Bradburn v. Bank of America N.A., ReconTrust, et al. | WA Court Order Declaring Bank of America's Foreclosure Sale to be Void and Setting it Aside

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Bradburn v. Bank of America N.A., ReconTrust, et al. | WA Court Order Declaring Bank of America’s Foreclosure Sale to be Void and Setting it Aside

Bradburn v. Bank of America N.A., ReconTrust, et al. | WA Court Order Declaring Bank of America’s Foreclosure Sale to be Void and Setting it Aside

Superior Court of the State of Washington
for Snohomish County

GEORGE N. BOWDEN
JUDGE

SNOHOMISH COUNTY COURTHOUSE
3000 Rockefeller Avenue, M/S #502
Everett, WA 98201-4060
(425) 388-3532

Abraham K. Lorber
Lane Powell, PC
1420 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4100
Seattle, WA 98101

Scott E. Stafne
Stafne Trumbull, LLC
239 North Olympic Avenue
Arlington, WA 98223

January 30, 2014

Re: Bradburn v. ReconTrust, et al. | No. 11-2-08345-2

Dear Counsel:
Enclosed please find copies of my order denying the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, granting plaintiff’s cross motion for partial summary judgment on his consumer protection claims, and granting plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment declaring the foreclosure sale to be void and setting it aside.

I chose not to enter specific findings or conclusions of law, since they are not required. And any appellate court will undoubtedly sort through the record and discuss those salient facts which may be pertinent to its decision on review.

However, I did want to share my reasoning for the decisions I entered.

Obviously, this is yet another convoluted case in the minefield of mortgage foreclosure litigation involving MERS. Most of the facts surrounding the procedural history are not in dispute.

While I recognize that the law is well-settled that a borrower like Mr. Bradburn generally does not have recourse when he’s denied a refinance loan, I was troubled by the allegation that he was told that he should stop making his mortgage payments so that he could qualify for refinancing with Bank of America (BANA) and that once he fell behind he not only wasn’t approved for that refinance but then found himself unable to bring his mortgage loan current or resolve what he believed was a dispute about how much he was behind. Of course, that’s not enough to prevail on a motion for summary judgment. And for purposes of these motions, it was accepted that he was in default on his loan. And there’s also no question that the loan documents allowed for the nonjudicial foreclosure sale of his home in the event of default.

I was not concerned with the fact that the sale was ultimately postponed more than 120 days by the trustee, since a new notice of foreclosure sale was had been issued. I could find nothing in the Deed of Trust Act (DTA) or case law which required the lender or trustee to start over by filing another notice of default. The Act forbids a sale less than 120 days after that notice of default. This sale was well beyond that. I also felt that there was ample proof that the required notices were issued and posted, notwithstanding Mr. Bradburn’s claims to the contrary. That’s not to say that the notices were correct or proper under the DTA.

What seems to have been intended as a fairly simple procedure to avoid the necessity of a judicial foreclosure, namely the DTA, might be made more complicated and confounding than in the case at bar but it is difficult for me to see how. The DTA seems to contemplate a borrower and a lender with an independent trustee having the power to foreclose on the deed of trust in the event of default by the borrower. The lender would normally hold the underlying note and be the beneficiary of it. Here matters have been complicated by the sale of the underlying note from HomeStar Lending to Countrywide, which was later acquired by BANA. Fidelity Title was identified as the trustee but then MERS was characterized as the beneficiary “as the nominee” of the lender and their assigns. At summary judgment it was claimed that the note was “owned” by Fannie Mae although it was “held” by BANA, which was then described as the “servicer” of the note at the behest of Fannie Mae.

There was no evidence that MERS was ever the owner or holder of the note. Hence, under the Bain decision, MERS could not have been the beneficiary. Bain left open the issue of whether MERS could act as an agent of the lender or trustee, and in support of its motion for summary judgment defendants make that assertion here. More troubling is the role of ReconTrust. It was ReconTrust which issued the notice of default to the borrower. ReconTrust was not the trustee when that notice was issued. It’s undisputed that ReconTrust was, at all times, a wholly owned subsidiary of BANA. There’s no reason, or at least none that I could see, that would preclude ReconTrust from issuing a notice of default as an agent of BANA. But thereafter MERS named ReconTrust as the trustee. Or perhaps ReconTrust named itself as the trustee, since the signatory “G. Hernandez” was not an employee of MERS but rather was employed by ReconTrust. While the DTA appears to have been amended and arguably might permit a subsidiary to act as a trustee, the statutory requirement remains that the trustee be independent and not beholden to the lender or borrower. Acting as an agent of BANA and being a wholly owned subsidiary of BANA, it seems specious to attempt to argue that ReconTrust was an independent trustee.

And under what authority did MERS have the right to name that trustee? As the agent of BANA, having been named as the “nominee” by BANA’s predecessors in interest? The evidence either compels or strongly points to the conclusion that MERS was a separately owned corporation and acted independently; it was not owned by BANA, and I do not see where it owed any fiduciary obligation or fealty to BANA (or Fannie Mae for that matter). While there is evidence to support the claim that the defendants were following the servicing guidelines promulgated by Fannie Mae, that’s not tantamount to a claim that they were acting at the direction and control of the owner of this note.

Then there are the contradictory statements in the notices that were filed. BANA filed a declaration with ReconTrust which identified Fannie Mae as the owner and beneficiary of the deed of trust, yet ReconTrust later identified BANA as the beneficiary. Was that because of MERS purported assignment of the note in favor of BANA? What rights did MERS have to assign over to BANA the rights which presumably vested with Fannie Mae at that time? And if BANA somehow became the beneficiary, under what authority did ReconTrust, acting as the trustee, accept a credit bid from Fannie Mae at the foreclosure sale? Was that predicated on BANA’s assignment of the deed of trust some three weeks after the trustee’s sale? A primary reason for the requirement that the trustee have evidence to correctly identify the beneficiary of the deed of trust is so the borrower will know who he needs to contact to try to reinstate or resolve disputes about his loan, something which appears underscored by Mr. Bradburn’s stated belief that he had been current with his payments until advised to fall in arrears and his dispute about how far behind his loan had fallen.

The case law has consistently held that the DTA must be strictly followed. Absent a valid waiver of the protections under the DTA, the failure to materially comply with that statute renders a foreclosure sale pursuant to it invalid. While Mr. Bradburn did not avail himself of the ability to seek to enjoin the sale, I felt the failure to strictly follow the requirements of the DTA required setting aside this foreclosure sale, particularly the appointment of a trustee that was not independent. I could not find that Fannie Mae as the claimed owner of the underlying note was a bona fide purchaser for value, even if it was not complicit in the violations of the DTA.

Having found the foreclosure sale to be fatally flawed by defendants’ failure to strictly comply with the DTA, it follows a priori that plaintiff was “injured”. I believe plaintiff met his burden to show that defendants’ actions constituted an unfair or deceptive practice, that it occurred in a trade or commerce, and that those practices impacted the public interest. Insofar as plaintiff’s home was wrongfully sold, he was “injured”. The measure of his damages will need to be proven at trial. If he was in default in his loan and would have faced the loss of his home, he may yet face the same ultimate result. A jury may conclude that his damages are de minimus. And if he claims significant monetary damages, it will be up to plaintiff to prove causation, namely that those damages resulted from the wrongful conduct of defendants.

Very truly yours,
George N. Bowden

Down Load PDF of This CaseFull supporting docs can be found here: http://stafnetrumbull.com/summary-judgments/bradburn-cross-motions-for-summary-judgment/

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3 Responses to “Bradburn v. Bank of America N.A., ReconTrust, et al. | WA Court Order Declaring Bank of America’s Foreclosure Sale to be Void and Setting it Aside”

  1. When my son sent a notice of Affirmation of Proof to Represent to the Lane Powell firm and Abraham Lorber, while his case was in the Appeals court, Abraham Lorber and the Lane Powell firm sent my son a letter asking him to sign it giving them permission to only represent Countrywide. The Lane Powell firm and Abraham Lorber know full well they have been committing fraud upon the court and have no right representing BOA, MERS, ReconTrust, US Bank Trustees nor anyone but Countrywide. Which is BK company. We find now in my sons case American Wholesale Lenders was actually the fictious company that was the originator, and fictious companies can not enforce a mortgaqe loan. Countrywide was not even the party the firm could represent. My son sent their letter into the Appeals court to prove lack of standing but it was ignored by the Appeals court.

  2. G. Hernandez and Leticia Quintana are the same robo signers on my sons documents of fraud. and the Vos family in the news a couple of years ago, with a BOA represenative toting guns telling them they were in foreclosure when they believed to be in a modification. Then BOA asked the judge in a court of law in a non judicial state for QT for BOA. When the Vos family unknowing BOA was not the party of interest, agreed to do a mod with them since BOA found themselves in the media and willing to do the mod. Then the Vos family found out the truth and countered with a request for QT which BOA agreed out of court to give them but on the condition the Vos family signed a note they still owed BOA the debt. The Vos family are left in limbo right now with out funds for a lawyer which is the case for thousands upon thousands. The Vos family is asking for help on GoFund Me to save their home. Their attorney will be Scott stafne. If you can help with just a litte we can get them the help they need to stop this nightmare and make more case law for the rest of us. I will come back with the link. Lets help each other win this case by case.

  3. Here is the Vos family go fund me site. Lets help one person at a time beat these banks until there are so many cases against them the judges can not turn a blind eye to this. http://www.gofundme.com/6w672k

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