Mitchell C. Motu Wins Federal Court Motion to Dismiss for U.S. Bank

Facts: On April 10, 2019, Plaintiff entered the U.S. Bank branch located in Torrance, California attempting to cash a large post-dated check. After a brief investigation, the Branch Manager concluded that the transaction was potentially fraudulent due to irregular transactions associated with the account, as well as suspicious behavior by Plaintiff. It was later determined that the writer of the post-dated check, Plaintiff’s father, had passed away after writing the check.

Armed with this information, and in light of the implications with the check writer’s estate, the Branch Manager requested Plaintiff produce probate documents demonstrating her beneficiary status—the concern being that Plaintiff could be attempting to defraud the estate.

Plaintiff alleged that the only reason the Branch Manager refused to release the funds was because she was an African American. She filed a Complaint in Federal Court alleging intentional discrimination under 42 U.S.C 1981, Unruh Act claims, Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

Strategy: Mitch Motu recognized important factual deficiencies in Plaintiff’s Complaint that made it vulnerable to a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. Specifically, the many indicators of potential fraud motivated U.S. Bank’s decision to temporarily withhold the funds, not Plaintiff’s race. Additionally, Plaintiff’s own Complaint set forth facts sufficient for the Court to make this determination and find for U.S. Bank as a matter of law. Consequently, we would argue any amendment to the Complaint would be futile.

If successful, this Motion would extricate U.S. Bank from the action at the pleadings stage, saving them significant costs associated with drawn-out litigation.

Outcome: The Court granted U.S. Bank’s Motion to Dismiss, finding that Plaintiff’s Complaint failed to set forth facts sufficient to support a Civil Discrimination or Unruh Act claim. More importantly, the Court agreed that the deficiencies in Plaintiff’s Complaint could not be rectified via amendment. The Complaint was dismissed outright at the pleadings stage