Complaint for Wrongful Foreclosure, Fraud, Negligence, Quiet Title and Unfair Business Practices

Contributor: Cameron Totten Law Offices of Cameron H. Totten

SUMMARY: Sample Complaint against loan servicer, trustee of mortgaged-backed securities fund, MERS and foreclosure trustee for wrongful foreclosure, quiet title, cancellation of trustee’s deed upon sale, unfair business practices, fraud and negligence.

Advertisements

Haley v. ELEGEN HOME LENDING, LP, Dist. Court, D. Nevada 2010

Learn From This

 

BART E. HALEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ELEGEN HOME LENDING, LP; et al., Defendants.

No. 3:10-cv-00046-LRH-RAM.

United States District Court, D. Nevada.

March 15, 2010.

 

ORDER

LARRY R. HICKS, District Judge. 

Before the court is defendant PNC Bank National Association’s (“PNC”) motions to dismiss and expunge lis pendens filed on January 29, 2010 (Doc. ##5, 6[1]) to which the other defendants have joined (Doc. #9). Plaintiff Bart E. Haley (“Haley“) filed an opposition and request for leave to amend on February 16, 2010. Doc. #11. Thereafter, PNC filed a reply on February 26, 2010. Doc. #14. 

I. Facts and Procedural History

Haley refinanced real property through a loan with defendant Elegen Home Lending. The property was secured by a note and deed of trust. Haley defaulted on the loan and defendant Cal-Western Reconveyance Corporation, the substitute trustee, filed a notice of default on May 29, 2009. Doc. #5, Exhibit C. A notice of trustee’s sale was filed on November 13, 2007. Doc. #5, Exhibit D.Subsequently, on December 3, 2003, Haley filed a complaint alleging ten causes of action: (1) wrongful foreclosure; (2) fraud in the omission; (3) fraud in the inducement; (4) contractual breach of good faith and fair dealing; (5) tortious breach of good faith and fair dealing; (6) racketeering; (7) quiet title; (8) unjust enrichment; (9) declaratory relief; and (10) permanent injunction. Doc. #1, Exhibit 1. Thereafter, PNC filed the present motions to dismiss and expunge lis pendens. Doc. ##5, 6.

II. Legal Standard

In considering “a motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Wyler Summit P’ship v. Turner Broad. Sys., Inc., 135 F.3d 658, 661 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). However, a court does not necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations in a plaintiff’s complaint. See Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994)

There is a strong presumption against dismissing an action for failure to state a claim. See Gilligan v. Jamco Dev. Corp., 108 F.3d 246, 249 (9th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). “The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence in support of the claims.” Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 807 (1982). However, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (internal citations omitted). 

III. Discussion

Wrongful Foreclosure

An action for wrongful foreclosure requires that, at the time of the foreclosure sale, the plaintiff was not in breach of the mortgage contract. Collins v. Union Federal Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 662 P.2d 610, 623 (Nev. 1983). Here, Haley was in default on his mortgage obligations so there can be no sustainable action for wrongful foreclosure. See Doc. #1, Exhibit 1. 

Furthermore, a claim for wrongful foreclosure does not arise until the power of sale is exercised. Collins, 662 P.2d at 623. Haley filed his complaint before the property was sold. As such, his claim for wrongful foreclosure is premature and not actionable. 

Fraud

“In alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” FED. R. CIV. P. 9(b). In order meet the heightened pleading requirements a plaintiff must specify the time, place, and content of the misrepresentation as well as the names of the parties involved. See Yourish v. Cal. Amplifier, 191 F.3d 983, 993 n.10 (9th Cir. 1999); see also, Parnes v. Gateway 2000, 122 F.3d 539, 549-50 (8th Cir. 1997) (requiring a plaintiff to allege the requisite who, what, where, when, and how of the misrepresentation). Here, Haley fails to allege anything more than defendants made misrepresentations to him. These allegations are insufficient to support a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation. 

In his opposition, Haley argues that where facts are peculiarly within the defendant’s knowledge, fraud may be alleged in general terms. See Rocker v. KPMG LLP, 148 P.3d 703, 709 (Nev. 2006) (overruled on other grounds Buzz Stew, LLC v. City of N. Las Vegas, 181 P.3d 670 (Nev. 2008)). However, the information here was not solely within defendants’ knowledge. Haley was present when the alleged misrepresentations were made and documents signed. Despite his personal knowledge of the events, he has failed to allege the requisite specificity under Rule 9(b). 

Good Faith and Fair Dealing

a. Contractual Breach

Under Nevada law, “[e]very contract imposes upon each party a duty of good faith and fair dealing in its performance and execution.” A.C. Shaw Constr. v. Washoe County, 784 P.2d 9, 9 (Nev. 1989) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 205). To establish a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, a plaintiff must show that: (1) the plaintiff and defendant were parties to a contract; (2) the defendant owed a duty of good faith and fair dealing to the plaintiff; (3) the defendant breached his duty by performing in a manner unfaithful to the purpose of the contract; and (4) the plaintiff’s justified expectations were denied. See Perry v. Jordan, 134 P.3d 698, 702 (Nev. 2006) (citing Hilton Hotels Corp. v. Butch Lewis Prod. Inc., 808 P.2d 919, 922-23 (Nev. 1991)

Here, Haley alleges that defendants breached the implied covenant because they misrepresented the cost of credit involved in the loan agreement. However, these alleged misrepresentations occurred before a contract was formed. See Doc. #1, Exhibit 1. A party cannot breach the covenant of good faith and fair dealing before a contract is formed. See Indep. Order of Foresters v. Donald, Lufkin & Jenrette, Inc., 157 F.3d 933, 941 (2d Cir. 1998) (“an implied covenant relates only to the performance of obligations under an extant contract, and not to any pre-contract conduct”). Haley fails to allege facts to establish that a breach occurred after the contract between the parties was formed. Because Haley’s claim revolves entirely around alleged promises and misrepresentations made before the contract was entered into, it fails as a matter of law. 

b. Tortious Breach

Haley also alleges that defendants breached their duty of good faith and fair dealing as fiduciary’s in their dealings with him. Generally, a lender does not owe a borrower a fiduciary duty. See Yerington Ford, Inc. v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 359 F.Supp.2d 1075, 1092 (D. Nev. 2004). Haley has failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that defendants acted as anything other than arms length lenders which does not, in itself, create a fiduciary relationship. 

Absent a duty, there can be no breach. See A.C. Shaw Constr. v. Washoe County, 784 P.2d 9, 10 (Nev. 1989). Accordingly, Haley’s claim for breach of a fiduciary duty fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). 

Racketeering

In Nevada, civil racketeering claims brought under NRS 207.400, et seq., must be plead with specificity. Hale v. Burkhardt, 764 P.2d 866, 869 (Nev. 1988). That is, the complaint must allege at least two predicate crimes related to racketeering in order to sufficiently plead a racketeering claim upon which relief can be granted. Id. 

Here, Haley merely alleges that his loan was one of many executed in violation of the Nevada state laws. From Haley’s complaint, it is unclear what these violations were and, more importantly, what the two requisite “crimes” were. The court finds that Haley has failed to sufficiently plead a claim for civil racketeering upon which relief can be granted. 

Quiet Title

Under Nevada law, a quiet title action may be brought by someone who claims an adverse interest in property. NRS 40.010. No defendant is claiming an interest in the property that is adverse to Haley. Therefore, Haley has no grounds to quiet title against the named defendants. 

Unjust Enrichment

To set forth a claim for unjust enrichment, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant unjustly retained money or property of another against fundamental principles of equity. See Asphalt Prods. Corp. v. All Star Ready Mix, 898 P.2d 699, 700 (Nev. 1995). However, an action for unjust enrichment cannot stand when there is an express written contract which guides that activities of the parties. LeasePartners Corp. v. Robert L. Brooks Trust Dated Nov. 12, 1975, 942 P.2d 182, 187 (Nev. 1997)

Here, there was a written contract between the parties, namely, the deed of trust and mortgage note. These documents guided the interactions, obligations, and rights of the parties. As such, Haley cannot make a claim in equity for actions that are guided by contract he is a party to. See LeasePartners Corp., 942 P.2d at 187-88

Declaratory Relief and Permanent Injunction

Haley’s remaining causes of action for declaratory relief and a permanent injunction are remedies that may be afforded to a party after he has sufficiently established and proven his claims. Here, all of Haley’s other claims fail to establish a claim for relief. Accordingly, Haley is not entitled to his requested remedies. 

Request to Amend

In opposition to PNC’s motion to dismiss, Haley requests leave to amend his complaint to correct any deficiencies. However, other than briefly asking for leave to amend, Haley has not established how any proposed amended pleading would address and fix the issues raised by PNC’s motion. In particular, Haley has failed to state how he could satisfy the heightened pleading standard for his fraud claims; he has not alleged, or stated he could allege, whom he allegedly spoke to, what fraudulent statements he was told, and when he was told them. 

In light of Haley’s failure to provide the court with any indicia that amendment would not result in dismissal, the court declines to exercise its discretion and shall deny Haley’s request to amend. See United States ex rel. Lee v. SmithKline Beecham, Inc., 245 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2001) (courts may refuse to grant leave to amend if the amendment would be futile). Additionally, the court notes that Haley’s request is procedurally improper. Pursuant to Local Rule 15-1(a), a party requesting leave to amend a pleading shall attached the proposed pleading to the request to amend. Haley did not attach a proposed amended pleading with his opposition. Accordingly, his request is procedurally defective. 

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendant’ motion to dismiss (Doc. #5) is GRANTED. The complaint is DISMISSED as to all defendants. 

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendant’s motion to expunge lis pendens (Doc. #6) is GRANTED. Defendant PNC Bank National Association shall file an appropriate order with the court expunging the lis pendens and submit the same for signature. 

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the clerk of court shall enter judgment appropriately. 

IT IS SO ORDERED. 

[1] Refers to the court’s docketing number. 

 

New MERS Standing Case Splits Note and Mortgage: Bellistri v Ocwen Loan Servicing, Mo App.20100309

Source: Livinglies

From Max Gardner – QUIET TITLE GRANTED

Mortgage Declared Unenforceable in DOT Case: NOTE DECLARED UNSECURED

“When MERS assigned the note to Ocwen, the note became unsecured and the deed of trust became worthless”

Editor’s Note:

We know that MERS is named as nominee as beneficiary. We know that MERS is NOT named on the note. This appellate case from Missouri, quoting the Restatement 3rd, simply says that the note was split from the security instrument, and that there is no enforcement mechanism available under the Deed of Trust. Hence, the court concludes, quiet title was entirely appropriate and the only remedy to the situation because once the DOT and note are split they is no way to get them back together.

NOTE: THIS DOES NOT MEAN THE NOTE WAS INVALIDATED. BUT IT DOES MEAN THAT IN ORDER TO PROVE A CLAIM UNDER THE NOTE OR TO VERIFY THE DEBT, THE HOLDER MUST EXPLAIN HOW IT ACQUIRED ANY RIGHTS UNDER THE NOTE AND WHETHER IT IS ACTING IN ITS OWN RIGHT OR AS AGENT FOR ANOTHER.

The deed of trust, …did not name BNC [AN AURORA/LEHMAN FRONT ORGANIZATION TO ORIGINATE LOANS] as the beneficiary, but instead names Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), solely as BNC’s nominee. The promissory note does not make any reference to MERS. The note and the deed of trust both require payments to be made to the lender, not MERS.

a party “must have some actual, justiciable interest.” Id. They must have a recognizable stake. Wahl v. Braun, 980 S.W.2d 322 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998). Lack of standing cannot be waived and may be considered by the court sua sponte. Brock v. City of St. Louis, 724 S.W.2d 721 (Mo. App. E.D. 1987). If a party seeking relief lacks standing, the trial court does not have jurisdiction to grant the requested relief. Shannon, 21 S.W.3d at 842.

A Missouri appellate court, without trying, may have drawn a map to a defense to foreclosures-if borrowers can figure it out before the Missouri Supreme Court overturns the decision in Bellistri v Ocwen. The opinion shows how an assignment of a loan to a servicing company for collection can actually make the loan uncollectible from the mortgaged property.

This case concerns the procedures of MERS, which is short for Mortgage Electronic Registration Service, created to solve problems created during the foreclosure epidemic of the 1980s, when it was sometimes impossible to track the ownership of mortgages after several layers of savings and loans and banks had failed without recording assignments of the mortgages. The MERS website contains this explanation:

MERS is an innovative process that simplifies the way mortgage ownership and servicing rights are originated, sold and tracked. Created by the real estate finance industry, MERS eliminates the need to prepare and record assignments when trading residential and commercial mortgage loans.

MERS is the named mortgage holder in transactions having an aggregate dollar value in the hundreds of billions, and its service of providing a way to trace ownership of mortgages has played a large role in the securitization of mortgages and the marketability of derivative mortgage-backed securities, because it seemed to eliminate the necessity of recording assignments of mortgages in county records each time the ownership of a mortgage changed, allowing mortgage securities (packages of many mortgages) to be traded in the secondary market, with less risk.

This case began as a routine quiet title case on a collector’s deed, also known as a tax deed. Following the procedure by which people can pay delinquent property taxes and obtain the ownership of the delinquent property if the owner or lien holder fails after notice to redeem, Bellistri obtained a deed from the Jefferson County (Mo.) collector.

Because of the possibility of defects in the procedures of the county collectors and in the giving of proper notices, the quality of title conferred by a collector’s deed is not insurable.

A suit to cure the potential defects (called a “quiet title suit”) is required to make title good, so that the property can be conveyed by warranty deed and title insurance issued to new lenders and owners. The plaintiff in a quiet title suit is required to give notice of the suit to all parties who had an interest in the property identified in the collector’s deed.

A borrower named Crouther had obtained a loan from BCN Mortgage. The mortgage document (called a deed of trust) named MERS as the holder of the deed of trust as BCN’s nominee, though the promissory note secured by the deed of trust was payable to BCN Mortgage and didn’t mention MERS.

Crouther failed to pay property taxes on the mortgaged property.

Bellistri paid the taxes for three years, then sent notice to Crouther and  BNC that he was applying for a collector’s deed. After BNC failed to redeem (which means “pay the taxes with interest and penalties,” so that Bellistri could be reimbursed), the county collector issued a collector’s deed to Bellistri, in 2006.

Meanwhile, MERS assigned the promissory note and deed of trust to Ocwen Servicing, probably because nobody was making mortgage payments, so that Ocwen would be in a position to attempt to (a) get Crouther to bring the loan payments up to date or (b) to foreclose, if necessary. But this assignment, as explained below, eliminated Ocwen’s right to foreclose and any right to the property.

Bellistri filed a suit for quiet title and to terminate any right of Crouther to possess the property. After discovering the assignment of the deed of trust to Ocwen, Bellistri added Ocwen as a party to the quiet title suit, so that Ocwen could have an opportunity to prove that it had an interest in the property, or be forever silenced.

Bellistri’s attorney Phillip Gebhardt argued that Ocwen had no interest in the property, because the deed of trust that it got from MERS could not be foreclosed. As a matter of law, the right to foreclose goes away when the promissory note is “split”  from the deed of trust that it is supposed to secure. The note that Crouther signed and gave to BNC didn’t mention MERS, so MERS had no right to assign the note to Ocwen. The assignment that MERS made to Ocwen conveyed only the deed of trust, splitting it from the note.

When MERS assigned the note to Ocwen, the note became unsecured and the deed of trust became worthless. Ironically, the use of MERS to make ownership of the note and mortgage easier to trace also made the deed of trust unenforceable. Who knows how many promissory notes are out there that don’t mention MERS, even though MERS is the beneficiary of the deed of trust securing such notes?

O. Max Gardner III

Gardner & Gardner PLLC

PO Box 1000

Shelby NC 28151-1000

704.418.2628 (C)

704.487.0616 (O)

888.870.1647 (F)

704.475.0407 (S)

maxgardner@maxgardner.com

max@maxinars.com

www.maxgardnerlaw.com

www.maxbankruptcybootcamp.com

www.maxinars.com

www.governoromaxgardner.com

Next Boot Camp:  May 20 to May 24, 2010