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Bryant v. Federal National Mortgage Association

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

February 2, 2017

EARL BRYANT, Plaintiff,



         Defendants Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), Citigroup Inc., and PHH Mortgage Corp. move to dismiss Plaintiff Earl Bryant's complaint. Docs. 7; 9. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Around May 23, 2005, Bryant entered into a loan agreement with PHH for $113, 230 and, on the same day, executed a security deed (the Note) in favor of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. to 611 Lokchapee Drive, Macon, Georgia (the Real Property) to secure the Loan. Bryant v. Citigroup, Inc., 5:15-CV-411 (MTT), Doc. 5 at 20-24, 26-41 (M.D. Ga.); see also Docs. 7 at 2; 9 at 3-4.[1] On November, 30, 2007, PHH transferred its rights in the Note to CitiMortgage, Inc. (CMI). Bryant v. Citigroup, Inc., 5:12-CV-61 (MTT), Doc. 18-1 (M.D. Ga.). CMI has held the Note and serviced the Loan from then on. Bryant, 5:15-CV-411, Doc. 5 at 47-50; see also Docs. 7 at 2-3; 9 at 4. In 2010, Bryant was notified that his account had an escrow shortage. Bryant, 5:12-CV-61 (MTT), Doc. 1. Bryant paid the 2010 escrow shortage in a lump sum but refused to pay the 2011 shortage. Id. After being notified his account was in default, Bryant filed the first of his now five actions related to the Real Property. Bryant v. Citigroup, Inc., 2012 WL 2375084 at *1 (M.D. Ga.).

         On June 22, 2012, this Court dismissed Bryant's first complaint, which alleged fraud and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claims against Citigroup and CMI. Id. at *1-2. The Court found CMI owned the Note and that Bryant's challenges to the escrow shortage had no merit. Id. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Bryant's claims against CMI but vacated and remanded the dismissal of his claims against Citigroup, directing the Court to dismiss those claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. Bryant v. Citigroup, Inc., 512 F.App'x 994, 995 (11th Cir. 2013). On April 3, 2014, Bryant's second complaint, which only alleged claims against Citigroup, was dismissed by this Court for insufficient service of process. Bryant v. Citigroup, Inc., 2014 WL 1347429 at *1-2 (M.D. Ga.). Then, on August 3, 2014, Bryant, represented by counsel, filed his third complaint challenging the escrow shortage in Bibb County Superior Court against PHH and CMI. Bryant v. Citimortgage, Inc., No. 5:14-CV-348 (MTT), Doc. 1 (M.D. Ga.). After removal to this Court, Bryant voluntarily dismissed the complaint with prejudice on October 30, 2014. Id. at Doc. 6.

         In 2015, CMI foreclosed on the Real Property and Bryant was notified that Defendant Fannie Mae planned to initiate dispossessory proceedings. Doc. 1 at 2; see also Bryant v. Citigroup, Inc., 2016 WL 1056575 at *2 (M.D. Ga.). Then, on November 2, 2015, Bryant filed his fourth action related to the Real Property. Id. at *1-2. That complaint alleged Citigroup and PHH committed "mortgage servicing fraud, " conspiracy, and various violations of his constitutional rights. Id. at *2. Along with again challenging the legality of the escrow shortage, Bryant also sought to halt both the foreclosure on the Real Property and the dispossessory proceedings. Id. This Court dismissed the complaint for insufficient service of process. Id. at *2-3.

         In 2016, Bryant was evicted from the Real Property. Doc. 1 at 2. On July 20, 2016, Bryant filed his latest action related to the Real Property against Defendants PHH, Citigroup, and Fannie Mae. Id. at 1. Bryant's complaint again challenges the legality of the escrow shortage, along with the resulting foreclosure and dispossessory proceedings. Id. Bryant alleges that (1) all three Defendants committed "mortgage servicing crimes"; (2) PHH and Citigroup were involved in a "partnership of collusion"; and (3) Fannie Mae and Citigroup were involved in a "joint conspiracy" to seize the Real Property. Id. at 1-2. Bryant alleges these actions were in violation of his Due Process rights under the U.S. Constitution. Doc. 1 at 2. Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss. Docs. 7, 9. Defendants PHH and Citigroup argue Bryant failed to establish personal jurisdiction. Docs. 7 at 8; 9 at 11. All three Defendants argue Bryant failed to state a claim for relief. Docs. 7 at 9; 9 at 14. Bryant did not file a response but instead filed various other motions.


         A. Legal Standard

         Citigroup and PHH are nonresident defendants: Citigroup is a Delaware corporation headquartered in New York and PHH is a New Jersey corporation headquartered in New Jersey. Docs. 9 at 13; 7 at 9. A plaintiff has the burden to prove the court has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Diamond Crystal Brands, Inc. v. Food Movers, Int'l, Inc., 593 F.3d 1249, 1257 (11th Cir. 2010). The Court must apply a two-step inquiry to determine if personal jurisdiction exists: (1) whether jurisdiction comports with the state's long-arm statute; and, then, (2) "whether sufficient minimum contacts exist between the defendants and the forum state so as to satisfy traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."[2] Sculptchair, Inc. v. Century Arts, Ltd., 94 F.3d 623, 626 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Robinson v. Giarmarco & Bill, P.C., 74 F.3d. 253, 256 (11th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court need not analyze the applicability of Georgia's long-arm statute because Bryant has not established sufficient "minimum contacts" to satisfy Due Process requirements. The Court will, therefore, only address the minimum contacts prong of the personal jurisdiction analysis.

         A plaintiff can establish minimum contacts through a defendant's contacts within the forum state unrelated to the litigation-general jurisdiction-or a defendant's contacts related to the litigation-specific jurisdiction. Diamond Crystal, 593 F.3d at 1267; Consol. Dev. Corp. v. Sherritt, Inc., 216 F.3d 1286, 1291-92 (11th Cir. 2000). General jurisdiction requires continuous and systematic contacts between the defendant and the forum state. Meier v. Sun Int'l Hotels, Ltd., 288 F.3d 1264, 1274 (11th Cir. 2002). Meanwhile, specific jurisdiction requires the defendant to have "purposefully directed his activities at residents of the forum . . . and the litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities." Diamond Crystal, 593 F.3d at 1267 (citation omitted). "Put differently, the defendant must have 'purposefully availed' itself of the privilege of conducting activities-that is, purposefully establishing contacts-in the forum state and there must be a sufficient nexus between those contacts and the litigation." Id.

         B. Discussion

         Bryant does not allege any contacts by PHH and Citigroup that could rise to the level of continuous and systematic contacts within Georgia. Moreover, Bryant does not allege sufficient facts to establish the "litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to" the Defendants' activities within Georgia. Diamond Crystal, 593 F.3d at 1267.

         Similar to the allegations against Citigroup in his first complaint, Bryant's allegations against PHH are conclusory and unsubstantiated; therefore, they cannot support the exercise of personal jurisdiction. See Doc. 1 at 1-2; Bryant, 512 F.App'x at 995; Bryant, 2012 WL 2375084 at *2; compare Doc. 1, with Bryant v. Citigroup, Inc., 5:12-cv-61 (MTT), Doc. 1. Bryant does not allege PHH was involved in servicing the Loan. Indeed, in his complaint, the only alleged contact between PHH and Georgia is a 1996 contract between Bryant and PHH for the Real Property. Doc. 1 at 1. However, Bryant's claims stem from the Loan, in 2005, and not this 1996 contract. See Id. Bryant does not mention the 2005 Loan in his complaint, much less any connection ...

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