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Adkins v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

January 16, 2020

BRANDON ADKINS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Compel Arbitration and to Dismiss the Complaint by Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”). (ECF No. 7.) For the reasons stated herein, the Motion, (ECF No. 7), is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the Complaint, Plaintiffs fell into arrears over an alleged debt owed to Wells Fargo. (ECF No. 1-1 at 7 ¶ 5.) Wells Fargo attempted to collect on the debt, allegedly making telephone calls and sending letters to Plaintiffs. (Id.) Plaintiffs retained legal counsel before February 3, 2015. (Id. at 8 ¶ 7.) During one of the phone calls, Plaintiffs allegedly alerted Wells Fargo to their legal representation and provided Wells Fargo the contact information for their attorney. (Id. at ¶ 8.) After this interaction, Wells Fargo purportedly continued to call Plaintiffs “on a regular basis” in attempt to collect on the debt. (Id. at ¶ 9.)

         Based on these facts, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Wayne County against Wells Fargo on March 9, 2019, asserting violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (“WVCCPA”), W.Va. Code § 46A-1-101, et seq., intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. For these claims, Plaintiffs seek actual and statutory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs. (Id. at 11-12.) Wells Fargo timely removed the case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (ECF No. 1.) On June 3, 2019, Wells Fargo filed the present Motion to Compel Arbitration regarding Ms. Adkins and a simultaneous Motion to Dismiss as to both Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiffs filed a response on July 15, 2019, (ECF No. 17), and Wells Fargo replied on August 5, 2019, (ECF No. 20). As such, the motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Motion to Compel Arbitration

         The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) was in enacted in 1925 to “reverse the longstanding judicial hostility to arbitration agreements . . . and to place [them on] the same footing as other contracts.” Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 25 (1991). The Act provides that arbitration clauses in contracts concerning interstate commerce are “valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. Thus, “due regard must be given to the federal policy favoring arbitration, and ambiguities as to the scope of the arbitration clause itself resolved in favor of arbitration.” Id. (citing Volt Info. Sciences, Inc. v. Bd. of Tr. of Leland Stanford Jr. Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 475-76 (1989)).

         Under section 4 of the FAA, “a party ‘aggrieved' by the failure of another party ‘to arbitrate under a written agreement for arbitration' may petition a federal court ‘for an order directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in such agreement.' The court ‘shall' order arbitration ‘upon being satisfied that the making of the agreement for arbitration or the failure to comply therewith is not in issue.'” Rent-A-Center West, Inc., v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 68 (2010) (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 4). A party seeking to compel arbitration pursuant to this section must establish the following:

(1) the existence of a dispute between the parties, (2) a written agreement that includes an arbitration provision which purports to cover the dispute, (3) the relationship of the transaction, which is evidenced by the agreement, to interstate or foreign commerce, and (4) the failure, neglect or refusal of the [party] to arbitrate the dispute.

Adkins v. Labor Ready, Inc., 303 F.3d 496, 500-01 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Whiteside v. Teltech Corp., 940 F.2d 99, 102 (4th Cir. 1991)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a pleader provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing . . . entitle[ment] to relief.” McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dep't of Transp., State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 585 (4th Cir. 2015) (stating that this requirement exists “to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests” (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007))). This pleading rule “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Rule 12(b)(6) correspondingly permits a defendant to challenge a complaint when it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough facts, accepted as true, “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Wikimedia Found. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, a court separates the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer that “the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 at 678. A motion to dismiss will be granted if, “after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and drawing all reasonable ...


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