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Hinson v. Citibank, N. A.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

December 13, 2017

WALTER L. HINSON, Trustee for CELESTE G. BROUGHTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITIBANK, N.A., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

          MARTIN REIDINGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Defendant Citibank N.A.'s Motion to Dismiss [DE 13].

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Celeste G. Broughton (the "Debtor") filed a Petition for Relief under Chapter 13 of Title 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code on December 15, 2014. [Bankr. Case No. 14-07268-5-JNC (the "Bankruptcy Proceeding")]. On July 14, 2015, the case was converted to one under Chapter 7. On July 15, 2015, Walter L. Hinson (the "Plaintiff") was appointed as the Chapter 7 Trustee by order of the Bankruptcy Court. On May 19, 2016, on his own motion, the Honorable Terrence W. Boyle, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, entered an Order withdrawing the reference to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. [Misc. Case No. 5:16-mc-19-BO]. The United States District Court thereafter docketed the main bankruptcy proceeding as Civil Case No. 5:16-cv~302-BO.[1]

         On August 25, 2016, the Plaintiff instituted the present adversary proceeding against Citibank, N.A. ("Citibank") pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 544(a)(3)[2], seeking: (1) avoidance of Citibank's security interest on the grounds that the Deed of Trust purporting to perfect such interest fails to properly and adequately identify the underlying obligation (First Cause of Action) and (2) avoidance of Citibank's Deed of Trust on the grounds that it fails to properly identify the record owner of the Real Property (Second and Third Causes of Action). [DE 2: Corrected Complaint].

         Citibank now seeks the dismissal of this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that the Plaintiff has failed to state claims upon which relief can be granted. [DE 13]. The Plaintiff has filed a Response in opposition to Citibank's motion [DE 21], and Citibank has filed a Reply [DE 22], Having been fully briefed, this matter is ripe for disposition.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), "a 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). To be "plausible on its face, " a plaintiff must demonstrate more than "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         In reviewing the complaint, the Court must accept the truthfulness of all factual allegations but is not required to assume the truth of "bare legal conclusions." Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 391 (4th Cir. 2011). "The mere recital of elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012).

         Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is "a context-specific task, " Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009), which requires the Court to assess whether the factual allegations of the complaint are sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. As the Fourth Circuit has explained:

To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need not forecast evidence sufficient to prove the elements of the claim. However, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish those elements. Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate in a complaint that the right to relief is probable, the complaint must advance the plaintiff's claim across the line from conceivable to plausible.

Walters, 684 F.3d at 439 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Taking the well-pleaded factual allegations of the Complaint as true, the following is a ...


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