Hawkins v. Federal Nat'l Mort., PICS Case No. 14-0174 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 23, 2014) Yohn, J. (12 pages).

U.S. DISTRICT COURT - EASTERN

The Legal Intelligencer

CIVIL PROCEDURE - MOTION PRACTICE

Motion Practice • Torts • Punitive Damages • Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

Hawkins v. Federal Nat'l Mort., PICS Case No. 14-0174 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 23, 2014) Yohn, J. (12 pages).

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted motions to dismiss plaintiff's unfair trade practices, negligent infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages claims.

Hawkins was a Pennsylvania homeowner. Her mortgagees, Fannie Mae and Seterus, commenced foreclosure proceedings in June 2010. Hawkins had vacated her home after it flooded in February 2011. She alleged that she took steps to maintain possession, but on September 8, 2011, Hawkins discovered she was barred from her home by a lockbox on the front door. Hawkins was contacted by a representative of one of the defendant contractors, who allegedly told Hawkins the company would send someone to allow Hawkins access to the property. During September 2011, Hawkins' house was looted of valuable personal property. Some of the internal fixtures were damaged. According to neighbors, the damage was caused by contractors who were winterizing the home.

Hawkins filed suit against the mortgages and the contractors who worked on the home. Fannie Mae and Seterus moved to dismiss plaintiff's entire complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). One of the contractors, Safeguard, filed a motion under the same rule to dismiss Hawkins' unfair trade practices, negligent infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages claims.

The court granted Safeguard's motions to dismiss. Hawkins failed to allege justifiable reliance, which was a requirement for her unfair trade practices claim. Her claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress was insufficient because Hawkins failed to allege that Safeguard's duties encompassed an implied duty to care for her emotional well-being. The court dismissed the claim for punitive damages against Safeguard because Hawkins did not make any allegations about defendant's state of mind.

With regard to the motion of mortgagees, the court dismissed the unfair trade practices, negligent infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages claims for the same reasons it granted Safeguard's motions to dismiss on those claims. However, the court denied mortgagees' motion to dismiss the claim for conversion because Hawkins had alleged the contractors who came to her home were mortgagees' agents and all the necessary elements of conversion were alleged.

The court also declined to dismiss the trespass claim. Mortgagees claimed the entry was privileged under the terms of the mortgage document which allowed them entry in the case of abandonment. Hawkins denied she abandoned the property. The court held this was a factual dispute that was better suited for summary judgment.

In her negligence claim, Hawkins alleged mortgagees breached duties to vet the subcontractor and determine the record owner prior to coming onto the property. The court also held this issue was best left for a fact finder and denied the motion to dismiss the negligence claim.