Thursday, February 18, 2010

What A Party Must Prove To Win On Summary Judgment Before The Defendant Answers The Complaint

In BAC Funding Consortium Inc. ISAOA/ATIMA v. Jean-Jacqueses, et al (2D08-3553), the Second District reversed a summary judgment and provided a good analysis of what a party must establish to prevail on a motion for summary judgment when the defendant has moved to dismiss the compaint or not yet answered the complaint. 
U.S. Bank filed an unverified mortgage foreclosure complaint naming the Jean-Jacqueses and BAC as defendants....U.S. Bank attached a copy of the mortgage it sought to foreclose to the complaint; however, this document identified Fremont Investment and Loan as the "lender" and Mortgage Electronic Registrations Systems, Inc., as the "mortgagee."
After the defendants moved to dismiss, "U.S. Bank filed a written response to BAC's motion to dismiss. Attached as Exhibit A to this response was an 'Assignment of Mortgage.' However, the space for the name of the assignee on this 'assignment' was blank, and the 'assignment' was neither signed nor notarized."
Subsequently, U.S. Bank filed a motion for summary judgment. At the same filed the "Original Mortgage and Note" with the court. However, neither of these documents identified U.S. Bank as the holder of the note or mortgage in any manner. U.S. Bank did not file the original of the purported "assignment" or any other document to establish that it had standing to foreclose on the note or mortgage.
After explaining the general summary judgment standard, the court stated:
When a plaintiff moves for summary judgment before the defendant has filed an answer, "the burden is upon the plaintiff to make it appear to a certainty that no answer which the defendant might properly serve could present a genuine issue of fact."  As these cases show, a plaintiff moving for summary judgment before an answer is filed must not only establish that no genuine issue of material fact is present in the record as it stands, but also that the defendant could not raise any genuine issues of material fact if the defendant were permitted to answer the complaint.
The proper party with standing to foreclose a note and/or mortgage is the holder of the note and mortgage or the holder's representative....While U.S. Bank alleged in its unverified complaint that it was the holder of the note and mortgage, the copy of the mortgage attached to the complaint lists "Fremont Investment & Loan" as the "lender" and "MERS" as the "mortgagee." When exhibits are attached to a complaint, the contents of the exhibits control over the allegations of the complaint.  Because the exhibit to U.S. Bank's complaint conflicts with its allegations concerning standing and the exhibit does not show that U.S. Bank has standing to foreclose the mortgage, U.S. Bank did not establish its entitlement to foreclose the mortgage as a matter of law.
Moreover, while U.S. Bank subsequently filed the original note, the note did not identify U.S. Bank as the lender or holder. U.S. Bank also did not attach an assignment or any other evidence to establish that it had purchased the note and mortgage. Further, it did not file any supporting affidavits or deposition testimony to establish that it owns and holds the note and mortgage.
In this appeal, U.S. Bank contends that it was not required to file an assignment of the note or mortgage or otherwise prove that it validly held them in order to be entitled to summary judgment in its favor. We disagree for two reasons. First, because BAC had not yet answered the complaint, it was incumbent on U.S. Bank to establish that no answer that BAC could properly serve or affirmative defense that it might allege could raise an issue of material fact....Second, regardless of whether BAC answered the complaint, U.S. Bank was required to establish, through admissible evidence, that it held the note and mortgage and so had standing to foreclose the mortgage before it would be entitled to summary judgment in its favor. Whether U.S. Bank did so through evidence of a valid assignment, proof of purchase of the debt, or evidence of an effective transfer, it was nevertheless required to prove that it validly held the note and mortgage it sought to foreclose.
Essentially, U.S. Bank's argument in favor of affirmance rests on two assumptions: a) that a valid assignment or transfer of the note and mortgage exists, and b) that a valid defense to this action does not. However, summary judgment is appropriate only upon record proof—not assumptions. Given the vastly increased number of foreclosure filings in Florida's courts over the past two years, which volume has taxed both litigants and the judicial system and increased the risk of paperwork errors, it is especially important that trial courts abide by the proper standards and apply the proper burdens of proof when considering a summary judgment motion in a foreclosure proceeding.


Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this decision. As a lawyer/mediator who does about a dozen foreclosure mediations each month, I'm curious to see how this decision will change the dynamics of my upcoming mediations.

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