conclusion that an issue was actually litigated in a prior action for clear error.

Richardson v. Miller, 101 F.3d 665, 667–68 (11th Cir. 1996).

While pro se pleadings are liberally construed, issues not briefed on appeal are normally forfeited and we will generally not consider them.

Timson v. Sampson, 518 F.3d 870, 874 (11th Cir. 2008).

An appellant can abandon a claim by:

(1) making only passing reference to it;

(2) raising it in a perfunctory manner without supporting arguments and authority;

(3) referring to it only in the “statement of the case” or “summary of the argument”;

or

(4) referring to the issue as mere background to the appellant’s main arguments.

Sapuppo v. Allstate Floridian Ins. Co., 739 F.3d 678, 681– 82 (11th Cir. 2014).

In addition, if a district court’s order rested on two or more independent, alternative grounds, the appellant must challenge all of the grounds to succeed on appeal.

See id. at 680.

When an appellant fails to challenge on appeal one of the grounds on which the district court based its judgment, he is deemed to have abandoned any challenge of that ground, and it follows that the judgment is due to be affirmed.

See id.

II.

Liberally construed, Hunt’s brief on appeal seeks to challenge the district court’s decisions:

(1) denying remand of his case to state court

and

denying his request to file an amended complaint adding another defendant, Albertelli Law;

(2) denying his request

to transfer the case;

(3) denying his request to disqualify the judge;

(4) dismissing, without prejudice, his complaint as to defendant Bray for failure to effect proper service;

and

(5) dismissing his complaint, with prejudice, as to Deutsche Bank and Nationstar.

To be sure, Hunt’s arguments about these decisions by the district court are not clearly stated.

But even if we were to assume that he has preserved his arguments on appeal, they fail on the merits.

First, we are unpersuaded by Hunt’s arguments that the district court should have allowed him to file an amended complaint to add another party to the suit, which would have deprived the federal court of jurisdiction, and should have remanded the case to state court.

Federal courts have diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction when the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).

A corporation is a citizen of every state where it was incorporated and the one state in which it has its principal place of business.

Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 133, 137 (2014); 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1).

A defendant may remove any civil action brought in a state court to a federal district court that has original jurisdiction over the action.

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).

The removing party bears the burden of proving that removal jurisdiction exists.

McGee, 719 F.3d at 1241.

Here, the district court did not err in denying Hunt’s motion to remand. As we’ve held in a previous appeal, his motion was based on his belated and fraudulent attempts to join Albertelli Law, in an effort to defeat the district court’s diversity jurisdiction.

See Hunt I, 684 F. App’x. at 942-44.

However, Hunt asserted federal

claims in his complaint, so the district court had jurisdiction in any event.

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).

Accordingly, the district court correctly denied Hunt’s requests to remand the case and acted within its discretion to deny joinder.

Rigel Ships Agencies, Inc., 432 F.3d at 1291.

We also find no merit to Hunt’s claims that the district court should have transferred venue of his lawsuit.

A district court may transfer a civil action to any other district or division where it may have been brought “for the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and in the interest of justice.”

Robinson, 74 F.3d at 260 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)).

But in this case, the district court did not err because Hunt did not provide any cognizable reason for a transfer.

It appears that Hunt’s transfer request was based on his belief that case law in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia would be more favorable to him – which is not a legitimate reason for transfer.

See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

Similarly, we reject Hunt’s argument that the district court judge should have recused himself.

A judge must sua sponte recuse himself “in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned” or “

[w]here he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.”

28 U.S.C. § 455(a), (b)(1).

“The test is whether an objective, disinterested, lay observer fully informed of the facts underlying the grounds on which recusal was sought would entertain a significant doubt about the judge’s impartiality.”

Parker v. Connors Steel Co., 855 F.2d 1510, 1524 (11th Cir. 1988).

“Ordinarily, a judge’s rulings in the same or a related case may not serve as

the basis for a recusal motion.”

McWhorter v. City of Birmingham, 906 F.2d 674, 678 (11th Cir. 1990).

“The judge’s bias must be personal and extrajudicial; it must derive from something other than that which the judge learned by participating in the case.”

Id.

“The exception to this rule is when a judge’s remarks in a judicial context demonstrate such pervasive bias and prejudice that it constitutes bias against a party. Mere friction . . . however, is not enough to demonstrate pervasive bias.”

Thomas v. Tenneco Packaging Co., 293 F.3d 1306, 1329 (11th Cir. 2002) (quotation marks omitted).

As the record before us makes clear, no “objective, disinterested, lay observer fully informed of the facts underlying” these circumstances “would entertain a significant doubt about the judge’s impartiality.”

Parker, 855 F.2d at 1524.

Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Hunt’s request for recusal or disqualification.

Nor do we find any merit to Hunt’s argument that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint against defendant Bray for lack of proper service.

When a federal court is considering the sufficiency of process after removal, it does so by looking to the state law governing process.

See Usatorres v. Marina Mercante Nicaraguenses, S.A., 768 F.2d 1285, 1286 n.1 (11th Cir. 1985).

Georgia law provides that service made “outside the state” of Georgia is to be done “in the same manner as service is made within the state.”

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-94.

Under Georgia law, service on natural persons is to be made “personally, or by leaving copies thereof at the defendant’s dwelling house or usual place of abode with some

person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to an agent authorized . . . to receive service of process.”

O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(7).

Notably, Hunt does not dispute these proposed findings set forth by the magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), that Hunt:

(1) mailed service to Bray;

and

(2) completed “corporate service” on Deutsche Bank, which Hunt asserted was also effective to serve Bray.

11th Cir. R. 3-1.

But, as the district court determined, Georgia law applied here and required personal service in these circumstances.

Albra, 490 F.3d at 829; O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(7).

Bray therefore was not properly served under Georgia law, and, for that reason, the district court did not err in dis- missing Hunt’s suit without prejudice as to Bray.

Finally, we find no error in the district court’s denial of injunctive relief and its dismissal of Hunt’s complaint against the two remaining defendants, Nationstar and Deutsche Bank.

A district court has the inherent authority to control its docket and ensure the prompt resolution of lawsuits, which includes the ability to dismiss a complaint on “shotgun” pleading grounds.

Shabanets, 878 F.3d at 1295.

We have described four types of “shotgun” com- plaints:

(1) those containing multiple counts where each count adopts all allegations of all preceding counts;

(2) those replete with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any particular cause of action;

(3) those that do not separate each cause of action or claim for relief into different counts;

and

(4) those asserting multiple claims against multiple defendants without

specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is brought against.

Weiland v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sheriff’s Off., 792 F.3d 1313, 1321–23 (11th Cir. 2015).

“Shotgun” pleadings violate Rule 8, 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), by failing to, in one degree or another, give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them and the grounds upon which each claim rests.

Shabanets, 878 F.3d at 1294–96.

We generally require district courts to allow a litigant at least one chance to remedy any deficiencies before dismissing the complaint with prejudice, where a more carefully drafted complaint might state a claim.

See id.; Silberman v. Miami Dade Transit, 927 F.3d 1123, 1132 (11th Cir. 2019).

But it need not grant leave to amend the complaint when further amendment would be futile.

Silberman, 927 F.3d at 1133.

Under federal law, res judicata, or claim preclusion, bars a subsequent action if

“(1) the prior decision was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction;

(2) there was a final judgment on the merits;

(3) the parties were identical in both suits;

and

(4) the prior and present causes of action are the same.”

Jang, 206 F.3d at 1148– 49 & n.1 (quotation marks omitted).

We have held that “if a case arises out of the same nucleus of operative facts, or is based upon the same factual predicate, as a former action, the two cases are really the same ‘claim’ or ‘cause of action’ for purposes of res judicata.”

Baloco v. Drummond Co., Inc., 767 F.3d 1229, 1247 (11th

Cir. 2014) (quotation marks omitted and alterations adopted).

“In addition, res judicata applies not only to the precise legal theory presented in the prior case, but to all legal theories and claims arising out of the nucleus of operative fact” that could have been raised in the prior case.

Id. (quotation marks omitted and alterations adopted).

Collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, “refers to the effect of a judgment in foreclosing relitigation of a matter that has been litigated and decided.”

Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 77 n.1 (1984).

Thus, “collateral estoppel is appropriate only when the identical issue has been fully litigated in a prior case.”

In re McWhorter, 887 F.2d 1564, 1567 (11th Cir. 1989) (quotation marks omitted).

“The party seeking to invoke collateral estoppel bears the burden of proving that the necessary elements have been satisfied.”

Id. at 1566.

“[C]hanges in the law after a final judgment [generally] do not prevent the application of res judicata and collateral estoppel, even though the grounds on which the decision was based [may be] subsequently overruled.”

Precision Air Parts, Inc. v. Avco Corp., 736 F.2d 1499, 1503 (11th Cir. 1984).

To safeguard investors in public companies and restore trust in the financial markets, Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, 116 Stat. 745.

See S. Rep. No. 107-146, pp. 2–11 (2002).

The Act contains several provisions, including a whistleblower protection provision which prohibits a publicly traded company or its officers from discharging an “employee” for providing information to a supervisory authority about conduct that the employee

“reasonably believes” constitutes a violation of federal laws against mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, any SEC rule or regulation, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

See 18 U.S.C. § 1514A(a)(1).

The Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower provision provides protection to individuals who provide “information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the” Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

15 U.S.C. § 78u-6(a)(6).

Thus, “[t]o sue under Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provision, a person must first provide information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the [SEC].”

Dig. Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, 138 S. Ct. 767, 772–73 (2018) (quotation marks omitted and alterations adopted).

In his brief on appeal, Hunt does not expressly address the lower court’s “shotgun” pleading determination, and, as a result, the district court’s dismissal of the complaint is due to be affirmed.

Sapuppo, 739 F.3d at 681–82.

But in any event, the district court did not err in finding that his complaint was a “shotgun” pleading.

As the record reflects, the complaint consisted of three numbered paragraphs that spanned paragraphs and pages; failed to isolate claims by defendants;

and largely failed to discuss any facts — thereby falling into several of our identified categories of prohibited “shotgun” pleadings.

Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1321-23.

The district court also was correct that amendment would have been futile.

For one, res judicata and collateral estoppel barred Hunt’s claims for breach of contract and fraud, since Hunt sued the same parties for the same alleged breach of contract and fraud in several prior cases.

See, e.g., Hunt I, 684 F. App’x at 944.4

These decisions were final judgments and were “rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction,” “on the merits,” against the same parties, and “the prior and present causes of action [were] the same.”

Jang, 206 F.3d at 1149.

Moreover, even if some of Hunt’s claims had not been explicitly presented in any of his prior cases, they would still be barred by res judicata because every claim arose from the same facts as each of his prior cases, and he could have raised them in any of the prior proceedings.

Baloco, 767 F.3d at 1247.

Also, despite Hunt’s arguments, there have been no “changes in the law” that would “prevent the application of res judicata and collateral estoppel” in this case.

Precision Air Parts, 736 F.2d at 1503.

In addition, Hunt’s claims under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Dodd-Frank Act were futile because they fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

As the record reflects, Hunt did not allege that he was an “employee” under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, nor that he “provide[d] information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the [SEC]” as required under the Dodd-Frank Act.

4 To the extent that Hunt challenges the district court’s decisions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), we conclude that he has not identified any “extraordinary circumstances” entitling him to relief, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in this respect.

Toole v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 235 F.3d 1307, 1316 (11th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks omitted).

Somers, 138 S. Ct. at 772–74.

Accordingly, Hunt did not state a cause of action under these statutes, and we affirm.

AFFIRMED.5

5 All of Hunt’s pending motions, which he filed after we imposed a filing restriction on him, are DENIED to the extent they request any relief.

For their part, Nationstar and Deutsche Bank have filed renewed motions for sanctions, requesting monetary sanctions against Hunt for his numerous motions before this Court under 11th Cir. R. 27-4.

Hunt is pro se and we DENY the motions for sanctions at this time.

See Woods v. I.R.S., 3 F.3d 403, 404 (11th Cir. 1993)

(“There can be no doubt that this is a frivolous appeal and we would not hesitate to order sanctions if appellant had been represented by counsel. However, since this suit was filed pro se, we conclude that sanctions would be inappropriate.”).

Although we are reluctant to impose sanctions on pro se appellants, we warn Hunt that our Court has imposed sanctions in circumstances like these, even for pro se litigants, and he is strongly cautioned against bringing any further frivolous motions or claims.

See Ricket v. United States, 773 F.2d 1214, 1216 (11th Cir. 1985)

(imposing sanctions on a pro se appellant who had been warned by the district court that the issues on appeal were frivolous).

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