Hat Tip to Beth Findsen who is a good friend and a great lawyer in Scottsdale, Az and who provided this case to me this morning. I always recommend her in Arizona because her writing is spectacular and her courtroom experience invaluable.
This case needs to be analyzed further. Robert Hager (CONGRATULATIONS TO HAGER IN RENO, NV) et al has succeeded in getting at least a partial and significant victory over the MERS system, and voiding robosigned documents as being forged per se. I disagree that a note and mortgage, once split, can be reunified by mere execution of an instrument. They are avoiding the issue just like the “lost note” issue. The rules of evidence and pleading have always required great factual specificity on the path of transactions leading up to the point where the note was lost or transferred. This Court dodged that bullet for now. Without evidence of the trail of ownership, the money trail and the document trail all the way through the system, such a finding leaves us in the dark. The case does show what I have been saying all along — the importance of pleading and admitting to NOTHING. By not specifically stating that there was no default, the court concluded that Plaintiffs had failed to establish the elements of wrongful foreclosure and left open the entire question about whether such a cause of action even exists.
But the more basic issue us whether the homeowner can sue for quiet title and damages for slander of his title by the use and filing of patently false documentation in Court, in the County records etc. The answer is a resounding YES and will be sustained should the banks try to move this up the ladder to the U.S. Supreme Court. This opinion changes again my earlier comments. First I said you could quiet title, then I said you first needed to nullify title (the mortgage) before you could even file a quiet title action. Now I revert to my prior position based upon the holding and sound reasoning behind this court decision. One caveat: you must plead facts for nullification, cancellation of the instrument on the grounds that it is void before you can get to your cause of action on quiet title and damages for slander of the homeowner’s title. My conclusion is that they may be and perhaps should be in the same lawsuit. This decision makes clear the damage wrought by use of the MERS system. It is strong persuasive authority in other jurisdictions and now the law for all courts within the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction.
Here are some of the significant quotes.
Writing in 2011, the MDL Court dismissed Count I on four grounds. None of these grounds provides an appropriate basis for dismissal. We recognize that at the time of its decision, the MDL Court had plausible arguments under Arizona law in support of three of these grounds. But decisions by Arizona courts after 2011 have made clear that the MDL Court was incorrect in relying on them.
First, the MDL Court concluded that § 33-420 does not apply to the specific documents that the CAC alleges to be false. However, in Stauffer v. U.S. Bank National Ass’n, 308 P.3d 1173, 1175 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2013), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that a § 33-420(A) damages claim is available in a case in which plaintiffs alleged as false documents “a Notice of Trustee Sale, a Notice of Substitution of Trustee, and an Assignment of a Deed of Trust.” These are precisely the documents that the CAC alleges to be false.
[Statute of Limitations:] at least one case has suggested that a § 33-420(B) claim asserts a continuous wrong that is not subject to any statute of limitations as long as the cloud to title remains. State v. Mabery Ranch, Co., 165 P.3d 211, 227 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2007).
Third, the MDL Court held that appellants lacked standing to sue under § 33-420 on the ground that, even if the documents were false, appellants were still obligated to repay their loans. In the view of the MDL Court, because appellants were in default they suffered no concrete and particularized injury. However, on virtually identical allegations, the Arizona Court of Appeals held to the contrary in Stauffer. The plaintiffs in Stauffer were defaulting residential homeowners who brought suit for damages under § 33-420(A) and to clear title under § 33-420(B). One of the grounds on which the documents were alleged to be false was that “the same person executed the Notice of Trustee Sale and the Notice of Breach, but because the signatures did not look the same, the signature of the Notice of Trustee Sale was possibly forged.” Stauffer, 308 P.3d at 1175 n.2.
“Appellees argue that the Stauffers do not have standing because the Recorded Documents have not caused them any injury, they have not disputed their own default, and the Property has not been sold pursuant to the Recorded Documents. The purpose of A.R.S. § 33-420 is to “protect property owners from actions clouding title to their property.” We find that the recording of false or fraudulent documents that assert an interest in a property may cloud the property’s title; in this case, the Stauffers, as owners of the Property, have alleged that they have suffered a distinct and palpable injury as a result of those clouds on their Property’s title.” [Stauffer at 1179]
The Court of Appeals not only held that the Stauffers had standing based on their “distinct and palpable injury.” It also held that they had stated claims under §§ 33-420(A) and (B). The court held that because the “Recorded Documents assert[ed] an interest in the Property,” the trial court had improperly dismissed the Stauffers’ damages claim under § 33-420(A). Id. at 1178. It then held that because the Stauffers had properly brought an action for damages under § 33-420(A), they could join an action to clear title of the allegedly false documents under § 33-420(B). The court wrote:
“The third sentence in subsection B states that an owner “may bring a separate special action to clear title to the real property or join such action with an action for damages as described in this section.” A.R.S. § 33-420.B. Therefore, we find that an action to clear title of a false or fraudulent document that asserts an interest in real property may be joined with an action for damages under § 33-420.A.”
Fourth, the MDL Court held that appellants had not pleaded their robosigning claims with sufficient particularity to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). We disagree. Section 33-420 characterizes as false, and therefore actionable, a document that is “forged, groundless, contains a material misstatement or false claim or is otherwise invalid.” Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33-420(A), (B) (emphasis added). The CAC alleges that the documents at issue are invalid because they are “robosigned (forged).” The CAC specifically identifies numerous allegedly forged documents. For example, the CAC alleges that notice of the trustee’s sale of the property of Thomas and Laurie Bilyea was “notarized in blank prior to being signed on behalf of Michael A. Bosco, and the party that is represented to have signed the document, Michael A. Bosco, did not sign the document, and the party that did sign the document had no personal knowledge of any of the facts set forth in the notice.” Further, the CAC alleges that the document substituting a trustee under the deed of trust for the property of Nicholas DeBaggis “was notarized in blank prior to being signed on behalf of U.S. Bank National Association, and the party that is represented to have signed the document, Mark S. Bosco, did not sign the document.” Still further, the CAC also alleges that Jim Montes, who purportedly signed the substitution of trustee for the property of Milan Stejic had, on the same day, “signed and recorded, with differing signatures, numerous Substitutions of Trustee in the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office . . . . Many of the signatures appear visibly different than one another.” These and similar allegations in the CAC “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief,” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009), and provide the defendants fair notice as to the nature of appellants’ claims against them, Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011).
We therefore reverse the MDL Court’s dismissal of Count I.
[Importance of Pleading NO DEFAULT:] The Nevada Supreme Court stated in Collins v. Union Federal Savings & Loan Ass’n, 662 P.2d 610 (Nev. 1983):
An action for the tort of wrongful foreclosure will lie if the trustor or mortgagor can establish that at the time the power of sale was exercised or the foreclosure occurred, no breach of condition or failure of performance existed on the mortgagor’s or trustor’s part which would have authorized the foreclosure or exercise of the power of sale. Therefore, the material issue of fact in a wrongful foreclosure claim is whether the trustor was in default when the power of sale was exercised…. Because none of the appellants has shown a lack of default, tender, or an excuse from the tender requirement, appellants’ wrongful foreclosure claims cannot succeed. We therefore affirm the MDL Court’s of Count II.
[Questionable conclusion on “reunification of note and mortgage”:] the Nevada Supreme Court decided Edelstein v. Bank of New York Mellon, 286 P.3d 249 (Nev. 2012). Edelstein makes clear that MERS does have the authority, for purposes of § 107.080, to make valid assignments of the deed of trust to a successor beneficiary in order to reunify the deed of trust and the note. The court wrote:
Designating MERS as the beneficiary does . . . effectively “split” the note and the deed of trust at inception because . . . an entity separate from the original note holder . . . is listed as the beneficiary (MERS). . . . However, this split at the inception of the loan is not irreparable or fatal. . . . [W]hile entitlement to enforce both the deed of trust and the promissory note is required to foreclose, nothing requires those documents to be unified from the point of inception of the loan. . . . MERS, as a valid beneficiary, may assign its beneficial interest in the deed of trust to the holder of the note, at which time the documents are reunified.
We therefore affirm the MDL Court’s dismissal of Count III.
Here is the full opinion:
Opinion on MDL
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Filed under: AMGAR, CASES, CDO, CORRUPTION, discovery, escrow agent, evidence, expert witness, foreclosure, foreclosure defenses, foreclosure mill, GTC | Honor, investment banking, Investor, MBS TRUSTEE, MODIFICATION, Mortgage, originator, Pleading, securities fraud, Servicer, TRUST BENEFICIARIES, trustee | Tagged: 9TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS, Bosco, damages to homeowner, findsen, Hager, MERS, quiet title, slander of title, splitting note and mortgage, Stauffer, wrongful foreclosure | 60 Comments »