United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
WILLIAM E. SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.'s
(“Wells Fargo” or “Defendant”) Motion
to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint
(“Motion”), pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 4.) Plaintiffs
have not opposed Defendant's Motion. For reasons that
follow, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED.
Lisa and Keith Stenmark secured a loan and mortgage on a
property in Warwick from Defendant on February 29, 2012. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1-1.) After that date, Plaintiffs
defaulted on the mortgage payment to Defendant. (Id.
¶ 6.) Around March 6, 2015, Defendant commenced
foreclosure proceedings on the Warwick property.
(Id. ¶ 7.) After learning of the foreclosure
proceedings, Plaintiffs began negotiations for a loan
modification with Defendant. (Id. ¶ 8.) While
negotiations continued, in July 2015, Defendant again
commenced foreclosure proceedings and eventually sold the
property to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (the
“Secretary”) on August 10, 2015 at public
auction. (Id. ¶ 9.) The new owner of the
property demanded that Plaintiffs vacate it by December 2015.
(Id. ¶ 10.)
filed this action in state court on December 22, 2015 and
amended the Complaint on January 21, 2016. (See Am.
Compl., ECF No. 1-1.) On May 2, 2016, Wells Fargo removed the
action to this Court. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.)
However, just prior to removal, Plaintiff stipulated to
dismissing the Secretary from the case. (See Ex. B
to Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1-3.) Consequently, only two
counts remain before the Court. Although the Complaint does
not specifically identify the cause of action under which
Plaintiffs bring Count I, the Court gleans from the language
of the Complaint that it is a promissory estoppel claim. In
Count III, Plaintiffs request a declaratory judgment from the
Court that the foreclosure is void and that Plaintiffs still
own the property.
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must “accept
the well-pleaded facts as true, viewing factual allegations
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”
Rederford v. U.S. Airways, Inc., 589 F.3d 30, 35
(1st Cir. 2009). However, “[t]o survive a motion to
dismiss, 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)). A
claim is facially plausible “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. at 678.
when assessing an unopposed 12(b)(6) motion, “the mere
fact that a motion to dismiss is unopposed does not relieve
the district court of the obligation to examine the complaint
itself to see whether it is formally sufficient to state a
claim.” Pomerleau v. W. Springfield Pub. Sch.,
362 F.3d 143, 145 (1st Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). “This obligation means that a
court may not automatically treat a failure to respond to a
12(b)(6) motion as a procedural default.” Id.
Promissory Estoppel (Count I)
Rhode Island law, a claim for promissory estoppel must
include: “(1) A clear and unambiguous promise; (2)
Reasonable and justifiable reliance upon the promise; and (3)
Detriment to the promisee, caused by reliance on the
promise.” Filippi v. Filippi, 818 A.2d 608,
626 (R.I. 2003) (internal citation omitted). As to the first
requirement, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has stated that
the “terms of the promise must be certain” and
that “[p]romissory estoppel cannot be based upon
preliminary negotiations and discussions or on an agreement
to negotiate the terms of a contract.” B.M.L. Corp.
v. Greater Providence Deposit Corp., 495 A.2d 675, 677
Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that they “relied upon
their ongoing negotiations for the loan modification with
Wells Fargo that their Property would not be sold at
foreclosure auction on August 10, 2015.” (Am. Compl.
¶ 12, ECF No. 1-1.) Plaintiffs, however, cannot succeed
on a claim for promissory estoppel if reliance is based
solely upon negotiations with Defendant. See B.M.L.
Corp., 495 A.2d at 677. Negotiations do not represent a
“clear and unambiguous promise.” Id.;
see Filippi, 818 A.2d at 626. Therefore, Plaintiffs
have failed to allege facts that comply with the basic
elements of the cause of action.
Declaratory Judgment (Count III)
request for Declaratory Judgment in Count III of the
Complaint depends upon the promissory estoppel claim in Count
I. Because Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted in Count I, the ...