United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER DISMISSING FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER
L. ROBART United States District Judge
the court is Plaintiffs Philip Emiabata and Sylvia
Emiabata's complaint. (See Compl. (Dkt. # 5);
see also Compl. Addendum (Dkt. # 5-1).) On September
14, 2017, Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue granted
Plaintiffs' motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis (“IFP”). (Order (Dkt. # 4).)
However, in granting Plaintiffs' IFP motion, Judge
Donohue recommended that this court review Plaintiffs'
complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). (Id.
at 1.) The court has conducted the recommended review and
DISMISSES Plaintiffs' complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. In addition, because the court concludes
that any amendment would be futile, the court declines to
grant Plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint.
many of the specific allegations contained in Plaintiffs'
complaint are unclear, Plaintiffs ask the court to stop an
allegedly wrongful foreclosure against their property located
in Pflugerville, Texas. (See generally Compl.)
Plaintiffs have named three defendants: (1) The Bank of New
York Mellon Trust Co. NA/ JP Morgan Chase (SLS) (“the
Bank”), (2) BSI Financial Services (“BSI”),
and (3) Avail I, LLC (“Avail”). (Id. at
2; Compl. Addendum at 1-2.) Plaintiffs seek an injunction
against the foreclosure of their property, an award of $800,
000.00 in damages against the Bank and BSI, and an award of
$200, 000.00 in damages against Avail. (See Compl.
Addendum at 5.)
allege that the court has subject matter jurisdiction based
on diversity of citizenship. (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiffs allege
that they are citizens of Texas. (Id.) Plaintiffs
allege that BSI has principal places of business in
Pennsylvania and Washington. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiffs
also allege that the Bank has its principal place of business
in Washington. (Compl. Addendum at 2.) Plaintiffs do not
allege the state of incorporation of either BSI or the Bank.
(See generally id.; Compl.) Finally, Plaintiffs
allege that Avail is incorporated in Arizona and has a
physical address in Texas. (Compl. at 2). Plaintiffs do not
allege Avail's principal place of business. (See
generally id.; Compl. Addendum.)
court is required to screen complaints brought by litigants
who have been granted leave to proceed IFP. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Under these screening provisions,
the court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it:
(1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(A), (B). A
complaint is frivolous for 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)
purposes if a plaintiff fails to allege subject matter
jurisdiction. See Castillo v. Marshall, 207 F.3d 15,
15 (9th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted); see also Pratt v.
Sumner, 807 F.2d 817, 819 (9th Cir. 1987) (recognizing
the general proposition that a complaint should be dismissed
as frivolous on 28 U.S.C. § 1915 review where subject
matter jurisdiction is lacking). Because the court granted
Plaintiffs leave to proceed IFP (see Order), the
court screens the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2) and considers as a threshold matter whether it has
subject matter jurisdiction.
invoke the court's diversity jurisdiction, a plaintiff
must specifically allege the diverse citizenship of all
parties and an amount in controversy that exceeds $75,
000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Bautista v. Pan Am.
World Airlines, Inc., 828 F.2d 546, 552 (9th Cir. 1987).
The party asserting diversity jurisdiction bears the burden
of proof. Resnik v. La Paz Guest Ranch, 289 F.2d
814, 819 (9th Cir. 1961). For the purposes of diversity
jurisdiction, a person is a citizen of his or her state of
domicile, which is determined at the time the lawsuit is
filed, Lew v. Moss, 797 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir.
1986) (citation omitted), and a corporation is a citizen of
both its state of incorporation and the state in which its
principal place of business is located, 28 U.S.C. §
Plaintiffs allege that they are citizens of Texas, they fail
to establish that no Defendant is a citizen of that state.
Plaintiffs fail to allege the state of incorporation of
either BSI or the Bank and Avail's principal place of
business. Thus, the court cannot determine if there is
complete diversity of citizenship between all the parties.
Indeed, Plaintiffs provide an address in Texas for Avail
(Compl. at 2), which may indicate that Texas is its principal
place of business. If so, complete diversity of jurisdiction
would not exist between Plaintiffs and all Defendants, and
the court would not have subject matter jurisdiction over
the court would permit Plaintiffs an opportunity to amend
their complaint to demonstrate the court's subject matter
jurisdiction. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122,
1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (noting leave to amend should
be granted when a complaint is dismissed under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e) “if it appears at all possible that the
plaintiff can correct the defect”). Here, however,
granting Plaintiffs leave to amend would be futile. See
Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 339 (9th
Cir. 1996) (ruling that denial of leave to amend is not an
abuse of discretion where further amendment would be futile).
This action is one for wrongful foreclosure. (See
generally Compl.; Compl. Addendum.) The property in
question is in Texas. (Compl. at 1, 4.) The local action
doctrine “vests exclusive jurisdiction over specified
types of actions involving real property in the forum where
that property is located.” Eldee-K Rental
Props., LLC. V. DIRECTV, Inc., 748 F.3d 943, 946
(9th Cir. 2014); see also United States v. Byrne,
291 F.3d 1056, 1060 (9th Cir. 2002) (“The federal
district courts' jurisdiction over actions concerning
real property is generally coterminous with the states'
political boundaries.”). Thus, as discussed below, the
court also lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the local
court consults the law of the forum state to determine
whether a particular action is local or transitory. See
Prawoto v. PrimeLending, 720 F.Supp.2d 1149, 1154 (C.D.
Cal. 2010) (citing Huntington v. Attrill, 146 U.S.
657, 669-70 (1892) (stating in dicta that the question of
whether an action was local was to be determined by the law
of the forum state)); see also Josevig-Kennecott Copper
Co. v. James F. Howarth Co., 261 F. 567, 569 (9th Cir.
1919) (“It is admitted that the question whether the
action is local or transitory is to be determined by the law
of the state.”). Under Washington law, a plaintiff
shall commence an action “[f]or the recovery of, for
the possession of, . . . for the foreclosure of a mortgage
on, . . . for the determination of all questions affecting
the title, or for any injuries to real property”
“in the county in which the subject of the action . . .
is situated.” RCW 4.12.010. Although the statute does
not employ the terms “local” and
“transitory, ” “the actions described in
RCW 4.12.010, which must be brought in the county where the
property is located, are ‘local'.” Wash.
State Bank v. Medalia Healthcare LLC, 984 P.2d 1041,
1045 (Wash.Ct.App. 1999).
it relates to the title or possession of their property,
Plaintiffs' action for wrongful foreclosure falls within
the scope of a local action under RCW 4.12.010(1). As such,
Plaintiffs' action must be brought in Texas in the county
where the property is located. See, e.g., Fowler
v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 10-3933-EDL, 2011 WL
175506, at *3-4 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 18, 2011) (applying local
action doctrine to case alleging wrongful foreclosure of
property located in Hawaii); Prawoto, 720 F.Supp.2d
at 1158 (applying local action doctrine to action seeking
damages and rescission of a mortgage transaction involving
property in Texas); see also Byrne, 291 F.3d at 1060
(stating, in quiet title and ejectment action, that
“[t]he federal district courts' jurisdiction over
actions concerning real property is generally coterminous
with the states' political boundaries”);
Sherrill v. McShan, 356 F.2d 607, 610 (9th Cir.
1966) (suggesting that a district court lacks jurisdiction to
adjudicate quiet title actions involving property located in
another state). As noted above, the Ninth Circuit has ruled
that the local action doctrine is jurisdictional. See
Eldee-K Rental, 748 F.3d at 946. Accordingly, the court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs'
the court concludes that Plaintiffs fail to adequately allege
diversity jurisdiction, and therefore the court must dismiss
their complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In
addition, the court concludes that even if Plaintiffs amended
their complaint to properly allege diversity jurisdiction,
the court would still lack subject matter jurisdiction based
on the local action doctrine because the property at issue is