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Bridgewater v. 5800 Seward, LLC

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

June 7, 2019

Nicole Ruby Bridgewater, Plaintiff,
v.
5800 Seward, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER & MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION

          Robert T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Nicole Ruby Bridgewater, a resident of Franklin County, North Carolina, filed this action to resolve a dispute over the title to certain real property in Youngsville, North Carolina. She named 5800 Seward, LLC, a limited liability company allegedly incorporated in and with its principal place of business in North Carolina, as the defendant. Although it is appropriate to grant Bridgewater's motion to proceed IFP, the district court should dismiss her complaint without prejudice because she fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         I. Background

         Bridgewater claims that a cloud over the title to the property at 183 Mill Creek Drive in Youngsville, North Carolina. She argues that during the aftermath of the financial crisis that began in 2008, someone, presumably 5800 Seward, took improper actions related to the property's mortgage note and deed. Compl. at 4, D.E. 1-1. In addition, 5800 Seward allegedly failed to follow its own loan procedures, which Bridgewater claims gives rise to claims of fraud, negligence, and misrepresentation. Id. at 5. Bridgewater claims these actions also violated her constitutional rights. Id. Bridgewater seeks the cancellation of 5800 Seward's deed on the property as well as $300, 000 in damages. Id.

         II. Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis

         Bridgewater asks the court to allow her to proceed with her action without paying the required filing fee and other costs associated with litigation (colloquially known as proceeding in forma pauperis or IFP). The court may grant his request if she submits an affidavit describing her assets and the court finds that she cannot pay the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. In assessing a request to proceed IFP, the court should consider whether the plaintiff can pay the costs associated with litigation “and still be able to provide himself and his dependents with the necessities of life.” Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948) (internal quotations omitted).

         The court has reviewed Bridgewater's application and finds that she lacks the resources to pay the costs associated with this litigation. The court thus grants Bridgewater's motion (D.E. 1) and allows her to proceed IFP.

         III. Screening Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915

         Along with determining whether Bridgewater is entitled to IFP status, the court must also analyze the viability of the claims in the Complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court reviews a complaint to eliminate those claims that unnecessarily impede judicial efficiency and the administration of justice. The court must dismiss any portion of the complaint it determines is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Bridgewater claims that jurisdiction is appropriate because of diversity of citizenship, and she also claims that 5800 Seward violated her constitutional rights. This type of claim, which is cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, would provide a basis for subject matter jurisdiction. But to state a claim under § 1983, “a plaintiff . . . must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). 5800 Seward is a private company, not a governmental actor. Thus, it is not a state actor and Bridgewater cannot sue it under § 1983. The district court should dismiss Bridgewater's constitutional claims.

         Bridgewater also claims that 5800 Seward committed a number of state-law torts.[1] The district court should dismiss Bridgewater's state-law claims because she has not stated sufficient facts to establish a plausible claim. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not “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). The Supreme Court has explained that “[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.” Id. Bridgewater's pro se status relaxes, but does not eliminate, the requirement that her complaint contain facially plausible claims. The court must liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's allegations, but it “cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts” that set forth a cognizable claim. Johnson v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, 867 F.Supp.2d 766, 776 (E.D. N.C. 2011).

         The facts that Bridgewater alleges in her complaint are sparse and vague. She states that she has claims of “Fraud, Negligence, and Misrepresentation” because “[a] cloud on all title activity exists due to divergent paths taken by both the mortgage note and the deed of trust” which she claims “ignor[ed] proper loan procedures.” Compl. at 5. This is not a specific fact that could plausibly support any state-law claim, and Bridgewater has failed to particularize her complaint. Thus, the district court should dismiss these state-law claims without prejudice.

         IV. Conclusion

         Bridgewater's motion to proceed IFP is granted. D.E. 1. But for the reasons discussed above, the district ...


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