2d DCA Adds Insult to Injury on Statute of Limitations

Message to homeowners: Heads I win, tails you lose. Between Bartram and Desylvester the recurrent theme emerges as doctrine: If the homeowner wins a case the skids are greased for the bank to win the next round. The winner is treated as the party who SHOULD have lost and the loser is treated as the party who SHOULD have won. This fight is far from over.

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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
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“Following the Florida Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bartram v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 41 Fla. L. Weekly S493, 2016 WL 6538647 (Fla. Nov. 3, 2016), courts were left to interpret how Bartram would affect lenders’ reliance on breach letters issued more than five years prior to a foreclosure proceeding initiated after the dismissal of a prior action. Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal answered this very question in its opinion in Desylvester v. Bank of New York Mellon, et al., which indicates that lenders need not send a new breach letter in subsequent foreclosure actions filed after the dismissal of a prior foreclosure if the borrower has failed to cure the initial default.
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In Desylvester, the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the entry of final judgment of foreclosure in favor where the bank initiated a successive mortgage foreclosure action premised on the same date of default alleged in a prior foreclosure action, including “all subsequent payments due thereafter.” Consistent with the Bartram decision, the Court’s opinion confirms that, following the dismissal of a prior foreclosure action, a mortgagee is not barred from filing a subsequent action premised on a “separate and distinct” date of default––including a borrower’s continuing state of default––under the same note and mortgage.”
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An ounce of truth and a lot of craziness. I think Bartram stands for the proposition that the statute of limitations does bar actions for payments due before the beginning of the current statutory period. As I suspected we have the Florida Supreme Court thinking they fixed a problem by legislating from the bench — returning the parties back to their original positions except for payments barred by the statute of limitations.
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The second DCA has muddied the waters further in Desylvester v Bank of New York Mellon. The courts are continuing to search and twist looking for a hook on which they can hang their preconceived notion of how the case should turn out — i.e., for the banks. Dozens of SCOTUS decisions say these courts (not just in Florida) are getting it wrong and overstepping constitutional boundaries resulting in unfair consequences. This fight is not over.
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The 2d DCA here stretches the problematic view of the Florida Supreme Court in Bartram v US Bank. A default letter was sent for an alleged default that is now barred by the SOL. I suppose it might be logical to say that the creditor could still file a foreclosure action for the payments that are not barred by the SOL. But this court goes further and says that the original default letter can still be used as the basis of the new foreclosure action.
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The court is skipping over obvious ramifications of the Bartram decision whether you think that decision was right or wrong. If the parties are returned to their original position except for the payments barred by SOL, then the homeowner still has a right to a default letter that spells out the real number, as amended by application of the SOL, that is required to reinstate, and the disclosure of how that number was computed. Removing that requirement is removing (1) a basic element of the alleged “contract” (i.e., the mortgage instrument, paragraph 22 in most such instruments) and (2) the application of statutory laws governing the conditions precedent to filing foreclosure.
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The 2d DCA opinion is plainly wrong and wrongful. Again pushing aside the notions that foreclosure is an action in equity that should only be used as a last resort, the Court has essentially stripped the homeowner of basic protections provided by statute and provided by law. The Bartram decision was bad enough. The 2d DCA decision is basically reloading the gun for what is at best a questionable party to foreclose, placing the homeowner on his/her knees and cocking the gun for the bank or servicer — neither of whom have any right to even be in court.. Under Desylvester the losing party in the first foreclosure is treated as the winner and the winning party is treated as the loser.
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All of which prompts the the larger essential question: With the courts undermining due process at every turn in ruling for the banks under a political theory that the fall of the big banks will bring down the world order, how is anyone left going to trust in our institutions? And assuming the current polls and trends continue, what will be left of our society that will be worth saving?

Relief After Judgment Might Void the Sale

WE HAVE REVAMPED OUR SERVICE OFFERINGS TO MEET THE REQUESTS OF LAWYERS AND HOMEOWNERS. This is not an offer for legal representation. In order to make it easier to serve you and get better results please take a moment to fill out our FREE registration form https://fs20.formsite.com/ngarfield/form271773666/index.html?1453992450583 
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THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.

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Article by Hudson Cook

see http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=d48dbdf7-2e5a-438d-97cd-98b59fbd062f

In the maelstrom of musical chairs characterizing most foreclosures, there has been a phenomenon that is not discussed very much. The Judgment of foreclosure has been entered but the parties agree to reinstatement (or possibly even modification) before the sale. Most courts seem to be saying that the foreclosure sale under those circumstances is void, although the Mississippi court described in the above referenced article did state that the purchaser at auction did have standing to challenge the reinstatement or more specifically to ratify his or her purchase of the property.

The ruling seems to make sense from the standpoint of the main parties to the litigation but it does pose problems for those who thought they purchased the property and went to some time and expense to make the purchase. On balance the courts seem to lean heavily in the direction of home retention under these circumstances.

This is just one of a myriad of examples where a pro se litigant might miss an opportunity for home retention. It is quite common for homeowners to receive such offers after judgment and before sale. And it is also getting increasingly common where some settlement is reached for reinstatement and modification. But the question remains as to whether the new arrangement is binding or valid if the offer is from a servicer for a trust that does not own the debt, note or mortgage.

This is to be distinguished from situations where the homeowner attacks the judgment or the wrongful foreclosure based upon fraud like a void assignment or some other element. Courts are much less inclined to vacate their own judgment based upon such allegations, although we have seen instances where they have done so.

Banks Use Trial Modifications as a Pathway to Foreclosure — Neil Garfield Show 6 P.M. EDT Thursdays

Banks Use Modifications Against Homeowners

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It is bad enough that they outright lie to homeowners and tell them they MUST be 90 days behind in payments to get a modification. That isn’t true and it is a ruse to get the homeowner to stop paying and get into a default situation. But the reports from across the country show that the banks are using a variety of tricks and scams to dishonor modification agreements. First they say that just because they did the underwriting and approved the trial modification doesn’t mean that they are bound to make the modification permanent. Most courts disagree. If you make a deal with offer, acceptance and consideration, and one side performs (the homeowner made the trial payments) then the other side must perform (the Bank).

What is really happening is that the bank is converting the loan from a loan funded by investors to a loan NOT funded by the bank. They are steering people into “in house” loans. The hubris of these people is incredible. Why are the investors sitting on their hands? Do they STILL not get it?
Regardless of whether the modification is enforced or forced into foreclosure or converted to an in house loan, the investor loses with the stamp of approval from the court. And the borrower is now paying a party that already collected his loan principal several times over while the real lender is getting birdseed. The investors lose no matter how the case is decided. And the Courts are failing to realize that the fate of the money from a Pension Fund is being decided without any opportunity for the investors to have notice, much less be heard.
Why is this important? Because the banks converted one debt from the borrower into many debts — all secured by the same mortgage. It doesn’t work that way in real life — except now, when courts still refuse to educate themselves on the theory and reality of securitization of debt.
http://www.occupy.com/article/when-fighting-your-home-becomes-biggest-fight-your-life
——————————-FROM RECENTSHOWHOW DO YOU KNOW THAT? — Introducing two upcomingCLE Seminars from the Garfield Continuum onVoir Dire of corporate representatives in foreclosure litigation. The first is atwo hour telephone conference devoted exclusively tovoir dire examination and the second is a full day on onlyvoir dire pluscross examination. The show is free. Topreregister for the mini seminar onvoir dire or the full seminar onvoir dire andcross examination (at a discount) call 954-495-9867.

  • Overview of Foreclosure Litigation in Florida and Other States
  • The need for copies of actual case law and even memoranda supporting your line of questioning
  • The Three Rules for Questioning
  • —– (1) Know why you want to inquire
  • —– (2) Listen to the Answer
  • —– (3) Follow up and comment
  • What to ask, and when to ask it
  • The difference between voir dire and cross examination
  • Getting traction with the presiding Judge
  • Developing your goals and strategies
  • Developing a narrative
  • Impeaching the witness before he or she gets started
  • Preparing your own witnesses for voir dire questions

 

IF YOU MISSED IT: Go to blog radio link and click on the Neil Garfield Show — past shows include—-

News abounds as we hear of purchases of loans and bonds. Some of these are repurchases. Some are in litigation, like $1.1 Billion worth in suit brought by Trustees against the broker dealer Merrill Lynch, which was purchased by Bank of America. What do these purchases mean for people in litigation. If the loan was repurchased or all the loan claims were settled, does the trust still exist? Did it ever exist? Was it ever funded? Did it ever own the loans? Why are lawyers unwilling to make representations that the Trust is a holder in due course? Wouldn’t that settle everything? And what is the significance of the $3 trillion in bonds purchased by the Federal Reserve, mostly mortgage backed bonds? This and more tonight with questions and answers:

Adding the list of questions I posted last week (see below), I put these questions ahead of all others:

  1. If the party on the note and mortgage is NOT REALLY the lender, why should they be allowed to have their name on the note or mortgage, why are those documents distributed instead of returned to the borrower because he signed in anticipation of receiving a loan from the party disclosed, as per Federal and state law. Hint: think of your loan as a used car. Where is the contract (offer, acceptance and consideration).
  2. If the party receiving an assignment from the false payee on the note does NOT pay for it, why are we treating the assignment as a cure for documents that were worthless in the first place. Hint: Paper Chase — the more paper you throw at a worthless transaction the more real it appears in the eyes of others.
  3. If the party receiving the assignment from the false payee has no relationship with the real lender, and neither does the false payee on the note, why are we allowing their successors to force people out of their homes on a debt the “bank” never owned? Hint: POLITICS: What is the position of the Federal reserve that has now purchased trillions of dollars of the “mortgage bonds” from banks who never owned the bonds that were issued by REMIC trusts that never received the proceeds of sale of the bonds.
  4. If the lenders (investors) are receiving payments from settlements with the institutions that created this mess, why is the balance owed by the borrower the same after the settlement, when the lender’s balance has been reduced? Hint: Arithmetic. John owes Sally 5 bananas. Hank gives Sally 3 bananas and says this is for John. How many bananas does John owe Sally now?
  5. And for extra credit: are the broker dealers who said they were brokering and underwriting the issuance of mortgage bonds from REMIC trusts guilty of anything when they don’t give the proceeds from the sale of the bonds to the Trusts that issued those bonds? What is the effect on the contractual relationship between the lenders and the borrowers? Hint: VANISHING MONEY replaced by volumes of paper — the same at both ends of the transaction, to wit: the borrower and the investor/lender.

1. What is a holder in due course? When can an HDC enforce a note even when there are problems with the original loan? What does it mean to be a purchaser for value, in good faith, without notice of borrower’s defenses?

2. What is a holder and how is that different from a holder with rights to enforce? What does it mean to be a holder subject to all the maker’s defenses including lack of consideration (i.e. no loan from the Payee).

3. What is a possessor of a note?

4. What is a bailee of a note?

5. If the note cannot be enforced, can the mortgage still be foreclosed? It seems that many people don’t know the answer to this question.

6. The question confronting us is FORECLOSURE (ENFORCEMENT) OF A MORTGAGE. If the status of a holder of a note is in Article III of the UCC, why are we even discussing “holder” when enforcement of mortgages is governed by Article IV of the UCC?

7. Does the question of “holder” or holder in due course or any of that even apply in the original loan transaction? Hint: NO.

8. Homework assignment: Google “Infinite rehypothecation”

For more information call 954-495-9867 or 520-405-1688.

 

The Devil Is In the Details: Summary of Issues

Editor’s note: in preparing a complex motion for the court in several related cases I ended up writing the following which I would like to share with my readers. As you can see, the issues that were once thought to be simple and susceptible to rocket docket determination are in fact complex civil cases involving issues that are anything but simple.

This is a guide and general information. DO NOT USE THIS IF YOU ARE NOT A LICENSED ATTORNEY. THESE ISSUES ARE BOTH PROCEDURALLY AND SUBSTANTIVELY ABOVE THE AVERAGE KNOWLEDGE OF A LAYMAN. CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY LICENSED IN THE GEOGRAPHICAL AREA IN WHICH THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED.

If you are seeking litigation support or referrals to attorneys or representation please call 520-405-1688.

SUMMARY OF ISSUES TO BE CONSIDERED

 

1)   Whether a self proclaimed or actual Trustee for a REMIC Trust is empowered to bring a foreclosure action or any action to enforce the note and mortgage contrary to the terms of the Trust document — i.e., the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA) — which New York and Delaware law declare to be actions that are VOID not VOIDABLE; specifically if the Trust document names a different trustee or empowers only the servicer to bring enforcement actions against borrowers.

2)   Whether a Trustee or Servicer may initiate actions or take legal positions that are contrary to the interests of the Trust Beneficiaries — in this case creating a liability for the Trust Beneficiaries for receipt of overpayments that are not credited to the account receivable from the Defendant Borrowers by their agents (the servicer and the alleged Trustee) and the creation of liability to LaSalle Bank or the Trust by virtue of questionable changes in Trustees.

3)   Whether US Bank is the Plaintiff or should be allowed to claim that it is the Trustee for the Plaintiff Trust. Without Amendment to the Complaint, US Bank seeks to be substituted as Plaintiff in lieu of Bank of America, as successor by merger with LaSalle Bank, trustee for the Plaintiff Trust according to the Trust Document (the Pooling and Servicing Agreement) Section 8.09.

a)    A sub-issue to this is whether Bank of America is actually is the successor by merger to LaSalle Bank or if CitiMortgage is the successor to LaSalle Bank, as Trustee of the Plaintiff Trust — there being conflicting submissions on the SEC.gov website on which it appears that CitiMortgage is the actual party with ownership of ABN AMRO and therefore LaSalle Bank its subsidiary.

b)   In addition, whether opposing counsel, who claims to represent U.S. Bank may be deemed attorney for the Trust if U.S. Bank is not the Trustee for the Trust.

i)     Whether opposing counsel’s interests are adverse to its purported client or the Trust or the Trust beneficiaries, particularly with respect to their recent push for turnover of rents despite full payment to creditors through non stop servicer advances.

4)   Whether any Trustee for the Trust can bring any enforcement action for the debt including foreclosure, assignment of rents or any other relief.

5)   Whether the documentation of a loan at the base of the tree of the assignments and transfers refers to any actual transaction in which the Payee on the note and the Mortgagee on the Mortgage.

a)    Or, as is alleged by Defendants, if the actual transaction occurred when a wire transfer was received by the closing agent at the loan closing with Defendant Borrowers from an entity that was a stranger to the documentation executed by Defendant Borrowers.

b)   Whether the debt arose by virtue of the receipt of money from a creditor or if it arose by execution of documentation, or both, resulting in double liability for a single loan and double payment.

6)   Whether the assignment of mortgage is void on its face as a fabrication because it refers to an event that occurred long after the date shown on the assignment.

7)   Whether the non-stop servicer advances in all of the cases involving these Defendants and U.S. Bank negates the default or the allegation of default by the Trust beneficiaries, the Trust or the Trustee, regardless of the identity of the Trustee.

a)    Whether a DEFAULT exists or ever existed where non stop servicer advances have been paid in full.

b)   Whether the creditor, under the debt obligation of the Defendant borrowers can be allowed to receive more than the amount due as principal , interest and expenses. In this case borrower payments, non stop servicer advances, insurance, credit default swap proceeds and other payments by co-obligors who paid without subrogation or expectation of receiving refunds from the Trust Beneficiaries.

c)    Whether a new debt arises by operation of law as a result of receipt of third party defendants in which a claim might be made by the party who advanced payment to the creditor, resulting in a decrease the account receivable and a corresponding decrease in the borrower’s account (loan) payable.

i)     Whether the new debt is secured by the recorded mortgage that the Plaintiff relies upon without the borrower executing a security instrument in which the real property is pledged as collateral for the advances by third parties.

8)   Whether turnover of rents can relate back to the original default, or default letter, effectively creating a final judgment for damages before evidence is in the court record.

9)   Whether the requirements of a demand letter to Defendants for turnover of rents can be waived by the trial Court, contrary to Florida Statutes.

a)    Whether equity demands that the turnover demand be denied in view of the fact that the actual creditors — the Trust Beneficiaries of the alleged Trust were paid in full up to and including the present time.

b)   Whether, as argued by opposing counsel, the notice of default letter sent to Defendant Borrowers is an acceptable substitute to a demand letter for turnover of the rents if the letter did not mention turnover of rents.

c)    Whether the notice of default letter and acceleration was valid or accurate in view of the servicer non-stop advances and receipt of other third party payments reducing the account receivable of the Trust beneficiaries (creditors).

i)     Whether there was a difference between the account status shown by the Servicer (chase and now SPS) and the account status actually shown by the creditor — the Trust Beneficiaries who were clearly paid in full.

10)         Whether the Plaintiff Trust waived the DUE ON SALE provision in the alleged Mortgage.

a)    Whether the Plaintiff can rely upon the due on sale provision in the mortgage to allege default without amendment to their pleadings.

11)         Whether sanctions should apply against opposing counsel for failure to disclose essential facts relating to the security of the alleged creditor.

Whether this (these cases) case should be treated off the “rocket docket” for foreclosures and transferred to general civil litigation for complex issues

Challenging Deeds Issued After Auction (Sale) of Property

One of the rewarding aspects of what I do is to see more and more people not only hopping on board, understanding securitization, but adding to the body of knowledge I have amassed. In the following article Bill Paatalo, who has done the loan level accounting for many of our readers, expands upon a topic that I have introduced (and of course Dan Edstrom) but not explained nearly as well as Bill does: see http://bpinvestigativeagency.com/time-to-challange-those-trustees-deeds/

EDITOR’S NOTE: I would add that where servicer advances are paid to the creditor (or who we think is the creditor), then there is often an overpayment, which might account for why the “credit bid” is lower than the total amount demanded by the servicer for redemption or reinstatement. This anomaly could void the notice of default and notice of sale and create a problem on the amount required for redemption after the so-called sale.

The legal issue presented by Bill is whether the party who submitted the bid satisfies the state’s legal definition of a creditor who is allowed to submit a credit bid at closing in lieu of cash. This issue is fairly easily analyzed before any order or judgment is entered by a court.

But afterwards, because of the rubber stamping, the judgments mostly state something along the lines that $XXXX.XX is owed by the borrower to the opposing party in litigation. The judgment is final until overturned by appeal or a motion to vacate.

That Judgment makes them a possible creditor and even raises the presumption that they are a creditor when in fact there was no evidence to support that finding in the order or judgment. And ordinarily the courts require that the motion or other attack be verified by a sworn statement from the homeowner. That gets tricky because without having an actual forensic report in your hands, how would the borrower even know about such things?

The judgment can be attacked for fraud because the opposing party had never entered into a transaction wherein it paid value (see Article 9 of UCC) to originate or acquire the loan. Procedural rules vary from state to state on  how this is done and the time limit fro such challenges. In fact, none of the people in the cloud of “securitization” paid anything for the loan, with the exception of the servicer who is credited with having paid servicer advances to the creditor when in fact it appears as though the servicer advances were paid by the investment bank who reserved money out of the pool of money advanced by investors to pay the investors out of their own money. Hence, we see the reason for calling the scheme a PONZI scheme. This is why the issue of STANDING keep bouncing back front and center.

Without an attack on the Judgment I doubt if your state law will allow you to challenge the sale or the sale price. Obviously, before you act on anything on this blog, you need to consult with an attorney who is licensed and experienced in such matters and who practices in the jurisdiction in which your property is located.

For those who are good with computer graphics, here are two drawings I recently made to describe the process of securitization as it played out. The bottom line is that the investment bank diverted the money from the trust and diverted the documentation that was due to the investors to its own strawmen, trading on that documentation and making a ton of money while the investor/lenders and homeowner/borrowers lost either everything or a substantial amount of their wealth that ended up in the pocket of the banks. Anyone who is good with graphics is invited to donate their time to this website and make my hand drawn sketches easier to read and perhaps animated. Neil Garfield Securitization Diagrams 12-20-13

Posted by BPIA on December 18, 2013 bi Bill Paatalo:

For the past couple of years, I have been providing clients with the internal loan level accounting data, which reveals in most instances of private securitization, that all payments “due” on the notes have been paid regularly by undisclosed “co-obligors.” Thus there becomes an issue of fact as to whether or not the “note” is actually in “default.” Word through the grapevine is that this particular argument is gaining some momentum in certain jurisdictions throughout the United States.

Well now it’s time to use the same internal accounting data to attack those dubious “Trustee’s Deeds.” In non-judicial foreclosure states, a ”Trustee’s Deed Upon Sale” or Trustee’s Deed” is recorded after the foreclosure sale. Often, the property is sold back to the supposed creditor into what is called “REO” status. In cases where the subject loans were alleged to have been securitized, the Trustee’s Deed will typically state that the Trustee for “XYZ Mortgage-Backed Trust” was the “highest bidder” at the sale and paid cash in the amount of $………..(whatever dollar figure.) There are many reasons to question the validity of these documents; such as the actual parties submitting the “credit bids,” and whether or not any actual cash exchanged hands as attested to under notary acknowledgment. However, there is a way to provide evidence and proof that no such payment ever exchanged hands.

The following language was extracted from a typical Trustee’s Deed:

Trustees Deed language snip

In this particular case, the alleged amount owed in the “Notice of Default” was roughly $314,000.00. A check of the internal accounting for this particular loan (6-months after the sale) shows the loan in “REO” status with no such payment having ever been applied. In fact, the certificateholders (investors) are still receiving their monthly payments of P&I with the trust showing “zero” losses.

This is good hard evidence that the sale and subsequent Trustee’s Deed filed in this case was a “sham” transaction.

If your loan was alleged to have been securitized by a private mbs trust, and your home sold in similar fashion with a recorded Trustee’s Deed, contact me today (bill.bpia@gmail.com) to see if your Trustee’s Deed matches up with the internal accounting data.

Living lies now offers Expert Affidavits showing what was stated in the Trustee’s Deed as opposed to what has actually occurred behind the curtains. See www.livingliesstore.com. Most people ask for consults with me and/or the expert, like Bill, so their lawyer understands what to do with this information.

W VA Court Says Directions to Stop Making Payments and Refusing to Apply Payments is Breach of Contract

BANK OF AMERICA TAKES ANOTHER HIT:
BANKS MISLEAD BORROWERS WHEN THEY INSTRUCT THEM TO STOP MAKING PAYMENTS AND REFUSE PAYMENTS
If you are seeking legal representation or other services call our Florida customer service number at 954-495-9867 and for the West coast the number remains 520-405-1688. Customer service for the livinglies store with workbooks, services and analysis remains the same at 520-405-1688. The people who answer the phone are NOT attorneys and NOT permitted to provide any legal advice, but they can guide you toward some of our products and services.
The selection of an attorney is an important decision  and should only be made after you have interviewed licensed attorneys familiar with investment banking, securities, property law, consumer law, mortgages, foreclosures, and collection procedures. This site is dedicated to providing those services directly or indirectly through attorneys seeking guidance or assistance in representing consumers and homeowners. We are available to any lawyer seeking assistance anywhere in the country, U.S. possessions and territories. Neil Garfield is a licensed member of the Florida Bar and is qualified to appear as an expert witness or litigator in in several states including the district of Columbia. The information on this blog is general information and should NEVER be considered to be advice on one specific case. Consultation with a licensed attorney is required in this highly complex field.

Editor’s Note: We’ve all heard it a million times. “The bank told me to stop making payments in order to get modification or other relief.” It was a blatant lie and it was intended to get the borrower in so deep they couldn’t get out, leading inevitably to foreclosure.

Why would the “bank” want foreclosure? Because they took far more money from investors than they used to fund loans. If the deal fails and dissolves into foreclosure the investors are less likely to probe deeply into the transaction to find out what really happened. The fact is that the banks were all skimming off the top taking as much as 50% f the money from investors and sticking it in their own pockets, using it to gamble and keeping the proceeds of gambling.

If the banks really went the usual route of workouts, deed in lieu, modifications and other relief to borrowers, there would be an accounting night mare for them as eventually the auditing the firms would pick up on the fact that the investment banks were taking far more money than was actually intended to be used for investing in mortgages.

They covered it up by creating the illusion of a mortgage closing in which the named payee on the note and security instrument were neither lenders nor creditors and eventually they assigned the loan to a REMIC trust that had neither received the loan nor paid for it.

In this case the Court takes the bank to task for both lying to the borrower about how much better off they would be if they stopped making payments, thus creating a default or exacerbating it, and the refusal of the bank to accept payments from the borrower. It is a simple breach of contract action and the Court finds that there is merit to the claim, allowing the borrower to prove their case in court.

Another way of looking at this is that if everyone had paid off their mortgages in full, there would still be around $3 trillion owed to the investors representing the tier 2 yield spread premium that the banks skimmed off the top plus the unconscionable fees and costs charged to the accounts.  Where did that money go? See the previous post

This well-reasoned well written opinion discusses the case in depth and represents a treasure trove of potential causes of action and credibility to borrowers’ defenses to foreclosure claims.

 

2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35320, * MOTION TO DISMISS DENIED

JASON RANSON, Plaintiff, v. BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Defendant.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:12-5616
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA, HUNTINGTON DIVISION
2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35320

March 14, 2013, Decided
March 14, 2013, Filed 

CORE TERMS:modification, foreclosure, borrower, citations omitted, mitigation, misrepresentation, servicer, consumer, lender, cause of action, contractual, guaranteed, mortgage, estoppel, contract claim, default, special relationship, reinstatement, collection, quotation, breached, notice, factual allegations, breach of contract, force and effect, indebtedness, thereunder, foreclose, veteran’s, manual

COUNSEL: [*1] For Jason Ranson, Plaintiff: Daniel F. Hedges 1, Jennifer S. Wagner, LEAD ATTORNEYS, MOUNTAIN STATE JUSTICE, INC., Charleston, WV.

For Bank of America, N.A., Defendant: Carrie Goodwin Fenwick, Victoria L. Wilson, LEAD ATTORNEYS, GOODWIN & GOODWIN, Charleston, WV.

JUDGES: ROBERT C. CHAMBERS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

OPINION BY: ROBERT C. CHAMBERS

OPINION

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Bank of America, N.A. (BANA). ECF No. 4. Plaintiff Jason Ranson opposes the motion. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES, in part, and GRANTS, in part, Defendant’s motion.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 19, 2012, Defendant removed this action from the Circuit Court of Putnam County based upon diversity of jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that he took out a mortgagewith Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. to purchase a house in 2007. The loan was originated pursuant to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Program. Plaintiff alleges the loan “contained a contractual guarantee by the . . . (VA), which requires—as incorporated into the contract—that Defendant comply with regulations and [*2] laws governing VA guaranteed loans, including those regulations governing Defendant’s actions in the event of the borrower’s default” as he was, and continues to be, on active duty with the United States Army. Compl. at ¶5, in part. Defendant is the current servicer and holder of the loan.

In 2009, Plaintiff became two months behind on the loan. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant informed him he was eligible for a loan modification and requested he submit certain documentation to have the modification finalized. Plaintiff claims that Defendant also told him to stop making any payments as they would interfere with the finalization process. Plaintiff states he had the means to make the two delinquent payments at that time or he could have sought refinancing or taken other actions to save his house and credit. However, he relied upon Defendant’s statements and stopped making payments, pending its assurance that he was eligible for a modification. In fact, Plaintiff states that Defendant returned his last payment without applying it to his account.

Over the next several months, Plaintiff asserts he repeatedly submitted the documentation requested by Defendant for the modification process. [*3] Plaintiff also contacted Defendant on a weekly basis for updates. Plaintiff claims he was assured by Defendant it would not foreclose, and Defendant discouraged him from calling by stating it would delay finalization of the modification. Approximately eight months after the process began, Plaintiff contends that Defendant informed him the loan would not be modified because VA loans do not qualify for assistance. According to Plaintiff, Defendant nevertheless requested that he submit documentation for another modification. Plaintiff states he complied with the request but, approximately six months later, Defendant again told him the modification was denied because he had a VA loan. Defendant further told him he should vacate the property because it was going to foreclose. Plaintiff asserts he asked Defendant if he could short sell the house, but Defendant said no and stated the only way he could save his house would be by full reinstatement. As fourteen months had passed since he was told to stop making payments, Plaintiff states that he could not afford to pay the full amount owed.

As a result of these alleged activities, Plaintiff filed this action, alleging five counts of action. [*4] Count I is for breach of contract, Count II is for negligence, Count III is for fraud, Count IV is for estoppel, and Count V is for illegal debt collection. Defendant now moves to dismiss each of the counts.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court disavowed the “no set of facts” language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957), which was long used to evaluate complaints subject to 12(b)(6) motions. 550 U.S. at 563. In its place, courts must now look for “plausibility” in the complaint. This standard requires a plaintiff to set forth the “grounds” for an “entitle[ment] to relief” that is more than mere “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Accepting the factual allegations in the complaint as true (even when doubtful), the allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Id. (citations omitted). If the allegations in the complaint, assuming their truth, do “not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should . . .be exposed [*5] at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Id. at 558 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court explained the requirements of Rule 8 and the “plausibility standard” in more detail. In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated that Rule 8 does not demand “detailed factual allegations[.]” 556 U.S. at 678(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, a mere “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-

harmed-me accusation” is insufficient. Id. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Facial plausibility exists when a claim contains “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The Supreme Court continued by explaining that, although factual allegations in a complaint must be accepted as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions. Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements [*6] of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citation omitted). Whether a plausible claim is stated in a complaint requires a court to conduct a context-specific analysis, drawing upon the court’s own judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. If the court finds from its analysis that “the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]’-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. (quoting, in part, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). The Supreme Court further articulated that “a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id.

III.

DISCUSSION

A.

Breach of Contract

In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that the Deed of Trust and the VA Guaranteed Loan and Assumption Policy Rider provide that “Defendant’s rights upon the borrower’s default are limited by Title 38 of the United States Code and any regulations issued thereunder.” [*7] Compl., at ¶22. According to Plaintiff, the contract also provides that Defendant must apply all payments to his account. Plaintiff asserts Defendant breached the contract by (1) discouraging him from making payments, (2) returning his payments, (3) allowing the accumulation of arrears until it was impossible for him to reinstate the loan, (4) initiating foreclosure and failing to grant a modification after assuring him it would be granted, and (5) “failing to comply with VA regulations and guidance requiring, inter alia, that the Defendants [sic] consider Plaintiff for a variety [of] loss mitigation options, and provide notice of such rejection(s) in writing, prior to foreclosure.” Id. at ¶24(d).

To avoid dismissal of a breach of contract claim under Rule 12(b)(6), West Virginia law requires: “the existence of a valid, enforceable contract; that the plaintiff has performed under the contract; that the defendant has breached or violated its duties or obligations under the contract; and that the plaintiff has been injured as a result.” Executive Risk Indem., Inc. v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 681 F. Supp.2d 694, 714 (S.D. W. Va. 2009) (citations omitted). For a claim of breach [*8] of contract to be sufficient, “a plaintiff must allege in his complaint ‘the breach on which the plaintiffs found their action . . . [and] the facts and circumstances which entitle them to damages.'” Id. In this case, Defendant argues Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege a breach of contract because he has not specified what specific VA regulations purportedly were violated and, in any event, the regulations only require the foreclosure be conducted in accordance to West Virginia law. As Defendant maintains it complied with the West Virginia law, Defendant asserts it has not breached the contract.

Plaintiff does not dispute that neither the contracts nor West Virginia law require a loan modification. However, Plaintiff argues that the VA has promulgated regulations to limit foreclosures of loans it has guaranteed and Defendant did not comply with those requirements. Plaintiff quotes from the VA Guaranteed Loan and Assumption Policy Rider, which provides, in part:

If the indebtedness secured hereby be guaranteed or insured under Title 38, United States Code, such Title and Regulations issued thereunder and in effect on the date hereof shall govern the rights, duties and liabilities [*9] of Borrower and Lender. Any provisions of the Security Instrument or other instruments executed in connection with said indebtedness which are inconsistent with said Title or Regulations, including, but not limited to, the provision for payment of any sum in connection with prepayment of the secured indebtedness and the provision that the Lender may accelerate payment of the secured indebtedness pursuant to Covenant 18 of the Security Instrument, are hereby amended or negated to the extent necessary to confirm such instruments to said Title or Regulations.

VA Guar. Loan and Assumption Policy Rider, at 2, ECF No. 4-1, at 15. Specifically, Plaintiff cites 38 U.S.C. § 36.4350(f), (g), and (h), which requires, inter alia, Defendant to send Plaintiff a letter outlining his loss mitigation options after he fell behind on his payments and, under certain circumstances, have a face-to-face meeting with Plaintiff. Likewise, 38 C.F.R. § 36.4319 provides incentives to servicers to engage in loss mitigation options in lieu of foreclosure, and 38 C.F.R. § 36.4315expressly allows a loan modification under certain circumstances if it is in veteran’s and the Government’s best interest. Plaintiff also [*10] cites a Servicer Guide for VA guaranteed loans, which contains similar loss mitigation considerations. 1 Plaintiff states that all these requirements are incorporated into the contract, and Defendant violated the contract by stating he could not receive a loan modification because he had a VA loan; by telling him to stop making payments rather than placing him on a repayment plan; by not timely evaluating the loan and considering him for loss mitigation and, instead, placing him in foreclosure; and by refusing to allow Plaintiff to apply for a compromise sale because Defendant had started foreclosure. Moreover, Plaintiff asserts Defendant violated his right to reinstate and failed to exercise its discretion in good faith by refusing his payment; telling him to stop making payments; informing he was qualified for loan modification, and then denying the modification; providing him conflicting, inconsistent, and inaccurate information about his account; refusing to consider a short sale; and never providing him a written explanation of why loss mitigation was denied.

FOOTNOTES

1 U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, VA Servicer Guide 6 (July 2009), available at http:www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/docs/va_servicer_guide.pdf.

Defendant [*11] responds by asserting that the VA regulations and the handbook are permissive in nature, not mandatory, and the VA Servicer Guide is not binding. See VA Servicer Guide, at 4 (“This manual does not change or supersede any regulation or law affecting the VA Home Loan Program. If there appears to be a discrepancy, please refer to the related regulation or law.”); see also 38 C.F.R. § 36.4315(c)(stating “[t]his section does not create a right of a borrower to have a loan modified, but simply authorizes the loan holder to modify a loan in certain situations without the prior approval of the Secretary” 38 U.S.C. § 36.4315(c)). Thus, Defendant argues they establish no affirmative duty for it to act. In support of its position, Defendant cites several older cases which held certain regulations issued by the VA and other governmental agencies do not have the force and effect of law. 2

FOOTNOTES

2 See First Family Mortg. Corp. of Fl. v. Earnest, 851 F.2d 843, 844-45 (6th Cir. 1988)(finding that mortgagors could not state a cause of action based on VA publications against the VA for allegedly failing to monitor lender servicing of VA-backed loans); Bright v. Nimmo, 756 F.2d 1513, 1516 (11th Cir. 1985) [*12] (rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that he has an implied cause of action against the VA or lender based upon the VA’s manual and guidelines); United States v. Harvey, 659 F.2d 62, 65 (5th Cir. 1981)(finding that the VA manual did not have the force and effect of law by itself and it was not incorporated into the promissory notes or deeds to support a contract claim); Gatter v. Cleland, 512 F. Supp. 207, 212 (E.D. Pa. 1981)(holding “that the decision to implement a formal refunding program is one that squarely falls within the committed to agency discretion exception [of the VA] and is not subject to judicial review” (footnote omitted)); and Pueblo Neighborhood Health Ctrs., Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Serv., 720 F.2d 622, 625 (10th Cir. 1983)(finding a pamphlet issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, referred to as a Grant Application Manual, was not the product of formal rule-making and did not have the force and effect of law).

However, upon review of those cases, the Court finds that they generally involve situations in which the plaintiffs were attempting to assert a cause of action based upon the regulation itself, rather than as a breach of contract [*13] claim. An action based on a contract involves a much different legal theory than one based solely on enforcement of a regulation apart from a contractual duty. Indeed, Plaintiff cites a number of comparable mortgagecases in which courts permitted homeowners to pursue claims against lenders based upon regulations issued by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) where it was alleged that the parties contractually agreed to comply with those regulations. As explained by the Court in Mullins v. GMAC Mortg., LLC, No. 1:09-cv-00704, 2011 WL 1298777, **2-3 (S.D. W. Va. Mar. 31, 2011), plaintiffs, who allege a straightforward breach of contact claim, “are not, as defendants would have the court believe, suing to enforce HUD regulations under some vague and likely non-existent cause of action allowing a member of the public to take upon himself the role of regulatory enforcer. These two theories of recovery are distinct and unrelated,” and the Court held the plaintiffs could proceed on their express breach of contract claim. 2011 WL 1298777, *3. 3Upon review, this Court is persuaded that the same reasoning controls here. Therefore, the Court will not dismiss Plaintiff’s contract claim based [*14] upon Defendant’s argument that the regulations and handbook do not have full force and effect of law because Plaintiff has alleged the contract incorporates the limitations set by the regulations. See Compl., at ¶22 (“The contract provides that Defendant’s rights upon the borrower’s default are limited by Title 38 of the United States Code and any regulations issued thereunder.”).

FOOTNOTES

3 See also Kersey v. PHH Mortg. Corp., 682 F. Supp.2d 588, 596-97 (E.D. Va. 2010), vacated on other grounds, 2010 WL 3222262 (E.D. Va. Aug. 13, 2010) (finding, in part, that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged a claim that the defendant breached an FHA regulation which was incorporated in a Deed of Trust); Sinclair v. Donovan, Nos. 1:11-CV-00010, 1:11-CV-00079, 2011 WL 5326093, *8 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 4, 2011) (“find[ing] that the HUD-FHA regulations concerning loss mitigation are enforceable terms of the mortgagecontract between the parties and that Plaintiffs cannot be denied the benefit of these provisions by virtue of the fact of simple default”); and Baker v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 3:08-CV-0916-B, 2009 WL 1810336, **5-6 (N.D. Tex. June 24, 2009) (stating that a “failure to comply with the [HUD] regulations [*15] made part of the parties’ agreement may give rise to liability on a contact theory because the parties incorporated the terms into their contact”).

Defendant further argues, however, that some of the regulations cited by Plaintiff are irrelevant to this case because, for instance, a face-to-face meeting with a borrower is required only under certain circumstances which do not exist in this case. See 38 C.F.R. § 36.4350(g)(iii). In addition, Defendant asserts that, in any event, it did not breach the contract because it had no duty to engage in loss mitigation and it otherwise complied with the contract’s terms. The Court finds, however, that whether or not Defendant violated any of the terms of the contract is a matter best resolved after discovery. Therefore, at this point, the Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a breach of contract claim and, accordingly, DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim. 4

FOOTNOTES

4Plaintiff obviously disagrees with Defendant’s argument and filed a “Notice of Additional Authority” disputing Defendant’s position that the VA regulations require holders to evaluate borrowers for loss mitigation. Plaintiff cites the Veterans Benefits Administration, [*16] Revised VA Making Home Affordable Program, Circular 26-10-6 (May 24, 2010), which states, in part: “Before considering HAMP-style modifications, servicers must first evaluate defaulted mortgages for traditional loss mitigation actions cited in Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations, section 36.4819 (38 CFR § 36.4819); i.e., repayment plans, special forbearances, and traditional loan modifications. . . . If none of the traditional home retention loss mitigation options provide an affordable payment, the servicer must evaluate the loan for a HAMP-style modification prior to deciding that the default is insoluble and exploring alternatives to foreclosure.” (Available at http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/circulars/26_10_6.pdf).

B.

Negligence and Fraud

Defendant next argues that Plaintiff’s claim for negligence and fraud in Counts II and III, respectively, are duplicative of his illegal debt collection claim in Count V under the West Virginia Consumer Credit Protection Act (WVCCPA) and cannot survive because Plaintiff fails to allege Defendant owed him a special duty beyond the normal borrower-servicer relationship. Therefore, Defendant asserts Counts II and III should be dismissed.

In Bailey [*17] v. Branch Banking & Trust Co., Civ. Act. No. 3:10-0969, 2011 WL 2517253 (S.D. W. Va. June 23, 2011), this Court held that the West Virginia Supreme Court in Casillas v. Tuscarora Land Co., 412 S.E.2d 792 (W. Va. 1991), made it clear a plaintiff can pursue claims under the WVCCPA and common law at the same time. 2011 WL 2517253, *3. The Court reasoned that “[i]t would be contrary to both the legislative intent of the WVCCPA and the whole crux of Casillas if the Court were to preclude consumers from bringing actions for violations of the WVCCPA and common law merely because the claims are based upon similar facts.” Id. The Court found that “[n]either the WVCCPA nor Casillasmakes a consumer choose between the two options. A consumer clearly can choose to pursue both avenues provided “separate” claims are set forth in a complaint.” Id.

However, under West Virginia law, a plaintiff “cannot maintain an action in tort for an alleged breach of a contractual duty.” Lockhart v. Airco Heating & Cooling, 567 S.E.2d 619, 624 (W. Va. 2002)(footnote omitted). Rather, “[t]ort liability of the parties to a contract arises from the breach of some positive legal duty imposed by law because of the relationship [*18] of the parties, rather than a mere omission to perform a contract obligation.” Id. (emphasis added). Whether a “special relationship” exists between the parties beyond their contractual obligations is “determined largely by the extent to which the particular plaintiff is affected differently from society in general.” Aikens v. Debow, 541 S.E.2d 576, 589 (W. Va. 2000). “In the lender-borrower context, courts consider whether the lender has created such a ‘special relationship’ by performing services not normally provided by lender to a borrower.” Warden v. PHH Mortgage Corp., No. 3:10-cv-00075, 2010 WL 3720128, at *9 (N.D. W. Va. Sept. 16. 2010 (citing Glascock v. City Nat’l Bank of W. Va., 576 S.E.2d 540, 545-56 (W. Va. 2002) (other citation omitted)).

Here, Plaintiff’s negligence claim is quite simple. He alleges that, where “Defendant engaged in significant communications and activities with Plaintiff[] and the loan, Defendant owed a duty to Plaintiff to provide him with accurate information about his loan account and its obligations and rights thereunder.” Compl., at ¶27. Next, Plaintiff asserts “Defendant[] breached that duty by instructing Plaintiff not to make payments, advising [*19] Plaintiff that he would receive a loan modification, and then instead allowing arrears to accrue for months and ultimately denying Plaintiff[] assistance and pursuing foreclosure.” Id. at ¶28. Upon review of these allegations, the Court finds Plaintiff has failed to allege any positive legal duty beyond Defendant’s purported contractual obligations. There is nothing about these allegations that creates a “special relationship” between the parties. Indeed, a duty to provide accurate loan information is a normal service in a lender-borrower relationship.

In support of their claim Plaintiff relies, inter alia, on Glasock v. City National Bank of West Virginia, 576 S.E.540 (W. Va. 2002), where the West Virginia Supreme Court found that a special relationship existed between a lender and the borrowers. In Glascock, the bank maintained oversight and was significantly involved in the construction of the borrowers’ house. The bank possessed information that there were substantial problems with the house, but it failed to reveal those problems to the borrowers. 576 S.E.2d at 545. The West Virginia Supreme Court found that the bank’s significant involvement in the construction created a special [*20] relationship between the parties which carried “with it a duty to disclose any information that would be critical to the integrity of the construction project.” Id. at 546 (footnote omitted).

To the contrary, Plaintiff’s negligence claim in this case rests merely on the fact Defendant had a duty to provide him accurate information about the loan and failed to do so. Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege any facts which support a special relationship between the parties as existed in Glascock. Therefore, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s negligence claim in Count II.

Turning next to Plaintiff’s fraud claim, Defendant argues the claim must be dismissed because it fails to meet the heightened pleading standard found in Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 9(b)provides that, “[i]n alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake. Malice, intent, knowledge, and other conditions of a person’s mind may be alleged generally.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b). Under this heightened pleading standard, a plaintiff is required to “at a minimum, describe the time, place, and contents of the false [*21] representations, as well as the identity of the person making the misrepresentation and what he obtained thereby.” U.S. ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 379 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (4th Cir. 1999))(internal quotation marks omitted). In other words, the plaintiffs must describe the “‘who, what, when, where, and how’ of the alleged fraud.” Id. (quoting U.S. ex rel. Willard v. Humana Health Plan of Texas Inc., 336 F.3d 375, 384 (5th Cir. 2003) (other citation omitted)).

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he had trouble making his mortgage payments around 2009. Compl, at ¶6. When he was approximately two months behind on his payments, Defendant informed him that he qualified for a loan modification, but he needed to complete the necessary paperwork to have it finalized. Id. at ¶7(a). “At this time,” Defendant also informed Plaintiff not to make any more payments until the modification was finalized. Id. at ¶7(b). About eight months later, Defendant told Plaintiff that he did not qualify for a modification, but Defendant instructed him to submit documentation for another modification. Id. at [*22] ¶13. After approximately six more months passed, Plaintiff was notified again that he was being denied assistance. Id. at ¶14. Plaintiff further alleges that, before May of 2012, Defendant never gave him “a written decision on his loan modification applications or any explanation for why he had denied him for assistance, other than its statements by telephone that he did not qualify for assistance because he had a VA loan.” Id. at ¶18.

In addition to these alleged facts, Plaintiff specifically states in his cause of action for fraud that “[i]n or around 2009,” Defendant told him to stop making payments and it would modify his loan rather than pursue foreclosure. Id. at ¶31. Plaintiff asserts these “representations were false and material,” and they were made knowingly, recklessly, and/or intentionally. Id. at ¶¶32-33. Plaintiff further claims he detrimentally relied upon these misrepresentations by stopping his payments and not attempting reinstatement, after which Defendant sought foreclosure. Id. at ¶¶34-35.

In considering these allegations, the Court is mindful of the fact it should be hesitant “to dismiss a complaint under Rule 9(b) if the court is satisfied (1) that the defendant [*23] has been made aware of the particular circumstances for which she will have to prepare a defense at trial, and (2) that plaintiff has substantial prediscovery evidence of those facts.” Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 784 (4th Cir. 1999). Here, the Court finds that Plaintiff adequately alerts Defendant as to “the time, place, and contents of the false representation[.]” U.S. ex rel. Wilson, 525 F.3d at 379(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiff clearly alleges the fraudulent activity consisted of Defendant instructing him to stop making payments and assuring him he would receive a loan modification instead of foreclosure. He also asserts the representations were made over the telephone and occurred in 2009, when his payments were two months in arrears, and before Defendant returned his payment. In addition, Plaintiff states that he continued to call Defendant approximately once a week and was assured that it would not proceed with foreclosure. Compl., at ¶12(a), (b), and (c). Given this information, Defendant should be able to prepare its defense based upon the allegations made. In addition, the allegations provide enough information that [*24] Defendant also should be able to identify and review its customer service notes, call logs, account records, and any phone recordings it may have during the specified time period. Thus, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim for fraud.

C.

Estoppel

Defendant further argues that Plaintiff’s claim in Count IV for estoppel must be dismissed. To maintain a claim for estoppel in West Virginia, a plaintiff must show:

[(1)] a false representation or a concealment of material facts; [(2)] it must have been made with knowledge, actual or constructive of the facts; [(3)] the party to whom it was made must have been without knowledge or the means of knowledge of the real facts; [(4)] it must have been made with the intention that it should be acted on; and [(5)] the party to whom it was made must have relied on or acted on it to his prejudice.

Syl. Pt. 3, Folio v. City of Clarksburg, 655 S.E.2d 143 (W. Va. 2007) (quoting Syl. Pt. 6, Stuart v. Lake Washington Realty Corp., 92 S.E.2d 891 (W. Va. 1956)). Defendant asserts Plaintiff had actual knowledge via correspondence it sent to Plaintiff that he was not guaranteed loan assistance and loan assistance would not impact Defendant’s [*25] right to foreclose. Defendant attached the correspondence to its Motion to Dismiss as Exhibit D. In addition, Defendant argues that Plaintiff admits to missing two payments before the alleged misrepresentations occurred so he cannot state he relied upon those alleged misrepresentations in failing to make his payments.

“[W]hen a defendant attaches a document to its motion to dismiss, ‘a court may consider it in determining whether to dismiss the complaint [if] it was integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint and [if] the plaintiffs do not challenge its authenticity.’ ” Am. Chiropractic Ass’n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Phillips v. LCI Int’l, Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999)). In this case, Plaintiff asserts that, “at this point there is no evidence that the letter was actually sent to or received by Plaintiff, nor has Plaintiff had the opportunity to present mailings, call logs, or testimony supporting his claim.” Pl.’s Res. in Opp. to Def.’s Mot. to Dis., ECF No. 7, at 16. 5Therefore, the Court will not consider the letter. Likewise, the Court finds no merit to the argument that Plaintiff’s admission that he was two months [*26] behind on his loan extinguishes his estoppel claim. It is clear from the Complaint that Plaintiff’s claim is that he relied upon the alleged misrepresentations after he was two months delinquent. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss the estoppel claim.

FOOTNOTES

5In addition, the Court notes that the letter appears undated and Defendant sometimes refers to it as a 2009 letter and sometimes as a 2010 letter. At the top right-hand side of the letter, there is a statement providing: “Please complete, sign and return all the enclosed documents by December 5, 2009.” Exhibit D, ECF No. 4-4, at 1.

D.

WVCCPA

Finally, Defendant asserts Plaintiff’s claim under the WVCCPA in Count V must be dismissed because it fails to meet the requirements of Rules 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2)provides that “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to meet this requirement because he merely pled a legal conclusion that Defendant engaged in illegal debt collection and he does not plead sufficient [*27] factual content to support that conclusion. In addition, Defendant states it had a contractual right to return Plaintiff’s partial payment so returning the payment cannot support a WVCCPA claim.

Plaintiff, however, argues that his claims under the WVCCPA are based on three grounds. First, Plaintiff asserts Defendant used fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading representations to collect the debt or get information about him, in violation of West Virginia Code § 46A-2-127. 6 Second, he claims that Defendant used unfair or unconscionable means to collect the debt, in violation of West Virginia Code § 46A-2-128. 7 Third, Plaintiff contends that Defendant’s refusal to apply payments to his account violated West Virginia Code § 46A-2-115. Plaintiff then argues that the first two claims are sufficiently supported in opposition to a motion to dismiss based upon his allegations that (1) Defendant told him he qualified for loan modification and would receive one if he completed the requested financial information; (2) Defendant told him to stop making payments because it would interfere with the modification process, but in reality it increased the likelihood of foreclosure; (3) Defendant assured [*28] Plaintiff it would not foreclose on his home during the time the loan modification application was being processed; (4) Defendant ultimately represented it could not modify the loan because it was a VA loan; and (5) Defendant would not consider a short sale of the house and, instead, proceeded with foreclosure. Plaintiff argues that each of these misrepresentations made by Defendant were intended to collect financial information about him through the modification process or collect the debt via foreclosure. He also states the delay and improper refusal of payments greatly increased the amount he was in arrears, which allowed Defendant to attempt to collect the debt through foreclosure.

FOOTNOTES

6Section 127 provides, in part: “No debt collector shall use any fraudulent, deceptive or misleading representation or means to collect or attempt to collect claims or to obtain information concerning consumers.” W. Va. Code § 46A-2-127, in part.

7Section 128 states, in part: “No debt collector shall use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any claim.” W. Va. Code §46A-2-128, in part.

Upon consideration of these allegations, the Court finds they are sufficient to state a claim [*29] under the WVCCPA. As stated by the Honorable Thomas E. Johnston stated in Koontz v. Wells Fargo, N.A., Civ. Act. No. 2:10-cv-00864, 2011 WL 1297519 (S.D. W. Va. Mar. 31, 2011), West Virginia “§ 46A-2-127applies to both ‘misrepresentations made in collecting a debt’ and ‘misrepresentations . . . [made] when obtaining information on a customer.'” 2011 WL 1297519, at *6. Therefore, allegations that a financial institution misrepresented to the borrower that it would reconsider a loan modification and, thereby, obtained additional financial information from the borrower, are sufficient to state a claim. Id. Likewise, the Court finds the allegations are sufficient to state a claim that Defendant used “unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any claim” pursuant to West Virginia Code §46A-2-128, in part. Cf. Wilson v. Draper v. Goldberg, P.L.L.C., 443 F.3d 373, 376 (4th Cir. 2006)(stating “Defendants’ actions surrounding the foreclosure proceeding were attempts to collect that debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (citations omitted)). 8

FOOTNOTES

8 Defendant asserts that a debt collection does not give rise to a claim under the WVCCPA. Citing Spoor v. PHH Mortgage [*30] Corp., Civ. Act. No. 5:10CV42, 2011 WL 883666 (N.D. W. Va. Mar. 11, 2011). The Court has reviewed Spoorand finds that it primarily focused only on the plaintiff’s request for a loan modification with respect to her WVCCPA claims. The district court in Spoor stated that the defendant’s consideration of the request is not an attempt to collect a debt. 2011 WL 883666, at *7. In the present case, however, the allegations Plaintiff argues supports his claim extend beyond a mere “request” for a modification. Moreover, the Court finds that, to the extent Spoor is contrary to the reasoning in Wilson and Koontz, the Court declines to apply it to this case.

With respect to Plaintiff’s third claim that Defendant illegally returned his payment pursuant to West Virginia Code § 46A-2-115(c), this provision states:

All amounts paid to a creditor arising out of any consumer credit sale or consumer loan shall be credited upon receipt against payments due: Provided, That amounts received and applied during a cure period will not result in a duty to provide a new notice of right to cure; and provided further that partial amounts received during the reinstatement period set forth in subsection (b) of this [*31] section do not create an automatic duty to reinstate and may be returned by the creditor. Defaultcharges shall be accounted for separately; those set forth in subsection (b) arising during such a reinstatement period may be added to principal.

W. Va. Code § 46A-2-115(c). Plaintiff argues that § 46A-2-115(b)defines the reinstatement period as the time “beginning with the trustee notice of foreclosure and ending prior to foreclosure sale,” and he made clear it clear in his Complaint that Defendant returned his payment prior to the requesting a trustee notice of the foreclosure sale. See Compl., at ¶¶7 & 10. Defendant responds by stating that it was within its contractual right to refuse the payment. However, West Virginia Code § 46A-1-107makes it clear that, “[e]xcept as otherwise provided in this chapter, a consumer may not waive or agree to forego rights or benefits under this chapter or under article two-a, chapter forty-six of this code.” W. Va. Code 46A-1-107. Therefore, upon review, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claim is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Thus, for the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion to dismiss Count V for alleged violations [*32] of the WVCCPA.

V.

CONCLUSION

Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract, fraud, estoppel, and violations of the WVCCPA. However, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s negligence claim.

The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Memorandum Opinion and Order to all counsel of record and any unrepresented parties.

ENTER: March 14, 2013

/s/ Robert C. Chambers

ROBERT C. CHAMBERS, CHIEF JUDGE

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