United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the Court on defendants' motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. Plaintiff has responded, defendants have
replied, and the matter is ripe for ruling. For the reasons
discussed below, defendants' motion to dismiss is denied.
an African American male, filed his complaint seeking damages
as well as legal, equitable, and declaratory relief under the
Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff
entered into a loan agreement with defendant TrustAtlantic
Bank to obtain a mortgage on his home in 2011. Compl. ¶
7. In August 2014, plaintiff attempted to refinance the 2011
loan to obtain a better interest rate. Id. He
completed documentation on August 29, 2014, which
demonstrated that his assets were substantially greater than
his liabilities, and he was aware of lower interest rates
that were being advertised and offered by TrustAtlantic Bank.
Id. Plaintiff was issued a loan on September 26,
2014, at a higher interest rate than he anticipated, in
addition to having to pay taxes and insurance separately.
Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges that white customers
received more favorable loan terms, specifically lower
interest rates, and that plaintiff was discriminated against
on the basis of his race. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10.
have stated in the motion to dismiss that, following a merger
defendant First Tennessee Bank National Association (First
Tennessee) is the successor in interest to TrustAtlantic
Bank, and First Tennessee is the proper defendant in this
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief which provides "the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (internal quotations, alterations, and
citations omitted). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal
sufficiency of the complaint. Papasan v. Attain, 478
U.S. 265, 283 (1986). When acting on a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6), "the court should accept as true
all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in
a light most favorable to the plaintiff." Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th
Cir.1993). A complaint must allege enough facts to state a
claim for relief that is facially plausible. Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In
other words, the facts alleged must allow a court, drawing on
judicial experience and common sense, to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct. Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v.
Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 256 (4th Cir.
2009). The court "need not accept the plaintiffs legal
conclusions drawn from the facts, nor need it accept as true
unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments." Philips v. Pitt County Mem. Hosp.,
572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal alteration and
42 section 1981 grants to all persons within the jurisdiction
of the United States the same right in every state and
territory to make and enforce contracts as is enjoyed by
white citizens. 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). "To prove a
§ 1981 claim, therefore, a plaintiff must ultimately
establish both that the defendant intended to discriminate on
the basis of race, and that the discrimination interfered
with a contractual interest." Denny v. Elizabeth
Arden Salons, Inc., 456 F.3d 427, 434 (4th Cir. 2006).
In the lending context, the elements of a § 1981 claim
are that "(1) the plaintiff belongs to a protected class
of individuals, (2) the plaintiff applied and was qualified
for credit made available by the defendant, (3) the defendant
either denied the application or approved it subject to
unreasonable or overly burdensome conditions, and (4)
additional evidence demonstrates a causal nexus between the
harm and plaintiffs membership in a protected class."
Best Med. Int'l, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.,
937 F.Supp.2d 685, 697 (E.D. Va. 2013) (following
Anderson v. Wachovia Mortg. Corp., 621 F.3d 261, 275
(3d Cir. 2010), which declined to impose comparator
requirement in lending cases where plaintiffs would have
difficulty identifying similarly situated individuals who
were treated differently); see also Adam v. Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A., No. 1:09-CV-2387, 2010 WL 3001160, at *3 (D.
Md. July 28, 2010) (fourth element requires a showing that
other similarly situated applicants not in the protected
class were treated more favorably).
Court has reviewed the allegations in the complaint in light
of the applicable standards and finds that dismissal is not
warranted at this time. Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged
that he is a member of a protected class, that he applied for
and was eligible for refinancing, that defendant or
defendants approved his application subject to burdensome
conditions or, put differently, denied his application for a
more favorable interest rate, and that defendants did not
treat him as they did similarly situated white customers.
plaintiffs allegations are somewhat bare, he "need not
plead facts sufficient to establish a prima facie case of
race-based discrimination to survive a motion to
dismiss". Woods v. City of Greensboro, 855 F.3d
639, 648 (4th Cir. 2017). Moreover, the Court is mindful that
discrimination claims are often vulnerable to premature
dismissal as civil rights plaintiffs are less likely,
particularly in the context of lending as discussed above, to
have pre-discovery access to additional evidence of
discriminatory animus to support their claim. Id. at
652. The Court finds that plaintiff has pled sufficient facts
to nudge his claim across the line from conceivable to
plausible, and thus denies the motion to dismiss.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
foregoing reasons, defendants' motion to ...