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Taylor v. JP Morgan Chase

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division, Lafayette

August 30, 2017

ANTHONY G. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
JP MORGAN CHASE, CHASE HOME FINANCE, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the: (1) Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge John E. Martin, filed on June 30, 2017 (DE #67); and (2) the Plaintiff's Objection to Magistrate's Findings, Report and Recommendation, filed by pro se Plaintiff, Anthony G. Taylor, on July 14, 2017 (DE #68). For the reasons set forth below, the objection (DE #68) is OVERRULED and the report and recommendation (DE #67) is ADOPTED. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, filed by Defendant, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., on January 4, 2017 (DE #37), is GRANTED, and the Clerk is ORDERED to DISMISS all claims against Defendant, Chase, WITH PREJUDICE. Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, filed by pro se Plaintiff, Anthony G. Taylor, on January 27, 2017 (DE #46), is DENIED AS MOOT.

         BACKGROUND

         On May 30, 2017, this Court referred Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (DE #37) and Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (DE #46) to Magistrate Judge John Martin for report and recommendation. (DE #60.)

         On June 30, 2017, Magistrate Judge John Martin issued a Report and Recommendation. (DE #67.) First, Judge Martin denied Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint (DE #38). Judge Martin also ruled upon Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (DE #37), finding that Taylor's claims fail as a matter of law and Chase was entitled to judgment on the pleadings. (DE #67.) Finally, Judge Martin ruled on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (DE #46), recommending it should be denied as moot because Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings was successful. (DE #67.) The facts of the case are fully set forth in Judge Martin's opinion.

         Plaintiff filed a timely objection to the Magistrate Judge's rulings on July 14, 2017 (DE #68), and Chase filed a response on July 27, 2017 (DE #69). As such, this matter if fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         This Court's review of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). When a party makes objections to a magistrate judge's recommendations, “[t]he district court is required to conduct a de novo determination of those portions of the magistrate judge's report and recommendations to which objections have been filed.” Goffman v. Gross, 59 F.3d 668, 671 (7th Cir. 1995). “[T]he court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

         First, Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge misapplied the standard of review for the judgment on the pleadings. (DE #68 at 3.) To the contrary, the Magistrate Judge properly evaluated the motions for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) under the same standard as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) “is reviewed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under 12(b); the motion is not granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no facts sufficient to support his claim for relief, and the facts in the complaint are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Flenner v. Sheahan, 107 F.3d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1997); see also Thomason v. Nachtrieb, 888 F.2d 1202, 1204 (7th Cir. 1989). In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the 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 (2009)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). All well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences from those facts must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2008). However, pleadings consisting of no more than mere conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. This includes legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, as well as “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Nevertheless, the court must bear in mind that a pro se complaint is entitled to liberal construction, “however inartfully pleaded.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         Just because Plaintiff included 77 allegations in his complaint does not mean that he has properly pled the parties had an agreement. (DE #68 at 4.) Indeed, the Magistrate Judge analyzed in detail the breach of contract claim and properly determined that no contract existed because, inter alia, no offer was made by Chase to Taylor; Chase never returned an executed copy of the TPP, and Taylor's signature on the TPP letter did not bind Chase to its terms. (DE #67 at 5-7.) As such, the Magistrate Judge properly found that Plaintiff could not establish the elements of a breach of contract claim.

         Second, Plaintiff contends the Magistrate Judge misapplied the rationale and holding in Baehl v. Bank of America, N.A., 3:12-cv-00029-RLY-WGH, 2013 WL 1319635 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 29, 2013). (DE #68 at 6.) To the contrary, Baehl is directly on point. In that case, like here, the plaintiffs executed and returned a TPP to the bank. Id. at *2-3. When the Baehl plaintiffs did not obtain a permanent loan modification, they sued the bank for, among other claims, breach of contract. Id. at *11. In dismissing the breach of contract claim, the Baehl court held that the TPP was not an enforceable contract, because the:

language of the TPP is clear that the TPP was not an offer by [the bank] to Plaintiffs which Plaintiffs could accept simply by providing further documentation. Instead, it was an invitation for Plaintiffs to apply to the program, which required ...

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