United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
JED W. WHITLEY, et al., Plaintiffs,
THE RITCHIE GROUP, et al., Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING THE RITCHIE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
S. LASNIK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on a motion for summary
judgment filed by defendants John Ritchie (on behalf of
himself, his spouse, and the marital community comprised
thereof), the Ritchie Group, and the Spinnell Group
(hereinafter, “the Ritchie defendants”). Dkt. #
48. Plaintiffs, the owners of real property in Stanwood,
Washington, filed this lawsuit against the lender, the
Ritchie defendants, when they took steps to foreclose on a
loan under the Deed of Trust Act. Plaintiffs accuse the
Ritchie defendants, the successor trustee, and various other
persons of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organization Act of 1970 (“RICO”). With regards
to the Ritchie defendants, the allegation is that they
fabricated a deed of trust for a non-existent $350, 000 loan
and caused the successor trustee to initiate non-judicial
foreclosure proceedings under the deed of trust, thereby
clouding plaintiffs' title and causing damage. The
Ritchie defendants seek summary judgment on all of the claims
asserted against them.
judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, there is no genuine
issue of material fact that would preclude the entry of
judgment as a matter of law. The party seeking summary
dismissal of the case “bears the initial responsibility
of informing the district court of the basis for its
motion” (Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986)) and “citing to particular parts of
materials in the record” that show the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact (Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). Once
the moving party has satisfied its burden, it is entitled to
summary judgment if the non-moving party fails to designate
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.
The Court will “view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party . . . and draw all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”
Krechman v. County of Riverside, 723 F.3d 1104, 1109
(9th Cir. 2013). Although the Court must reserve for the jury
genuine issues regarding credibility, the weight of the
evidence, and legitimate inferences, the “mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
non-moving party's position will be insufficient”
to avoid judgment. City of Pomona v. SQM N. Am.
Corp., 750 F.3d 1036, 1049 (9th Cir. 2014); Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).
Factual disputes whose resolution would not affect the
outcome of the suit are irrelevant to the consideration of a
motion for summary judgment. S. Cal. Darts Ass'n v.
Zaffina, 762 F.3d 921, 925 (9th Cir. 2014). In other
words, summary judgment should be granted where the nonmoving
party fails to offer evidence from which a reasonable jury
could return a verdict in its favor. Freecycle Sunnyvale
v. Freecycle Network, 626 F.3d 509, 514 (9th Cir. 2010).
the well-known standards set forth above, plaintiffs'
opposition memorandum is nothing more than a mini-treatise on
the elements of and case law interpreting RICO punctuated by
occasional footnotes indicating that “the Whitleys
argue” or “the Whitleys allege.”
See, e.g., Dkt. # 33 at 15. Counsel does
not deign to include a fact section in the memorandum, much
less identify the underlying evidence that supports the
(absent) factual assertions. Instead, counsel relies solely
on the allegations of the complaint and non-specific
references to three declarations. The allegations of the
complaint are not, of course, evidence and will not forestall
summary judgment where the allegations are controverted. Nor
is the filing of a stack of uncited declarations and
documents sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material
fact. Rule 56(c) specifically requires a party asserting that
a fact is in dispute to support that assertion by
“citing to particular parts of materials in the record
. . . .” The Court need not, and will not, scour the
hundreds of pages plaintiffs submitted in search of a
material and triable issue of fact. Keenan v. Allan,
91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); White v. McDonnell
Douglas Corp., 904 F.2d 456, 458 (8th Cir. 1990) (the
court need not “speculate on which portion of the
record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it obliged to wade
through and search the entire record for some specific facts
that might support the nonmoving party's claim”).
this case involves plaintiffs' residence, the Court has
nevertheless reviewed the declarations submitted to determine
whether there is evidence from which a reasonable jury could
find that the Ritchie defendants acted with fraudulent intent
in connection with plaintiffs' loan and/or whether
plaintiffs have suffered cognizable damage. There is not. By
all accounts, plaintiffs borrowed, and the Ritchie defendants
loaned, $80, 000 as indicated on the relevant promissory
notes and in correspondence between the parties. The parties
intended that the debt be secured by the Stanwood property.
Neither party intended the associated deed of trust to
reference a $350, 000 promissory note dated September 5, 2006
-- if such a document exists somewhere, it is not between
these parties. While it is true that the Ritchie defendants
caused the erroneous deed of trust to be generated, it is
also true that plaintiffs signed the erroneous deed of trust
despite noting the error. More importantly, both parties have
consistently maintained that the principal amount of the loan
is $80, 000 as reflected in the promissory notes,
the escrow agent has now corrected the scrivener's error.
There is not even the faintest inference that the Ritchie
defendants participated in an artifice or scheme to defraud
plaintiffs or to collect anything more than what they were
actually owed using the procedures set forth in state law.
Nor have plaintiffs established damages arising from the
recording of an incorrect deed of trust or the prospect of
having to pay back the money they borrowed (or turn over the
collateral that secured the debt).
of the foregoing reasons, plaintiffs have failed to raise a
genuine issue of fact regarding the Ritchie defendants'
liability under RICO. The motion is therefore GRANTED and the
claims against the Ritchie defendants are DISMISSED.
 The real property is described in the
property records as:
Lots 11 and 12, Block 23, C.D. Hillman's
Birmingham Water Front Addition to the City of Everett
Division No. 1, according to the plat thereof recorded in
volume 8 of plats, pages 21 to 23, inclusive, records of
Snohomish County, State of Washington.
 Each of the three declarations
incorporates by reference prior submissions from the
witnesses. Counsel also provides his own declaration at Dkt.
# 53. It is not, however, cited or referenced anywhere in the
opposition memorandum, and it is unclear how consumer
complaints filed on the Whitley's behalf establish or are
relevant to any element of the RICO claims asserted in this
 The one instance in which the Ritchie
defendants reported that there was a $350, 000 deed of trust
lien on the Stanwood property was in a motion for relief from
the bankruptcy stay. Dkt. # 34-12 at 3. Whether such a
statement was material or could be construed as fraud on the
bankruptcy court is doubtful given that plaintiffs had no
equity in the property whether the lien was $350, 000 or $80,
000. Regardless, a fraud on the bankruptcy court is not the
equivalent of a fraud on plaintiffs. As is shown by the
remainder of the bankruptcy record, plaintiffs were well
aware that they had an outstanding principal of $80, 000 that
was secured by the Stanwood property, and the Ritchie
defendants readily agreed to that fact. See,
e.g., Dkt. # 34-14 at 12. Any confusion caused by
the reference to a $350, 000 secured loan in the motion was
put to rest when Ritchie unequivocally declared in reply that
he is owed $80, 000 in principal, that he has never alleged
or claimed that he was owed $350, 000, and that the reference
in the deed of trust was a typo or scrivener's error.
Dkt. # 16-17 at 2.
 In the declarations submitted by
plaintiffs, they and their witnesses state facts which may
(or may not) support a claim that the Ritchie defendants
violated the Deed of Trust Act, failed to comply with state
licensing requirements, and/or used unusual mechanisms to
record the loans. No such claims have been asserted, ...