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NEW JERSEY Superior Court Dismissal “Hole in the chain of title, Big enough to drive a truck through” U.S. BANK v. SPENCER

NEW JERSEY Superior Court Dismissal “Hole in the chain of title, Big enough to drive a truck through” U.S. BANK v. SPENCER


U.S. BANK NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION, AS TRUSTEE FOR
J.P. MORGAN ACQUISITION CORP.
2006-FRE2, ASSET BACKED PASSTHROUGH
CERTIFICATES, SERIES
2006-FRE2
,

V.

ARTHUR SPENCER, MRS. ARTHUR
SPENCER, HIS WIFE; JOHN M.
ALFIS
,

Argued: March 18, 2011
Decided: March 22, 2011
Amended: March 28, 2011
Honorable Peter E. Doyne, A.J.S.C.

John Habermann, Esq. appearing on behalf of the plaintiff, U.S. Bank National
Association, as trustee for J.P. Morgan Acquisition Corp. 2006-FRE2, asset backed passthrough
certificates, series 2006-FRE2 (Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, PC).

Gary E. Stern, Esq. appearing on behalf of the defendant, Arthur Spencer (Gary E. Stern, Esq.).

EXCERPT:

Analysis

A. Standing

Defendant’s counsel argued plaintiff did not have standing to sue as there was a break in the chain of title by the U.S. Bank assignment. Counsel specified the Fremont Investment assignment was by Fremont to Fremont Investment; the U.S. Bank assignment was by Fremont to U.S. Bank. The break was said to occur when Fremont, and not Fremont Investment, assigned the note and mortgage to U.S. Bank. Defendant’s counsel contended no explanation or turnover of documentation justified plaintiff’s right to prosecute the current foreclosure proceeding.19 However, the U.S. Bank assignment was from MERS as nominee for FGC d/b/a Fremont and its successors and/or assigns. As Fremont Investment was an assignee of Fremont pursuant to the Fremont Investment assignment, there appears to be no break in title when the mortgage and note were transferred pursuant to the U.S. Bank assignment. Nevertheless, plaintiff has provided no documentation or support for its position it is the trustee for J.P. Morgan, and therefore has not established its right to sue on behalf of JP Morgan.

Of greater import was defendant’s counsel’s argument plaintiff did not have standing as there was no proof the named plaintiff ever took physical possession of the note. Plaintiff’s counsel countered the original note was forwarded to him upon request for the location of the note but was inadvertently returned by counsel to plaintiff. It is though surprising the reply did not set forth, competently, plaintiff possessed the note on filing of the complaint.20

Without establishing physical possession of the note, plaintiff may not be an entity which may foreclose pursuant to the first and second categories in section 301, namely, as a (1) holder of the instrument or (2) a nonholder in possession of the instrument who has the rights of the holder.21 N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301. As plaintiff has not alleged, let alone established, the loss of possession of the instrument or the instrument was paid or accepted by mistake and the payor or acceptor recovered payment or revoked acceptance, plaintiff may not be a party who may foreclose pursuant to the third category in section 301, namely, a person not in possession of the instrument who is entitled to enforce the instrument. N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301; 12A:3-309(a); 12A:3-418(d). Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish standing as it is not a person entitled to enforce the note.N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301.

Plaintiff has failed to establish standing as its relationship as trustee to JP Morgan was not set forth; more importantly, though, plaintiff has failed to establish it had or has physical possession of the note and/or failed to demonstrate the note was indorsed. As such, summary judgment for plaintiff is denied and the cross-motion for summary judgment is granted. Although both motions may have been decided on the basis of lack of standing alone, for purposes of completeness, the court also shall analyze whether the evidence presented in support of plaintiff’s motion was competent and thereafter whether plaintiff has set forth a prima facie case in foreclosure.

B. Admissibility of evidence

Defendant’s counsel correctly asserted no competent witness has brought forth admissible evidence. Yoder does not claim to be a person with personal knowledge. R. 1:6-6. Furthermore, the exhibits attached to the Yoder Cert. do not fall within the business records exception as Yoder does not claim be a person with actual knowledge or to have produced the exhibits by obtaining information from such a person.22 N.J.R.E. 803(c)(6). Therefore, the exhibits submitted on plaintiff’s behalf were inadmissible hearsay and the court may not consider them. This is particularly perplexing as this issue was squarely put forth in defendant’s opposition and cross-motion, was not addressed in plaintiff’s reply, and follows shortly after the publication of Ford, supra.

As plaintiff has failed to justify the relief sought by competent, admissible evidence, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is denied. Lastly, the court shall analyze whether plaintiff has set forth a prima facie case in foreclosure.

C. Material issues in foreclosure proceeding

While plaintiff’s counsel conceded the circumstances surrounding the alleged default were “unfortunate,” he asserted it “did not create the fire to the premises nor . . . change the zoning of the subject property.” Plaintiff’s counsel set forth defendant failed to make payments pursuant to the executed note, and the mortgage was executed and recorded. However, as issues of fact remain concerning the fact-sensitive allegations of (1) unclean hands (2) breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing,23 and, (3) as restoration was not “feasible,” why the proceeds were not applied to the sums secured, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is further denied.24 Had defendant’s crossmotion for summary judgment been brought solely upon the allegations of unclean hands and breach of the duty of good-faith and fair dealing, the court would have denied the cross-motion and the matter would have proceeded in the normal course to further explore the facts underlying the defenses; however, summary judgment for defendant is appropriate on the basis of lack of standing.

Conclusion

Some are more empathetic than others to mortgagors who are no longer paying their contractual committed amount in a manner consistent with their obligations. Motions for summary judgment or oppositions to motions for summary judgment based on technical deficiencies or defenses are coming before the chancery courts at an ever increasing rate. This case, though, is distinct from the “run of the mill” motion where defendant’s attorney raises “technical objections” in an effort to delay the seemingly inevitable in an attempt to garner for clients as much time in the home as the law will
permit without paying outstanding obligations.

Here, not only has plaintiff failed to establish standing to bring the instant foreclosure action or present admissible evidence by a competent witness, defendant’s competent assertions have also given rise to fact-sensitive defenses.

Defendant’s crossmotion is granted as plaintiff has failed to establish standing and has failed to comply with the court’s January 25, 2011 order.25 Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is denied on three grounds: (1) lack of standing, (2) failure to present a prima facie case by presenting admissible evidence by a competent witness, (3) and defenses raised would be in need of further exploration.

The action is dismissed without prejudice.26 The court’s order shall be sent under separate cover.

19At oral argument defendant’s counsel argued there is a hole in the chain of title “big enough to drive a truck through.” Counsel alleged there was no documentation or support indicating the note was assigned by Fremont Investment. This was the same argument counsel made on the papers.

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