Rescission: Equitable Tolling Extends Statute of Limitations

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see http://openjurist.org/784/f2d/910/king-v-state-of-california-d-m

The most popular question I get here on the blog and on my radio show is what happens when the three year statute has run? The answers are many. First is the question of whether it ever started running. If the transaction was not actually consummated with anyone in the chain of parties claiming rights to collect or enforce the loan it would be my opinion that the three day right of rescission has not begun to run. That would be a remedy to an event in which the note and mortgage (or deed of trust) has been signed and delivered but the loan was never funded by the originator any creditor in the chain of “ownership.” The benefit of the three day rescission is that you don’t need a reason to do it. But in order to do that you need to be careful that you are not stating that there was a closing because that would be consummation and therefore the right to rescind unconditionally ran three days after that “Closing.”

Second is the three year statute of limitations. The same reasoning applies.  But it also raises the question of non-disclosure and withholding information. The rather obvious delays in prosecuting foreclosures on alleged “defaults” are clearly a Bank strategy for letting the 3 year statute run out and then claim the homeowner cannot rescind because the closing was more than 3 years ago. That is where the doctrine of equitable tolling comes into play. A party who violates TILA and fails to disclose material facts and continues to hide them from the borrower should not be permitted to benefit from continuing the violation beyond the apparent statute of limitations. People keep asking why the banks wait so long to prosecute foreclosures. The answer is that it is because they have no right to do so and they are running out the apparent statute of limitations on rescission and TILA disclosure actions.

Third is a procedural issue. According to TILA the “lender” who receives such a notice of rescission is (1) obligated to send it to the “real” lender and (2) must file a declaratory action against the borrower within 20 days in order to avoid the rescission. If they don’t file the 20 day action, they waive the objections they could have raised. So far I have not heard of one case in which such an action has been filed. I think the reason for that is that nobody can file an action in which they establish standing. Such a party would be obliged to allege that they are the “lender” or “creditor” as defined by TILA. That means they either loaned the money or bought the loan for “valuable consideration” just like it says in Article 9 of the UCC. Then they would have to prove that allegation before any burden shifted to the borrower to answer or file affirmative defenses against the action filed by this putative “lender.”

CAVEAT: The doctrine of equitable tolling is remedial as is the statute, but it is fairly strictly construed. I’m am quite confident that the best we will get from the courts is that the 3 day and 3 year rules and other limitations in TILA starts running the moment you knew or should have known the facts that had been withheld from you at “closing.” The fact that you are not a lawyer and did not realize the significance of this will not allow you to delay the start of the statute running after the date of discovery of the facts, whether you understood them or not.  But this is a two-edged sword. The current practice of objecting to any QWR, DVL or discovery question without answering the truth about the claimed chain of ownership or servicers on the loan corroborates the borrowers allegation that the parties are continuing to withhold this information. So a well-framed TILA defense might serve as the basis for enforcing your rights of discovery and rights to answers on your Qualified Written Request or Debt Validation Letter.

Additional Caveat: The doctrine of equitable tolling has been applied with respect to the one year statute of limitations on TILA disclosures but it remains open as to whether it would be otherwise applied. From the 9th Circuit —

“Section 1640(e) provides that “[a]ny action under this section may be brought within one year from the date of the occurrance of the violation.” We have not yet determined when a violation occurs so as to commence the one-year statutory period. See Katz v. Bank of California, 640 F.2d 1024, 1025 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 860, 102 S.Ct. 314, 70 L.Ed.2d 157 (1981). Three theories have been used by other circuits to determine when the statutory period commences: (1) when the credit contract is executed; (2) when the disclosures are actually made (a “continuing violation” theory); (3) when the contract is executed, subject to the doctrines of equitable tolling and fraudulent concealment (limitations period runs from the date on which the borrower discovers or should reasonably have discovered the violation). See Postow v. OBA Federal S & L Ass’n, 627 F.2d 1370, 1379 (D.C.Cir.1980) (adopting “continuing violation” theory in some situations); Wachtel v. West, 476 F.2d 1062, 1066-67 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 874, 94 S.Ct. 161, 38 L.Ed.2d 114 (1973) (rejecting “continuing violation” theory, statutory period commences upon execution of loan contract); Stevens v. Rock Springs National Bank, 497 F.2d 307, 310 (10th Cir.1974) (rejecting “continuing violation” theory); Jones v. TransOhio Savings Ass’n., 747 F.2d 1037, 1043 (6th Cir.1984) (applying equitable tolling and fraudulent concealment).”

Hats off to James Macklin who sent me this email:

Hang on to your hats fella’s…in Sargis’ ruling … back in 2012…he confirms the equitable tolling principles of TILA as I had argued…just saw this again while reviewing…to wit:
“The Ninth Circuit applies equitable tolling to TILA’s … statute of limitations (King v. California, 784 F.2d 910, 914 (9th Cir. 1986).
“Equitable Tolling is applied to effectuate the congressional intent of TILA.”, Id.
Courts have construed TILA as a remedial statute, interpreting it liberally for the consumer.” (Id. Citing Riggs v. Gov’t Emps. Fin. Corp., 623 F.2d 68, 70-71 (9th Cir. 1980).
 Specifically the 9th Circuit held: “[T]he limitations period in section 1640(e) runs from the date of consummation of the transaction but that the doctrine of equitable tolling may, in appropriate circumstances, suspend the limitations period until the borrower discovers or had the reasonable to discover the fraud or non-disclosures that form the basis of the TILA action.” 
Gentlemen…I give you proof positive that the statute tolls and the fact that the term “consummation” is also subject to broad interpretation as we know…the loan could not have consummated if what we allege is found to be true… However, the non-disclosures language used by the 9th Circuit gives rise to possible myriad rescissions upon discovery of those non-disclosures…
James L. Macklin, Managing Director
Secure Document Research(Paralegal Services/Legal Project Management)

One Response

  1. Yes it does Neil….Yes it does.

    Notice how no-one is disputing it?

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