LADOUCER v. BAC HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP, Dist. Court, SD Texas, Corpus Christi Div. 2010 “DO NOT BELIEVE A WORD THEY SAY”

Always follow your “INSTINCTS”

WILLIAM C LADOUCER, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
BAC HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP, et al, Defendants.

Civil Action No. C-10-78.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division.

 April 23, 2010.

 

ORDER

 

JANIS GRAHAM JACK, District Judge.

On this day came on to be considered the Court’s sua sponte review of its subject matter jurisdiction in the above-styled action. For the reasons discussed below, the Court REMANDS this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) to the 79th Judicial District of Jim Wells, Texas, where it was originally filed and assigned Cause No. 10-02-48732-CV.

 

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In their Original Petition, Plaintiffs William C. Ladoucer and Julie A. Ladoucer allege as follows:

Plaintiffs were the owners of a home located at 271 House Avenue in Sandia, Jim Wells County, Texas and that the Defendants BAC Home Loan Servicing, LP (“BAC”) and Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (“Countrywide”) were the respective servicer and holder of the mortgage on that property. (D.E. 1, Exh. 1 p. 2.) On December 29, 2008, Plaintiffs signed a resale contract to sell their property with a closing date set for February 27, 2009. (Id. at pp. 2-3.) Plaintiffs faxed the contract of sale to Defendant Countrywide. (Id. at p. 2.) Plaintiff Julie A. LaDoucer spoke to a representative at Countrywide’s Homeowner Retention Department to confirm receipt of the contract and was led to believe “that a foreclosure sale that the defendants had scheduled for January of 2009 was cancelled.” (Id. at pp. 2-3.) However, instead of cancelling the foreclosure, “Defendants foreclosed on the property on January 6, 2009.” (Id.) After the foreclosure, Plaintiffs claim that the potential buyers backed out of the sale and Plaintiffs “thereby lost almost $27,680.00 in equity which they would have realized from the sale of the property.” (Id. at p. 3.)

In February 2009, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants took possession of the property and changed the locks. (Id. at p. 3.) In March 2009, Plaintiffs allege that personal property had been taken from the home including a $4,500 shed that had been purchased by the Plaintiffs. (Id. at pp. 3-4.) Plaintiffs’ credit rating was also adversely affected by the foreclosure notation on their credit. (Id. at p. 4.)

Plaintiffs filed this action in state court on February 1, 2010. (D.E. 1, Exh. 1.) Defendants were served with process of February 16, 2010 and timely removed this case to federal court on March 12, 2010 on the grounds that this Court has diversity jurisdiction over this action. (D.E. 1.) Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on April 23, 2010.[1] (D.E. 11.)

II. Discussion

 A. General Removal Principles

 A defendant may remove an action from state court to federal court if the federal court possesses subject matter jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); see Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002). A court, however, “must presume that a suit lies outside its limited jurisdiction.” Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). The removing party, as the party seeking the federal forum, bears the burden of showing that federal jurisdiction is proper. See Manguno, 276 F.3d at 723. “Any ambiguities are construed against removal because the removal statute should be strictly construed in favor of remand.” Id. When subject matter jurisdiction is improper, a court may raise the issue sua sponte. See Lane v. Halliburton, 529 F.3d 548, 565 (5th Cir. 2008) (“We are duty-bound to examine the basis of subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte.” (citations omitted)); H&D Tire and Auto. Hardware v. Pitney Bowes Inc., 227 F.3d 326, 328 (5th Cir. 2000) (“We have a duty to raise the issue of subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte.”).

 B. Removal Based on Diversity Jurisdiction

When the alleged basis for federal jurisdiction is diversity under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the removing defendant has the burden of demonstrating that there is: (1) complete diversity of citizenship; and (2) an amount-in-controversy greater than $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

 1. Diversity of Parties

 Section 1332(a) requires “complete diversity” of citizenship, and the district court cannot exercise diversity jurisdiction if one of the plaintiffs shares the same state citizenship as any one of the defendants. See Corfield v. Dallas Glen Hills LP, 355 F.3d 853, 857 (5th Cir. 2003). In removal cases, diversity of citizenship must exist both at the time of filing in state court and at the time of removal to federal court. See Coury v. Prot, 85 F.3d 244, 249 (5th Cir. 1996).

 In this case, complete diversity exists because Plaintiffs are residents of Texas and Defendant BAC is a resident of North Carolina while Defendant Countrywide is a New York corporation with its principal place of business in California. (D.E. 1.)

 2. Amount in Controversy

Generally, the amount in controversy for the purposes of establishing federal jurisdiction should be determined by the plaintiff’s complaint. See St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938); De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1411-12 (5th Cir. 1995). Where the plaintiff has not made a specific monetary demand, the defendant has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount. See Manguno, 276 F.3d at 723 (“where . . . the petition does not include a specific monetary demand, [the defendant] must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000”); St. Paul Reinsurance Co. v. Greenberg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1253 (5th Cir. 1998); Allen v. R&H Oil & Gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1335 (5th Cir. 1995).

1. This Court Lacks Diversity Jurisdiction Over This Case

 Plaintiffs do not demand over $75,000, the minimum amount of damages necessary for federal diversity jurisdiction. (D.E. 1, Exh. 1.) Rather, Plaintiffs’ Original Petition states that the foreclosure of the home itself caused only $27,680 of damages in lost equity. (Id. at 3.) Further, Plaintiffs claim that the total damages for the wrongful foreclosure, fraud, and breach of contract claims, including the above-stated $27,680 damages in lost equity, are “at least $35,000.” (D.E. 1, Exh. 1, pp. 4-5.) Plaintiffs also claim “at least $20,000” for the exemplary damages claim, and “at least $5000” for reasonable attorneys’ fees. (D.E. 1, Exh. 1, pp. 4-5.) In total, Plaintiffs claim only $70,000 in damages. This is less than the $75,000 required for diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

 Defendants, in a conclusory manner, nonetheless assert that “[t]he face of the petition . . . reveals that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.” (D.E. 1, p. 3.) Defendants state that under Texas law, exemplary damages “could alone result in the recovery of more than $75,000.” (Id. (emphasis added).) However, Defendants ignore that Plaintiffs’ Petition specifies only $20,000 in exemplary damages, drastically less than Defendants’ assertions. (D.E. 1, Exh. 1, p. 4.) Based on Defendants’ claims alone, this Court cannot assume that exemplary damages will be so high that they would give this Court jurisdiction. This is especially true given that “[a]ny ambiguities are construed against removal because the removal statute should be strictly construed in favor of remand.” Manguno v. Prudential Property and Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000)).

 Defendants have thus failed to establish that this action involves an amount in controversy of more than $75,000, exclusive of costs and interests, as required for this Court to have diversity jurisdiction over this suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Therefore, Defendants have failed to meet their burden of showing that federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was proper. Frank v. Bear Stearns & Co., 128 F.3d 919, 921 (5th Cir. 1997) (“The party invoking the removal jurisdiction of federal courts bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction over the state court suit.”). Accordingly, this Court must remand this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). (“If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.”). See Lott v. Dutchmen Mfg., Inc., 422 F.Supp.2d 750, 752 (E.D. Tex. 2006) (citing Manguno, 276 F.3d at 723).

 III. Conclusion

 For the reasons stated above, this Court determines sua sponte that it does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the above-styled action. This case is hereby REMANDED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) to the 79th Judicial District of Jim Wells, Texas, where it was originally filed and assigned Cause No. 10-02-48732-CV.

 SIGNED and ORDERED.

[1] Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on April 23, 2010, however, for purpose of removal, this Court looks only to the pleadings and allegations at the time of removal. See Adair v. Lease Partners, Inc., 587 F.3d 238, 243 (5th Cir. 2009) (“[T]he power to remove is evaluated at the time of removal.”); Cavallini v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 44 F.3d 256, 265 (5th Cir. 1995) (finding removal jurisdiction is based on complaint at the time of removal and a plaintiff cannot defeat removal by amending the complaint).

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IN RE BURKS v. COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP 4/12/2010

In re: JAMES L. BURKS, JR.
JAMES L. BURKS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP, AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, Defendants.

Case No. 09-10170-DWH, Adv. Proc. No. 09-1064-DWH.

United States Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Mississippi.

April 12, 2010.

OPINION

DAVID W. HOUSTON III, Bankruptcy Judge

On consideration before the court is a motion for partial summary judgment filed by the defendant, Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP, (“Countrywide”), now known as BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, (“BAC”); a response to said motion having been filed by the plaintiff, James L. Burks, Jr., (“debtor”); and the court, having heard and considered same, hereby finds as follows, to-wit:

I.

The court has jurisdiction of the subject matter of and the parties to this proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334 and 28 U.S.C. § 157. This is a core adversary proceeding as defined in 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)(2)(A), (B), and (O).

II.

The debtor filed a voluntary petition for relief pursuant to Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code on January 15, 2009. He filed the subject complaint on April 16, 2009, against Countrywide, now known as BAC, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, (“HUD”).

The debtor executed a primary promissary note and a deed of trust to purchase his residence on August 31, 2002. The original beneficiary in the deed of trust was Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. The underlying loan is currently being serviced by BAC, as the successor to Countrywide, and the amount of the indebtedness set forth in BAC’s proof of claim is $109,112.21.

The primary note and deed of trust were insured by HUD. When the debtor fell behind in his payments on the primary note, HUD paid $8,878.77 to Countrywide on debtor’s behalf under HUD’s Partial Claim Program. To provide security for this disbursement, on June 13, 2006, the debtor executed a subordinate note and deed of trust in favor of HUD encumbering his residence.

The debtor alleged in Count 1 of his complaint that none of the documents pertaining to either of the above described loans were signed by his wife, Shawna Yvette Dawson-Burks. Consequently, he contended, pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. §89-1-29, that neither of the deeds of trust were valid as liens against his and his wife’s homestead due to the lack of his spouse’s signature.

Motions for partial summary judgment as to Count 1 of the complaint were filed by the debtor, BAC, and HUD. The court concluded that there were no genuine issues of material fact remaining in dispute as to the debtor’s Count 1 claim against BAC and granted BAC’s motion for partial summary judgment. HUD’s joinder in BAC’s motion for partial summary judgment was denied. The debtor’s motion for partial summary judgment as to the invalidity of HUD’s unsecured non-purchase money deed of trust was sustained. (See the court’s opinion and order, both dated December 21, 2009.)

BAC has now filed this second motion for partial summary judgment asserting that it is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law as to the remaining counts of the debtor’s complaint. The debtor has alleged that BAC and its predecessor, Countrywide, charged improper and unauthorized fees in violation of § 506 of the Bankruptcy Code and Rule 2016, Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. The debtor objected to BAC’s proof of claim and additionally asserted that BAC and/or Countrywide committed violations of the automatic stay.

III.

Summary judgment is properly granted when pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Bankruptcy Rule 7056; Uniform Local Bankruptcy Rule 18. The court must examine each issue in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Phillips v. OKC Corp., 812 F.2d 265 (5th Cir. 1987); Putman v. Insurance Co. of North America, 673 F.Supp. 171 (N.D. Miss. 1987). The moving party must demonstrate to the court the basis on which it believes that summary judgment is justified. The nonmoving party must then show that a genuine issue of material fact arises as to that issue. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.29 265 (1986); Leonard v. Dixie Well Service & Supply, Inc., 828 F.2d 291 (5th Cir. 1987), Putman v. Insurance Co. of North America, 673 F.Supp. 171 (N.D. Miss. 1987). An issue is genuine if “there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a fact finder to find for that party.” Phillips, 812 F.2d at 273. A fact is material if it would “affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the governing substantive law.” Phillips, 812 F.2d at 272.

The court notes that it has the discretion to deny motions for summary judgment and allow parties to proceed to trial so that the record might be more fully developed for the trier of fact. Kunin v. Feofanov, 69 F.3d 59, 61 (5th Cir. 1995); Black v. J.I. Case Co., 22 F.3d 568, 572 (5th Cir. 1994); Veillon v. Exploration Services, Inc., 876 F.2d 1197, 1200 (5th Cir. 1989).

IV.

This court is of the opinion that this adversary proceeding has numerous material factual issues remaining in dispute. The debtor’s payment history and the methodology employed by BAC/Countrywide in the application of the debtor’s payments must be developed through an evidentiary hearing. The parties opposing views regarding the significance of the financial records have been made evident in telephonic conferences conducted by the court.

In summary, because of the aforesaid factual disputes, the court determines that BAC’s motion for partial summary judgment is not well taken.

A separate order will be entered consistent with this opinion.

HOLY SMOKES BAC Pitching for #4 I think!!! Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) Forecloses On and Sells Home on Homeowner Who was Current on Mortgage

I’d like to see the paper work…If anyone has the address I’d like to investigate how this made it to where it was…Something much deeper than this story!!!

Posted: 10 Apr 2010 07:29 AM PDT

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) has inadvertently foreclosed on and sold a  home in Jackson County, Georgia, where the two homeowners were up-to-date on their mortgage payment, according to a report from Fox’s Atlanta Affiliate.

“On Tuesday, my husband was working on his truck. A guy came over to him, I think, and shook his hand and said, ‘Hi, I just bought this house.’ [My husband was] thinking to himself, ‘Yeah right, you’re joking,’” said Rani Achaibar, the homeowner whose house was auctioned off.

Without the knowledge of the Achaibars, Bank of America auctioned off their home at the Jackson County courthouse. The family said that their house, worth $500,000 somehow made it onto a foreclosure list.

“He had the paperwork in his hand and I said, ‘Oh my gosh!’ So sat down, got Bank of America on the phone right away, verified, not delinquent, but didn’t say there was a mistake,” recalled Achaibar.

The Achaibars’ mortgage statements showed that their monthly payments had been maid on time, but the Achaibars have said that they have had a difficult time getting answers from the bank.

“They sold my house overnight and they need to fix this fast,” said Achaibar.

A representative for Bank of America said, “It appears that a mistake has been made in this case. We are working diligently to research and rectify the situation as quickly as possible. We apologize to the Achaibar family for this unfortunate mistake.”

“Thank God it was a nice person who bought our house or he probably would have put us out,” said Achaibar.

Here’s the video from MyFox Atlanta:

This article (Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) Forecloses On and Sells Home on Homeowner Who was Current on Mortgage) was originally developed by and is property of American Banking News.