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Brattain v. Graverson

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

March 9, 2018

DONALD R. BRATTAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS G. GRAVERSON, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court.

         Plaintiff Donald Brattain brought this lawsuit in state court to quiet title to a property in Brazil, Indiana (“the Property”). [Filing No. 1-1 at 3-6.] On November 1, 2017, Defendant United States Department of the Treasury (“United States”) removed the matter to this Court. [Filing No. 1.] Now before the Court is the United States' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, [Filing No. 8], to which Mr. Brattain has not responded. The United States argues that while Mr. Brattain's lawsuit purports to be a quiet title action, it in effect seeks to extinguish the United States' lien on the Property. The United States argues that it is entitled to sovereign immunity from an action to extinguish its lien and therefore argues that it should be dismissed from this lawsuit. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the United States' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

         I.

         Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings after the filing of the complaint and answer. Moss v. Martin, 473 F.3d 694, 698 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court may only consider the complaint, answer, and any documents attached thereto as exhibits. See N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of South Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452-53 (7th Cir. 1998).

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) “is governed by the same standards as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014). To survive the motion, “a complaint must ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Adams, 742 F.3d at 728 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, but allegations that are legal conclusions are insufficient to survive the motion. Adams, 742 F.3d at 728. In other words, to survive dismissal, a plaintiff “must plead some facts that suggest a right to relief that is beyond the speculative level.” Atkins v. City of Chicago, 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011).

         II.

         Background

         On October 13, 2017, Mr. Brattain filed his Verified Complaint in Indiana state court, seeking to quiet title to the Property he acquired in a tax sale. [Filing No. 1-1 at 3-6.] According to Mr. Brattain's Complaint, the property was previously owned by one Thomas G. Graverson. [Filing No. 1-1 at 3.] Mr. Brattain alleged the following as to the United States' interest in the Property:

United States Department of the Treasury has been named a defendant to assert any interest it may have in the real estate described above due to Federal Tax Lien against Thomas G. Graverson dated June 27, 2013 and recorded July 10, 2013 in Official Record 138, page 2057 in the amount of $210, 014.27.

[Filing No. 1-1 at 5.] In its Answer, the United States admits that it holds an “interest in the property set forth in the plaintiff's complaint by virtue of a lien arising under the Internal Revenue laws in the total assessed amount of approximately $155, 274.32, as of November 30, 2017, plus interest and penalties from the date or dates of assessment, notices of which were filed with the county recorder on: July 10, 2013.”

         On November 1, 2017, the United States removed this matter to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1444, which permits the United States to remove actions under 28 U.S.C. § 2410 to quiet title to property on which the United States has a lien. [Filing No. 1.] On January 10, 2018, the United States filed its Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. [Filing No. 8.] The time for Mr. Brattain to respond has expired, see S.D. Ind. L.R. 7-1(c)(2)(A), and the United States' Motion is therefore ripe for decision.

         III.

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