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Gordon v. Larumbe

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

July 21, 2017

MARY GORDON, Plaintiff,
v.
CLAUDIO LARUMBE, DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, as Trustee for FFMLT Trust 2004-FF3, Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2004-FF3, OCWEN LOAN SERVICING, LLC, GS MORTGAGE SECURITIES CORPORATION, MANHATTEN MORTGAGE CORPORATION, FIRST FRANKLIN LOAN TRUST, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee for FFMLT Trust 2004-FF3, Mortgage-Pass Through Certificates, Series 2004-FF3's (“Deutsche Bank”) and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC's (“Ocwen”) (together, the “Removing Defendants”) Notice of Removal [1].

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 1997, Plaintiff Mary Gordon (“Plaintiff”) purchased real property located at 82 Bates Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia (the “Property”). (Compl. [1.1] at 3). Plaintiff alleges that the Property “was solely held in [P]laintiff's name until 2004, subject to a Note and Deed of Trust solely in [P]laintiff's name.” (Id. at 4).

         In 1998, Plaintiff married Claudio Larumbe (“Larumbe”) and, she alleges, the Property “thereafter was treated as jointly held and owned.” (Id. at 3).

         In 2004, Plaintiff “intended to refinance [the mortgage]” on the Property. (Id. at 4). Plaintiff alleges that the “new note and mortgage called for the title holder under the warranty deed to be Claudio Larumbe, only as of 2004. Plaintiff was not obligated under the refinance agreement.” (Id.). Repayment of the refinanced loan was secured by a deed (“Security Deed”) to the Property. Larumbe executed the Security Deed in favor of First Franklin Financial Corp. (“First Franklin”). (Security Deed [1.3] at 1-3). Plaintiff is not a party to the Security Deed.

         In 2006, Larumbe again refinanced the mortgage “as the exclusive note holder under warranty deed, excluding again [P]laintiff Gordon from title or obligation.” (Compl. at 19).[1] Plaintiff does not identify the lender or servicer of the refinanced loan.

         Plaintiff and Larumbe later divorced. On August 15, 2006, Plaintiff and Larumbe executed a Marital Settlement Agreement “calling for [Plaintiff] to take ownership, and payment duties and obligations under the Note and [S]ecurity [Deed].” (Id. at 19-20). Plaintiff and Larumbe agreed that Plaintiff “thereafter would become the obligor under the existing Note and mortgage in place of Larumbe who . . . divested himself of all title ownership and duties under the Note and Mortgage in place and instead assigning and transferring those rights to [Plaintiff].” (Id. at 4). The Marital Settlement Agreement was approved by the Superior Court of DeKalb County, Georgia. (Id. at 20).

         Plaintiff asserts that “final payment [on the mortgage for the Property] was tendered by [Plaintiff] in or about July, 2007 when the final payoff was tendered to J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., who acknowledged the payment was received and credited in its books and records and by letter to [P]laintiff Gordon dated on or about July 15, 2007.” (Id. at 5-6). Plaintiff alleges, however, that beginning in 2012, Deutsche Bank[2] claimed that Plaintiff “was in arrears thousands of dollars, which she was not.” (Id. at 6).

         On October 17, 2016, Plaintiff, a citizen of Georgia, proceeding pro se, filed her Complaint in the Superior Court of DeKalb County, Georgia. Plaintiff asserts state-law claims for breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, fraud and deceit, demand for accounting, quiet title, specific performance, and negligence against Larumbe, the Removing Defendants, GS Mortgage Securities Corporation, Manhatten Mortgage Corporation and First Franklin (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff also asserts against Deutsche Bank and Larumbe a claim for specific performance to enforce the Marital Settlement Agreement and declare Plaintiff “the true title holder of the [P]roperty and no one else.” (Id. at 20). Plaintiff seeks, among others, to “reform all deeds in favor of Plaintiff's name” and to quiet title to the Property. (Id. at 23).

         On January 3, 2017, Deutsche Bank and Ocwen removed the DeKalb County action to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. They assert that complete diversity exists among the parties because Larumbe, the only in-state defendant, was fraudulently joined to defeat federal subject matter jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal [1] ¶¶ 11-13).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Federal courts “have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any party.” Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 501 (2006). The Eleventh Circuit consistently has held that “a court should inquire into whether it has subject matter jurisdiction at the earliest possible stage in the proceedings. Indeed, it is well settled that a federal court is obligated to inquire into subject matter ...


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