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Thompson v. Brown

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division

October 3, 2019

Dorothy Mae Thompson, Plaintiff,
v.
Jeffery Brown, CEO Ally Bank, Sangeet Chowfla, CEO GMAC, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Dorothy Mae Thompson (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil action against the above-named Defendants, [1] asserting a claim for breach of contract arising from the repossession of her vehicle. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was filed on September 26, 2019. [Doc. 11.] This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C. Having reviewed the Amended Complaint and each of Plaintiff's submissions filed in this case, the undersigned finds that this action should be summarily dismissed for the reasons below.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Complaint against GMAC Financial Services and Ally Payment Processing Center, which both appear to be automobile loan servicing companies. [Doc. 1 at 2.] In the Complaint, Plaintiff asserted that this Court had federal question jurisdiction on the basis of “unfair financial practices, ” but she failed to provide any additional allegations or information to support that assertion, and she failed to identify what specific federal statutes or constitutional provisions were at issue in this case to invoke federal question jurisdiction. [Id. at 3.] Plaintiff made a number of confusing allegations in her Complaint, which the undersigned previously summarized as follows:

[Plaintiff] purchased a 2008 Vue from GMAC in 2008. [Id. at 5.] The vehicle overheated. [Id.] Plaintiff did not want the vehicle. [Id.] GMAC offered Plaintiff a Red Line Series 2008 Vue. [Id.] Plaintiff contracted with GMAC to pay $10, 000 for her former Vue and $32, 000 for her new Vue. [Doc. 1-1 at 1.] Then, according to Plaintiff, the “[e]conomy went down, ” “GMAC filed [for] [b]ankruptcy, ” and “Obama bailed them out.” [Id.] Plaintiff's contract was then turned over to Ally, though Plaintiff did not have a contract with Ally. [Id.] Plaintiff's husband then had a stroke and Plaintiff fell behind on her payments. [Id.] Plaintiff refinanced and agreed to pay $249 monthly. [Id.] Ally sent partial papers to be signed. [Id.] A month later, Ally repossessed Plaintiff's vehicle. [Id.] According to Plaintiff, “GMAC was bailed out” and she believes both of her vehicles were included in the bail-out. [Id.] Plaintiff contends that she has paid over $45, 000 to GMAC and Ally since 2008 for her vehicle and that she was almost finished paying the vehicle off. [Doc. 1 at 5.] Plaintiff contends that the vehicle sold at auction for $7, 000. [Id.]

[Doc. 9 at 2.] By Order dated September 11, 2019, Plaintiff was directed to file an amended complaint to cure the deficiencies in her original Complaint identified by the Court in its Order. [Id. at 9-10.] The undersigned explained that Plaintiff's allegations failed to establish subject matter jurisdiction and failed to state a claim for relief. [Id. at 6-9.]

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was filed on September 11, 2019. [Doc. 11.] In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that the Court has diversity jurisdiction over her claims. [Id. at 3.] Plaintiff alleges that she is a citizen of South Carolina, that Defendant Chowfla is a citizen of Virginia, and that Defendant Brown is a citizen of Utah. [Id. at 3-4.] As to the amount in controversy, Plaintiff alleges that she “paid over 48, 000 dollars for vehicles.” [Id. at 4.] In the statement of the claim section of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges, verbatim,

I contracted a Saturn Vue Red-Line Series in 2008 with GMAC who turned over [the] contract to Ally in 2009. I had not contracted with Ally, payments [were] not behind. Ally contracted with me for lower payments. Ally breached contract. I have contract information and vehicle vin # discrepancies.

[Id. at 4.] For her relief, Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $48, 000 that she paid for her vehicle, as well as $48, 000 for “the mental anguish I suffered not having a vehicle and caring for my husband who had recently suffered a stroke one week prior to the repossession.” [Id.]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, her pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, even under this less stringent standard, Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to summary dismissal. The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which Plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         The Court must accept all well-pled allegations and review a complaint in a light most favorable to plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). Although the Court must liberally construe the pro se Complaint and Plaintiff is not required to plead facts sufficient to prove his case as an evidentiary matter in his pleadings, the Complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (explaining that a plaintiff may proceed into the litigation process only when his complaint is justified by both law and fact). “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.'” Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379, 388 (4th Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that the action “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Further, this Court would possess the inherent authority to review a pro se complaint to ensure that subject matter jurisdiction exists and that a case is not frivolous, even if the complaint were not subject to the prescreening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. See Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307S08 (1989) (“Section 1915(d) . . . authorizes courts to dismiss a ‘frivolous or malicious' action, but there is little doubt they would have power to do so even in the absence of this statutory provision.”); Ross v. Baron, 493 Fed.Appx. 405, 406 (4th Cir. 2012) (unpublished) (“[F]rivolous complaints are subject to dismissal pursuant to the inherent authority of the court, even when the filing fee has been paid . . . [and] because a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an obviously frivolous complaint, dismissal prior to service of process is permitted.”) (citations omitted); see also Fitzgerald v. First E. Seventh Street Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 364 (2d Cir. 2000) (“[D]istrict courts may dismiss a frivolous complaint sua sponte even when the plaintiff has paid the required filing fee[.]”); Ricketts v. Midwest Nat'l Bank, 874 F.2d 1177, 1181 (7th ...


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