Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Banking
by
Plaintiffs purchased a residence and obtained a $1 million loan, memorialized by a note secured by a deed of trust. Years later, the property was sold through a nonjudicial foreclosure. Plaintiffs, after two prior federal suits were dismissed without prejudice, filed this state lawsuit for wrongful foreclosure, against the Buyers, and Lenders. Lenders successfully argued the action was barred by res judicata (claim preclusion), based on those dismissals; under Federal Rule 41(a)(1)(B), the “two dismissal rule,” the dismissal of the second federal suit was “an adjudication on the merits.”The court of appeal concluded the voluntary dismissal of the second federal lawsuit was not a final “adjudication on the merits” that barred the filing of this case in state court. The two-dismissal rule of Rule 41(a)(1)(B) applies when there is a voluntary dismissal in state or federal court, a second voluntary dismissal in federal court, and the subsequent filing of an action in the same federal court where the second suit was dismissed. Under California law, a plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal without prejudice of a prior action is not a final judgment on the merits that bars a subsequent suit. California does not prohibit a plaintiff from filing dismissals without prejudice in successive actions. The rule is inapplicable to this state court lawsuit alleging only state-law claims. The court nonetheless affirmed, concluding that the challenges to the foreclosure lack merit. View "Gray v. La Salle Bank" on Justia Law

by
Defendant appealed the district court’s judgment awarding damages to Plaintiff to recover funds Defendant received as the result of various alleged fraudulent transfers. The district court entered a default against Defendant as a sanction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b) for her repeated failure to comply with discovery orders and ultimately entered a default judgment against Defendant for fraudulent transfers, awarding Plaintiff damages calculated based on three checks Defendant drew from bank accounts she held jointly with her debtor husband.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Defendant’s noncompliance during discovery warranted a default. The court explained that Defendant failed to respond to interrogatories and produce the documents Plaintiff requested, in violation of the district court’s many orders. This record supports the district court’s determination that Defendant acted willfully, that lesser sanctions would have been inadequate given Defendant’s continued noncompliance after multiple explicit warnings about the consequences of further noncompliance, that Defendant was given ample notice that her continued noncompliance would result in sanctions, including the entry of default judgment, and that her noncompliance spanned more than six months. The court also concluded that Defendant’s withdrawals from accounts she held jointly with her husband constitute fraudulent transfers under Connecticut law. View "Mirlis v. Greer" on Justia Law

by
The plaintiffs in this case are American service members who were wounded, and the relatives of service members who were killed or wounded, in terrorist attacks carried out in Iraq from 2004 to 2011 by proxies of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. In 2019, victims 20 and their family members sued several Lebanese banks, alleging that the banks aided and abetted the attacks by laundering money for Hezbollah. After Plaintiffs filed suit, the United States Department of the Treasury labelled one of those banks, Jammal Trust Bank (JTB), a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. That designation prompted the Banque du Liban, Lebanon’s central bank, to liquidate JTB and acquire its assets. JTB then moved to dismiss the case against it, on the ground that it was now entitled to sovereign immunity as an instrumentality of Lebanon. The district court denied the motion, holding that a defendant is entitled to foreign sovereign immunity only if it possesses such immunity at the time suit is filed. JTB appealed.    The Second Circuit vacated. The court held that immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. Section 1604, may attach when a defendant becomes an instrumentality of a foreign sovereign after a suit is filed. Further, the court explained that it was the U.S. designation of JTB as a terrorist organization, not any attempt by Lebanon to avoid this lawsuit, that forced the bank into liquidation and public receivership. View "Bartlett v. Baasiri" on Justia Law

by
Gary and Jeanette Merritt own four residential properties in Marysville, Washington. Between 2005 and 2007, the Merritts opened five home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), executing five five promissory notes (notes or HELOC agreements) in favor of USAA Federal Savings Bank. The Merritts secured these loans by executing deeds of trust on the properties with USAA as the beneficiary. In November 2012, the Merritts filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Merritts stopped making their monthly payments on the USAA loans prior to the November 2012 bankruptcy filing. USAA never accelerated any of the loans or acted to foreclose on the properties. In 2020, the Merritts filed four quiet title complaints seeking to remove USAA’s liens on each of the properties. Relying on Edmundson v. Bank of America, NA, 378 P.3d 272 (2016), the Merritts argued that the six-year statute of limitations to enforce the deeds of trust expired six years after February 12, 2013, the day before their bankruptcy discharge. In October 2020, the Merritts moved for summary judgment in each case. In November 2020, the trial court denied each of these motions. In February 2021, USAA moved for summary judgment in each case. USAA argued that the plaintiffs were not entitled to quiet title because the statute of limitations to foreclose on the deeds of trust would not begin to run until the maturity date of each loan, the earliest of which will occur in 2025. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, holding that the the six-year statute of limitations had not begun to run on enforcement of the deeds of trust since none of the loans had yet matured. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether a bankruptcy discharge triggered the statute of limitations to enforce a deed of trust. The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and the trial court and hold that bankruptcy discharge did not trigger the statute of limitations to enforce a deed of trust. View "Merritt v. USAA Federal Savings Bank" on Justia Law

by
The property at issue in this case was a residential home that was purchased in 2007 by Shawn and Stephanie Kurtz. The house was located in a subdivision, which required property owners to pay homeowners association (HOA) assessments to petitioner Copper Creek (Marysville) Homeowners Association. If the assessments were not paid, then Copper Creek was entitled to foreclose on its lien. However, Copper Creek’s lien was “subordinate to any security interest perfected by a first deed of trust or mortgage granted in good faith and for fair value upon such Lot.” The Kurtzes stopped paying their HOA assessments and the home loan in varying times in 2010. The Kurtzes (in the process of divorcing) individually filed for bankruptcy. Neither returned to the house, nor did they make any further payments toward their home loan or their HOA assessments. However, there was no attempt to foreclose on the deed of trust. As a result, the house sat vacant for years and fell into disrepair. The Kurtzes remained the property owners of record and HOA assessments continued to accrue in their names. In 2018, Copper Creek recorded a notice of claim of lien for unpaid HOA assessments, fees, costs, and interest. In January 2019, Copper Creek filed a complaint against the Kurtzes seeking foreclosure on the lien and a custodial receiver for the property. The issue this case presented concerned the statute of limitations to foreclose on a deed of trust securing an installment loan after the borrower receives an order of discharge in bankruptcy. As detailed in Merritt v. USAA Federal Savings Bank, No. 100728-1 (Wash. July 20, 2023), the Washington Supreme Court held that a new foreclosure action on the deed of trust accrues with each missed installment payment, even after the borrower’s personal liability is discharged. Actions on written contracts are subject to a six-year statute of limitations. Therefore, the nonjudicial foreclosure action on the deed of trust in this case was timely commenced as to all unpaid installments within the preceding six years, regardless of the borrowers’ bankruptcy discharge orders. In addition, the Court held the trial court properly exercised its discretion to award fees as an equitable sanction for respondents’ litigation misconduct. View "Copper Creek (Marysville) Homeowners Ass'n v. Kurtz" on Justia Law

by
Respondent is a former employee who won a judgment in Argentina's National Court of Labor Appeals against Citibank, N.A. Petitioner, the Argentinian branch of Citibank, N.A., filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association and brought the proceedings below. The district court compelled arbitration, preliminarily enjoined the employee from enforcing the Argentinian judgment against Petitioner, and held Respondent in contempt of court. It also denied his motion to dismiss.   The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Petition. Therefore, the district court was without authority to issue its orders in this case. The court reversed the district court's orders -- including its order to compel arbitration, the preliminary injunction it entered against Respondent, its order finding Respondent in contempt, and its order requiring Respondent to pay the Branch's attorneys' fees and costs. The court concluded that because the Branch has not shown it enjoys independent legal existence and Citibank has not sought to substitute itself or join this action as the real party in interest, there has been no party adverse to Respondent. Without adverse parties, there can be no subject matter jurisdiction under Article III. View "The branch of Citibank, N.A., established in the Republic of Argentina v." on Justia Law

by
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System brought an enforcement action against Petitioners Frank Smith and Mark Kiolbasa, who were employees at Farmers State Bank at the time, after finding they committed misconduct at Central Bank & Trust where they had previously worked. This resulted in their removal as officers and directors of Farmers Bank and the imposition of restrictions on their abilities to serve as officers, directors, or employees of other banks in the future. Petitioners sought review from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the Board did not have authority to bring this enforcement action against them because the Board was not the “appropriate Federal banking agency,” as defined by 12 U.S.C. § 1813(q)(3), with authority over the bank where the misconduct took place. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that, because the Board had authority over Petitioners at the time the action commenced, the Board was an appropriate federal banking agency and had authority to initiate the proceeding. The appellate court also declined to review Petitioners’ Appointments Clause challenge because they did not raise it at trial. View "Smith, et al. v. FRS" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs-Appellants are American victims and the relatives and estates of victims of terrorist attacks in Israel between 2001 and 2003. Plaintiffs alleged that Palestine Investment Bank ("PIB") facilitated the attacks, in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. 2213-39D. The district court dismissed the case on the ground that it lacked personal jurisdiction over PIB.Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(A) permits a federal court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant to the extent allowed by the law of the state in which it sits. New York's long-arm statute, C.P.L.R. 302(a)(1) authorizes personal jurisdiction over a foreign defendant for causes of action that arise out of “transact[ing] any business within the state,” whether in person or through an agent. in this context, transacting business means “purposeful activity—some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State," invoking the benefits of the state's laws.Here, the PIB's actions indicated that it availed itself of the benefits of New York's financial system and that Plaintiff's claim arose from these activities. View "Spetner v. PIB" on Justia Law

by
Following the 2007-2009 “Great Recession,” the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) brought an enforcement action against Calcutt, the former CEO of a Michigan-based community bank, for mismanaging one of the bank’s loan relationships. The FDIC ultimately ordered Calcutt removed from office, prohibited him from further banking activities, and assessed $125,000 in civil penalties.The Sixth Circuit agreed that Calcutt had proximately caused the $30,000 charge-off on one loan because he had “participated extensively in negotiating and approving” the transaction. The court concluded that $6.4 million in losses on other loans were a different matter and that none of the investigative, auditing, and legal expenses could qualify as harm to the bank, because those expenses occurred as part of its “normal business.” Despite identifying these legal errors in the FDIC analysis, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the FDIC decision, finding that substantial evidence supported the sanctions determination, even though the FDIC never applied the proximate cause standard itself or considered whether the sanctions against Calcutt were warranted on the narrower set of harms that it identified.The Supreme Court reversed. It is a fundamental rule of administrative law that reviewing courts must judge the propriety of agency action solely by the grounds invoked by the agency. An agency’s discretionary order may be upheld only on the same basis articulated in the order by the agency itself. By affirming the FDIC’s sanctions against Calcutt based on a legal rationale different from that adopted by the FDIC, the Sixth Circuit violated these commands. View "Calcutt v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Niki-Alexander Shetty purchased a home that had been foreclosed upon by a homeowners association. The home, however, was still subject to a defaulted mortgage and deed of trust between the bank and the original borrower. Defendants, the bank and mortgage servicer, recorded a notice of default and scheduled a foreclosure sale. Shetty sought to cure the default and resume regular payments on the loan. Defendants, however, refused, insisting that, as a stranger to the loan, he was not entitled to reinstate it. Shetty sued for wrongful foreclosure, arguing he had the right to reinstate the loan pursuant to California Civil Code section 2924c. The trial court sustained a demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that Shetty did not have standing under the statute. The Court of Appeal disagreed with that interpretation of the statute and reversed the judgment as to all defendants except Mortgage Electronic Registration Services, Inc. (MERS), whom Shetty conceded had no liability. View "Shetty v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law