Florida 1st District Affirms $250K Punitive Damage Award in Pate v BOA

All of you who simply cannot believe that borrowers can beat the bank by proving the bank and its agents and allies injured the borrower, TAKE HEART.  Here I present a crystal clear example of the MORTGAGE ATTACK methodology:

Bank of America, NA v. Pate, 159 So. 3d 383 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015


Don’t waste your time whining about the banking industry, fractional reserve lending, the Federal Reserve, the money system, securitization, and such irrelevancies.  Get a mortgage examination if necessary to find the causes of action, and use them to HAMMER the lender, creditor, servicer, appraiser, loan broker, closer, title company, etc (whoever hurt you) IN COURT.

As you can see, the Florida appeals court upheld the BENCH TRIAL (not jury) award of $250,000 in PUNITIVE DAMAGES and over $60,000 in compensatory damages for the INJURIES the BANK did to the BORROWER.  The Pates could probably have won much more in a jury trial.
If you want to deploy the MORTGAGE ATTACK strategy in your own mortgage dispute, visit http://MortgageAttack.com to learn what works and what does not.

159 So.3d 383 (2015)

BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., and Third-Party Defendant, Homefocus Services, LLC, Appellants,
Phillip V. PATE and Barbara Pate, Robert L. Pohlman and Marcia L. Croom, Appellees.

No. 1D14-251.District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.

March 16, 2015.J. Randolph Liebler and Tricia J. Duthiers of Liebler, Gonzalez & Portuondo, Miami, for Appellants.

384*384 Jonna L. Bowman of Law Office of Jonna Bowman, Blountstown, for Appellees.




THOMAS, J., Specially Concurring.

In this civil foreclosure case, the trial court found that Appellant Bank of America (the Bank) engaged in egregious and intentional misconduct in Appellee Pates’ (Pate) purchase of a residential home. Thus, based on the trial court’s finding that the Bank had unclean hands in this equity action, it did not reversibly err in denying the foreclosure action and granting a deed in lieu of foreclosure. In addition, the trial court did not err in ruling in favor of the Pates in their counterclaims for breach of contract and fraud, and awarding them $250,000 in punitive damages and $60,443.29 in compensatory damages, against the Bank and its affiliate, Homefocus Services, LLC, which provided the flawed appraisal discussed below. Finally, the trial court did not reversibly err in granting injunctive relief and thereby ordering the Bank to take the necessary measures to correct the Pates’ credit histories.

In the bench trial below, the trial court found that the Bank assured the Pates, based on the appraisal showing the home’s value far exceeded the $50,000 mortgage loan, that it would issue a home equity loan in addition to the mortgage loan. This was a precondition to the Pates’ agreement to purchase the home, which was in very poor condition but had historical appeal for the Pates. The Pates intended to restore the home, but needed the home equity loan to facilitate restoration.

Before the closing on the property, the Bank informed the Pates that it would close on the home equity loan “later,” after the mortgage loan was issued. The Bank later refused to issue the home equity loan, in part on the ground that the appraisal issued by Homefocus was flawed. The Pates were forced to invest all of their savings and much of their own labor in extensive repairs. Thus, the trial court found that the Pates detrimentally relied on the representations of the Bank that it would issue the home equity loan. The record supports the trial court’s conclusion that the Bank acted with reckless disregard constituting intentional misconduct by the Bank. See generally,Lance v. Wade, 457 So.2d 1008, 1011 (Fla.1984) (“[E]lements for actionable fraud are (1) a false statement concerning a material fact; (2) knowledge by the person … that the representation is false; (3) the intent … [to] induce another to act on it; and (4) reliance on the representation to the injury of the other party. In summary, there must be an intentional material misrepresentation upon which the other party relies to his detriment.”).

The trial court further found that the Pates complied with the Bank’s demand to obtain an insurance binder to provide premiums for annual coverage, and that the Bank agreed to place these funds in escrow, utilizing the binder to pay the first year of coverage and calculate future charges to the Pates. Although the Pates fulfilled this contractual obligation, the Bank failed to correctly utilize the escrow funds. Consequently, the Pates’ insurance policy was ultimately cancelled due to nonpayment. The Pates attempted to obtain additional coverage but were unsuccessful due to the home’s structural condition. The Bank then obtained a force-placed policy with $334,800 in coverage and an annual premium of $7,382.98, which was 385*385 included on the mortgage loan, quadrupling the Pate’s mortgage payment.

The Pates offered to pay the original $496.34 monthly mortgage payment, but the Bank refused, demanding a revised mortgage payment of $2,128.74. The trial court found it “disturbing that Bank of America could financially profit due to [the Bank’s] failure to pay the home insurance…. [T]he profits for one or more months of forced place insurance would have been substantial.”

The trial court further found that during the four years of litigation following the Pates’ default, the Bank’s agents entered the Pate’s home several times while the Pates resided there, attempted to remove furniture, and placed locks on the exterior doors. Following the Bank’s action, the Pates had to have the locks changed so their family could enter the residence. During two of the intrusions, the Pates were required to enlist the aid of the sheriff to force the Bank’s agent to leave their home. The trial court found as fact that, due to the Bank’s multiple intrusions into their home, the Pates were forced to obtain alternative housing for 28 months, at a cost of thousands of dollars.

The Bank’s actions supported the trial court’s finding that punitive damages were awardable. In Estate of Despain v. Avante Group, Inc., 900 So.2d 637, 640 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005), the court held that “[p]unishment of the wrongdoer and deterrence of similar wrongful conduct in the future, rather than compensation of the injured victim, are the primary policy objectives of punitive damage awards.” See also Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. v. Ballard, 749 So.2d 483 (Fla.1999); W.R. Grace & Co.-Conn. v. Waters, 638 So.2d 502 (Fla.1994).

In Estate of Despain, the court held that “[t]o merit an award of punitive damages, the defendant’s conduct must transcend the level of ordinary negligence and enter the realm of willful and wanton misconduct….” 900 So.2d at 640. Florida courts have defined such conduct as including an “entire want of care which would raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows… reckless indifference to the rights of others which is equivalent to an intentional violation of them.” Id. (quoting White Constr. Co. v. Dupont, 455 So.2d 1026, 1029 (Fla.1984)). Here, the Bank’s intent to defraud was shown by its reckless disregard for its actions. The facts showing the Bank’s “conscious indifference to consequences” and “reckless indifference” to the rights of the Pates is the same as an intentional act violating their rights. See White Constr. Co., 455 So.2d at 1029. The record evidence provides ample support for the trial court’s ruling in favor of the Pates’ claim for punitive damages against the Bank.

The learned trial judge found that the Bank’s actions demonstrated its unclean hands; therefore, the Bank was not entitled to a foreclosure judgment in equity. Unclean hands is an equitable defense, akin to fraud, to discourage unlawful activity. SeeCongress Park Office Condos II, LLC v. First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co., 105 So.3d 602, 609 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (“It is a self-imposed ordinance that closes the doors of a court of equity to one tainted with inequitableness or bad faith relative to the matter in which he seeks relief[.]”) (quoting Precision Instrument Mfg. Co. v. Auto. Maint. Mach. Co., 324 U.S. 806, 814 (1945)). The totality of the circumstances established the Bank’s unclean hands, precluding it from benefitting by its actions in a court of equity. Thus, the trial court did not err by denying the foreclosure action.


CA court affirms $250K for dual tracking in Bergman v JPMCB

Read the opinion here (also appended below):


This California 4th District appellate opinion contains a treasure trove of virtual advice for borrowers whom the lender scammed with a fake loan mod while foreclosing on him at the same time (“dual tracking.”

The panel fully supported the opinion of the trial court which awarded Bergman $250,000 in damages plus legal fees.  The court would have awarded him much more had Bergman’s attorney hired Law Partner On Call (http://lawpartneroncall.com) to manage the litigation, write the pleadings, and write the jury instructions.

Bergman got his payday for breach of contract by his creditor, but he made a bunch of mistakes.

For example, he did not include an attorney fees provision in his loan security instrument (that standard form only says the creditor can recover legal fees and costs) in the event the court finds that the creditor or servicer or other agent engaged in wrongdoing that injured the borrower.  The court awarded Bergman fees anyway, but against great opposition by the creditor.  Most borrowers make the same mistake.

And, Bergman failed to add to the security instrument that a special penalty attaches to dual tracking, a scam that virtually every lender has run on desperate borrowers who want a loan mod.

Furthermore, Bergman made the same mistake many do in loan mod negotiations – he failed to record the name and ID# of everyone he talked to at the bank, and he failed to get a signed writing saying he had to miss payments in order to qualify for the loan mod, and that if he missed them, then made proper trial payments, the lender would grant the loan mod.  Everything was oral leading up to the actual mod.  And oral agreements have no more value than the paper on which the parties wrote them.  The lender’s attorney blustered about it, but the court ruled that the parties had indeed make that agreement, then failed to give Bergman a loan mod.  I believe many courts, faced with similar facts, have ruled that no agreement existed.

Bergman’s most monumental mistake:  he failed to hire a competent professional to examine his loan documents for evidence of torts, contract and regulatory breaches, and legal errors.  Had he done that, and lodge those as claims in his complaint, he could have won gargantuan damages award because, almost certainly, fraud underlay his loan.

Bergman while in the right, found uncommon good luck in this litigation.  Many borrowers have lost using his paper-thin arguments.

READ THE OPINION thoroughly, especially if you have a mortgage and consider a loan mod.

But if you really want to win, call me right now at 727 669 5511 and schedule a mortgage examination, whether or not you face foreclosure.  Read all about what wins and what does not win at http://mortgageattack.com.

————– Court Opinion ————–

Filed 9/30/15 Bergman v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. CA4/2





(Super.Ct.No. RIC10014015) OPINION

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. Ronald L. Taylor, Judge. (Retired judge of the Riverside Super. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.) Affirmed.

AlvaradoSmith, John M. Sorich, S. Christopher Yoo, Jacob M. Clark; Parker Ibrahim & Berg, John M. Sorich and Mariel Gerlt-Ferraro for Defendant and Appellant.

Burkelegal and Gregory Burke for Plaintiff and Appellant.


Plaintiff and respondent Jeffrey A. Bergman (Bergman) sued defendant and appellant JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (Chase) on claims involving a residential loan modification. A jury found in favor of Bergman on his causes of action for intentional misrepresentation and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Chase appeals from a $250,000 judgment in favor of Bergman, and the posttrial orders denying Chase’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and granting attorney’s fees to Bergman.

Chase argues the verdict is not supported by substantial evidence because no evidence shows Chase made misrepresentations to Bergman. Additionally, Chase argues the trial court erred in evidentiary rulings and jury instructions. Finally, Chase contends the judgment’s award of damages was duplicative, and the attorney’s fees provision under the subject deed of trust and promissory note did not include recovery of fees.

Bergman has filed a cross-appeal, raising issues of instructional and evidentiary error, and additional claims by Bergman for breach of contract and attorney’s fees.

We presume the judgment is correct if it is supported by substantial evidence. (Ermoian v. Desert Hospital (2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 475, 494; Denham v. Superior

Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 557, 564; San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Bd. v. Handlery Hotel, Inc. (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 517, 528.) To warrant reversal, an error in jury instructions must result in a miscarriage of justice. (Mize-Kurzman v. Marin

Community College Dist. (2010) 202 Cal.App.4th 832, 862; Soule v. General Motors

Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 580.) Evidentiary error must also be “arbitrary, capricious, or patently absurd . . . resulting in a manifest miscarriage of justice.” (Boeken v. Philip Morris, Inc. (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 1640, 1685.) On a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, an appellate court must decide whether any substantial evidence supports the verdict unless the verdict raises purely legal questions. (Trujilllo v. North County Transit Dist. (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 280, 284; Wolf v. Walt Disney Pictures

& Television (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 1107, 1138.) An award of attorney’s fees is

reviewed de novo. (Conservatorship of Whitley (2010) 50 Cal.4th 1206, 1212.) Based on the various appropriate standards of review, we affirm the judgment:

“The ultimate determination is whether a reasonable trier of fact could have found for the respondent based on the whole record.” (Kuhn v. Department of General Services (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 1627, 1633.)



In 2005, Bergman purchased the subject residential real property located at 22330 Foxhall Drive in Corona, making a down payment of $250,000. Bergman proceeded to make improvements to the property costing about $291,000.

In 2007, Bergman refinanced the property with an adjustable rate mortgage of

$937,500, based on a value of $1.25 million. Bergman testified he thought the loan was a conventional loan. Instead, the monthly payments in the fixed amount of $5,273.44 were interest-only for the first 10 years until 2017.

Bergman made the monthly payments from January until October 2008. Chase acquired the beneficial interest in the loan in September 2008. In December 2008, Bergman asked for a loan modification with a lower interest rate. He paid the loan modification fee of $1,582. The bank agreed to reduce the interest rate to 3 percent and the monthly payment to $4,112.74, while increasing the loan balance by an additional

$9,000. In the third year, the monthly payment would increase to $5,417.64, applied to both principal and interest.

When Bergman realized how much the monthly payment would increase in the third year, he immediately contacted Chase about another modification. He testified Chase offered proposed terms for a new loan modification with a 40-year term, a fixed interest rate at 3 percent, and a $3,000 monthly payment. Bergman had the ability to pay

$3,000 a month.

Bergman testified he did not make a payment on the first loan modification in January 2009 or later because the Chase bank staff1 told him that to qualify for another loan modification he would need to be in default. Bergman did not remember making a payment that was reversed and returned in February 2009, for nonsufficient funds, or “NSF.”

A notice of default (NOD) was recorded in April 2009. Although Bergman contacted Chase about the NOD, Bergman did not realize in July 2009 that the

  • Bergman could not name most of the bank staff to whom he Almost none of the correspondence he received from Chase included individual names.

foreclosure was proceeding. A notice of trustee’s sale was mailed to Bergman, posted on the property, and recorded on August 3, 2009.

In the meantime, in August 2009, Bergman consulted with a real estate broker about a short sale. Bergman also finally received information about a HAMP2 loan modification from Chase. Bergman submitted a HAMP hardship affidavit and financial information to Chase on August 20, 2009. Bergman had suffered financial difficulties from a divorce, a downturn in his limousine business, and two surgeries. He stated the property was worth $578,000 and the outstanding loan was $946,000. However, Bergman could not qualify for a HAMP loan because of the limit of $729,750 on loan modifications.

Bergman identified one Chase employee, Hifa Boolori, whose name appears on correspondence dated August 28, 2009, approving a trial plan agreement. A trial plan agreement was not a HAMP loan but a Chase internal loan modification program.

Bergman agreed to the plan and made three trial plan payments of $2,775 in September, October, and November 2009. He provided additional information, anticipating he would receive a second loan modification.

Bergman testified he did not know the foreclosure was proceeding at the same time the second loan modification was being evaluated. He was told the foreclosure

would be “frozen.” In his fifth amended complaint, he alleged he was informed on November 17, 2009, that he had been denied a loan modification and a sale was

  • Home Affordable Modification

scheduled for January 5, 2010. At trial, he testified he did not know the trustee’s sale was scheduled for December 2, 2009, but had been rescheduled for January 15, 2010.

On December 17, 2009, Bergman signed a listing agreement for a short sale. He drafted a letter on December 22, 2009, asking Chase to let him sell the property in a short sale.

On the same date, December 22, 2009, Chase wrote Bergman a letter asking him to provide two recent paystubs to support his loan modification request. After receiving that letter, Bergman called Chase—because he had already been told his loan modification was denied—but Chase told him the loan was still under review. Bergman provided copies of his bank statements for October and November 2009.

On January 12, 2010, Chase again wrote Bergman, stating his loan modification was being reviewed. On February 11, 2010, Bergman wrote Chase, asking to cancel the loan modifications and to proceed with a short sale. Bergman continued to receive conflicting information about his loan from Chase until July 2010.

The property was sold at a trustee’s sale in July 2010 to defendant Mark Mraz, a friend of Bergman’s. One appraised fair market value was $595,000. The unpaid principal balance was $1,022.265.92. Bergman continued to receive notices about loan modification after the sale.

After the property was sold, Bergman was sued for unlawful detainer. Bergman posted a cash bond of $30,000 with money borrowed from his parents. Bergman incurred additional attorney’s fees defending the unlawful detainer action.

The jury completed the special verdict forms on all seven causes of action and punitive damages. The jury awarded Bergman damages of $125,000 on the cause of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and $125,000 on the cause of action for intentional misrepresentation.



At trial Chase objected to Bergman’s testimony about the $291,000 he spent on property improvements on the grounds that information had not been disclosed during discovery. Chase argues the trial court abused its discretion by allowing Bergman to testify. (Evid. Code, § 352.) Chase contends it was prejudiced by “surprise at the trial” because Chase could not adequately challenge Bergman’s testimony regarding the property upgrades. (Chronicle Pub. Co. v. Superior Court (1960) 54 Cal.2d 548, 561.)

Chase’s pretrial motion in limine sought to exclude any documentary evidence and witnesses not previously disclosed. Bergman was not an undisclosed witness and he did not submit documentary evidence about the property upgrades at trial. Furthermore, we have reviewed Chase’s record citations to its discovery requests and those requests do not support Chase’s contention that it “specifically requested all documents in support of Bergman’s claims.” Chase’s requests for admission, form and special interrogatories, and document requests do not ask generally or particularly for any documents in support of Bergman’s claim for damages based on the cost of the property improvements.

Therefore, the predicate for Chase’s argument—that Bergman did not comply with

discovery requests—is not supported by the record. The trial court did not abuse its

discretion in allowing Bergman’s testimony, which did not involve undisclosed documents or witnesses. (Boeken v. Phillip Morris, Inc., supra, 127 Cal.App.4th at p. 1685.)



The trial court gave the jury a standard instruction based on CACI No. 1900, concerning intentional misrepresentation: “Jeffrey Bergman claims that [Chase] made a false representation that harmed him.” Chase contends the court erred by not giving its proposed Special Instruction No. 11: “To assert a fraud action against a corporation, a plaintiff must also allege [the] names of the person or persons who allegedly made the

fraudulent representation, their authority to speak, to whom they spoke, what they said or

wrote, and when it was said or written.”

The special instruction requested by Chase is based on heightened pleading requirements for corporate fraud, requiring a plaintiff to allege specifically the name of the person who made the alleged misrepresentations, his authority to speak, and what he said or wrote, and when it was said or written. (Lazar v. Superior Court (1996) 12 Cal.4th 631, 645; Tarmann v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. (1991) 2 Cal.App.4th 153,

157; Cansino v. Bank of America (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1462, 1469.) However, “[l]ess specificity in pleading fraud is required ‘when “it appears from the nature of the allegations that the defendant must necessarily possess full information concerning the facts of the controversy . . . .”’ (Committee on Children’s Television, Inc. v. General

Foods Corp. (1983) 35 Cal.3d 197, 217.)” (Cansino, at p. 1469.)

In the present case, Bergman specifically alleged and testified that he knew the name of one Chase employee in particular, Hifa Boloori, who made representations to him, although he spoke to many Chase employees during many phone calls between 2008 and 2010. Additionally, Chase had extensive records of contacts and conversations with Bergman which included information about which Chase employees contacted him, including the period between October 2008 and February 2009. Under the category of “USR,” the Chase delinquency notes identified the Chase employee by his or her initials, allowing Chase to determine who contacted Bergman far more easily than Bergman could do so. Even if Chase’s records do not expressly document an oral promise for a

40-year loan at 3 percent interest with $3,000 monthly payments, the records still include information about the employees who talked to Bergman.

Under these circumstances, it was not error or prejudicial for the trial court to instruct the jury according to the standard jury instruction and not to use Chase’s

proposed special instruction. The instruction to the jury was not required to be as specific as the pleading. Nevertheless, Bergman identified one person by name and Chase had to know its own employees based on its own records. (West v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 780, 793.) There was no error causing a miscarriage of justice and no prejudice in refusing Chase’s special instruction. (Mize-Kurzman v. Mann Community College Dist., supra, 202 Cal.App.4th at p. 862, citing Soule v. General Motors Corp., supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 580.)


Chase argues there is not substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict on the causes of action for fraud by intentional misrepresentation and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In our review, we are guided by well-established principles: “It is for the trier of fact to determine the weight of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses and resolve all conflicts. Where disputed facts are presented to and resolved by the trial judge, unless clearly erroneous his findings will not be disturbed by the reviewing court; it is not the province of this court to substitute its judgment for that of                   the trier of fact. On appeal the evidence and all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed in a light most favorable to the findings and judgment. [Citations.] ‘Such a judgment, when attacked on evidentiary grounds, must be affirmed when there is any evidence, direct or circumstantial, to support the findings of the trial court. Stated negatively, such a judgment cannot be reversed unless there is no evidence, direct or circumstantial, to support the findings. These rules are elementary.’

[Citations.]” (Ach v. Finkelstein (1968) 264 Cal.App.2d 667, 674.)

  1. Intentional Misrepresentation

 Chase contends there is not substantial evidence of the elements of intentional misrepresentation: 1) a false representation of a material fact; 2) knowledge of the falsity; 3) intent to induce another to rely on the misrepresentation; 4) reliance on the misrepresentation; and 5) resulting damage. (Ach v. Finkelstein, supra, 264 Cal.App.2d

at p. 674; Mirkin v. Wasserman (1993) 5 Cal.4th 1082, 1111.) Chase argues substantial

evidence does not show that Chase made any misrepresentation to Bergman or that Bergman was induced to default on a loan as a result of a misrepresentation by Chase.

Bergman asserts that Chase was liable for two separate misrepresentations: 1) that, if his loan was in default, he could obtain a loan modification; and 2) if Bergman made three trial plan payments he could obtain a loan modification. The jury found the former was true and the latter was not.

“‘In its broad, general sense the concept of fraud embraces anything which is intended to deceive, including all statements, acts, concealments and omissions involving a breach of legal or equitable duty, trust or confidence which results in injury to one who justifiably relies thereon. . . . There is no absolute or fixed rule for determining what  facts will constitute fraud; whether or not it is found depends upon the particular facts of the case under inquiry. Fraud may be proved by direct evidence or it may be inferred from all of the circumstances in the case. [Citation.] “Actual fraud is always a question of fact.” (Civ. Code, § 1574.)’ [Citations.]” (Ach v. Finkelstein, supra, 264 Cal.App.2d at p. 675.)

Chase’s argument is primarily that Bergman is inconsistent in his testimony about exactly what he was told and when. However, Bergman’s testimony and other evidence certainly supports his contention that Chase informed him that in order to qualify for a second loan modification, he would have to be in default. Based on the evidence, the jury could have reasonably found that, beginning in December 2008 and continuing through 2010, Bergman had many conversations with Chase about modifying his loan.

Although Chase wants to pin Bergman down to precise dates and times, the general tenor

of the evidence was consistent. Because Bergman hoped to obtain a second loan modification, he defaulted on payments under the first modification. His default continued as he waited to complete the second modification, including making the additional three trial payments in late 2009, and investigating a short sale as an alternative if the second loan modification was not completed. We conclude substantial evidence supported the jury verdict that Chase made intentional misrepresentations to Bergman. (Ach v. Finkelstein, supra, 264 Cal.App.2d at pp. 673-676.)

  1. Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

 Chase also argues there was not substantial evidence of breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and the special jury verdicts were inconsistent. We disagree.

The court gave the jury the following instructions on breach of contract: 1) Bergman claims that he and Chase “entered into an oral contract for a loan modification  at fixed payments under $3,000.00”; 2) Chase “breached this contract by not providing him a permanent loan modification after he made the three trial plan payments”; and 3) to prove breach of contract, Bergman must prove Chase “failed to do something that the

contract required it to do.” The court gave the jury additional instructions on the breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing: 4) Bergman must prove the parties entered into a valid contract; and 5) Chase “interfered with” Bergman’s “right to receive the benefits of the contract.”

The instructions are confusing but the jury apparently reconciled any conflicts by finding that Bergman and Chase had a binding oral contract for a loan modification with

$3,000 payments. However, the jury did not find the oral contract was conditioned on

defendant making three trial plan payments. Therefore, the jury found Chase did not “fail to do something that the oral contract required it to do,” namely provide a loan modification after Bergman made the three payments. Nevertheless, the jury also found Chase interfered with “Bergman’s right to receive benefits of the contract,” i.e. the promise of a loan modification.

In other words, the jury did not find Chase was required to give Bergman a loan modification if he made the three trial plan payments; Chase did not breach the contract for that reason. But Chase did interfere with Bergman’s benefits under the contract by not giving him the promised loan modification. Therefore, as already discussed, sufficient evidence showed that there was a contract for a loan with $3,000 payments and that Chase interfered with the contractual benefit to Bergman.


Bergman testified that his damages included his original down payment of

$250,000 and the property improvements of $291,000. Chase argues the damages award was duplicative and the intent of the jury was not to award $250,000 but to award a total of only $125,000 for both causes of action found in his favor.

The court gave the jury multiple, somewhat contradictory, instructions on damages. Ultimately, the jury awarded damages of $125,000 for breach of the implied covenant and $125,000 for intentional misrepresentation. The trial court entered a judgment of $250,000. The trial court reasoned:

“It’s the Court’s opinion that the jury did intend to award separate damages to the plaintiff for the improvements that the plaintiff testified that he made to his home . . . and the down payment which he made for the home. [¶] So my interpretation of the jury verdict was they intended to award damages for both of those injuries incurred by the plaintiff and not just one sum of the $125,000. So, in other words, I agree . . . as to how the jury reached its verdict on these two separate causes of action, which were based upon different losses incurred by the plaintiff.”

There is no evidence in the record of the “intent” of the jury. Instead, the record shows the jury was given special verdict forms for each of the seven causes of action and the claim for punitive damages. The jury was instructed to award separate damages for each cause of action. It was not instructed to award damages collectively. The amount of damages claimed by Bergman was at least $541,000, the combined amount of his down payment and the property improvements. The jury’s verdict awarding him damages of

$125,000 each on two causes of action is within the realm of damages.

Chase’s argument that the jury meant to award only $125,000 is speculative and the cases relied upon by Chase are distinguishable. Shell v. Schmidt (1954) 126 Cal.App.2d 279, 291, involved a single cause of action, not two causes of action as here. In DuBarry Internat., Inc. v. Southwest Forest Industries, Inc. (1991) 231 Cal.App.3d 552, 564, the court acknowledged a plaintiff could be entitled to recover separate damages on two causes of action: “They do involve, after all, alleged invasions of different rights.” Tavaglione v. Billings (1993) 4 Cal.4th 1150, 1158, held that a party “is

not entitled to more than a single recovery for each distinct item of compensable damage

supported by the evidence.” However, “[i]n contrast where separate items of compensable damage are shown by distinct and independent evidence, the plaintiff is entitled to recover the entire amount of his damages, whether that amount is expressed by the jury in a single verdict or multiple verdicts referring to different claims or legal theories.” (Id. at p. 1159.)

The present case involves two separate causes of action, different theories, and two distinct items of compensable damages. Under these circumstances, no duplicative damages were awarded by the jury.



Chase contends the trial court should have granted its motion for JNOV for two reasons. Chase repeats the argument that Bergman did not identify the employee who made the misrepresentation—an argument we have already rejected.

Second, Chase argues Bergman was not damaged because the proper measure of damages for the wrongful foreclosure of real property is the value of the equity in the property at the time of the foreclosure. (Munger v. Moore (1970) 11 Cal.App.3d 1, 11; Civ. Code, § 3333.) At the time of the foreclosure sale in July 2010, the unpaid principal balance, along with costs, totaled $1,022,256.92, leaving no equity.

Chase’s argument about wrongful foreclosure is not pertinent, however, because the jury rejected the wrongful foreclosure claim and did not award damages on that cause of action. Instead, the jury awarded damages for intentional misrepresentation and

breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The jury was instructed Bergman

could prove damages for breach of contract based on what would reasonably compensate for the breach. (CACI No. 350.) The jury was also instructed it could award Bergman reasonable compensation for harm. (CACI No. 1923.) The instructions to the jury, as reasonably construed did not prohibit the jury from awarding damages for the original down payment or for the property improvements, even if the losses for those items of damage were not sustained until after Chase committed its breach or made its misrepresentations. The damages awarded were not for wrongful foreclosure and the measure of such damages is not relevant.


The trial court awarded Bergman attorney’s fees—reduced from $454,772.23 to

$188,100—finding that he could recover fees under both contract and tort based on the attorney’s fees provision in the original note and trust deed under which the foreclosure was conducted. The same result occurred in Smith v. Home Loan Funding, Inc. (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 1331, 1337-1338. (Civ. Code, § 1717; Code Civ. Proc., § 1021.)

The subject note provides: “. . . the Note Holder will have the right to be paid back by me for all of its costs and expenses in enforcing this Note [including] reasonable attorneys’ fees.” The subject trust deed provides: “Lender shall be entitled to collect all expenses incurred in pursuing the remedies provided . . . including, but not limited to,

reasonable attorneys’ fees . . . .”

The Smith court construed the very same language and found that that “breach of the implied covenant can sometimes support an award of fees under section 1717.”

(Smith v. Home Loan Funding, Inc., supra, 192 Cal.App.4th at p. 1337.) Smith distinguished Sawyer v. Bank of America (1978) 83 Cal.App.3d 135, 140, 145, and held that, where one party had a fiduciary obligation and made an express oral promise, it was justifiable to treat the oral agreement and the loan documents as a single agreement because they were all part of the same transaction. (Smith, at pp. 1337-1338, citing Civ.

Code, § 1642 [“Several contracts relating to the same matters, between the same parties, . . . are to be taken together”].)

The oral contract between Bergen and Chase was part of a single agreement, including the note and deed of trust; the trial court found the oral contract was intended to effect a modification of the original obligation. Therefore, the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees was proper, allowing the prevailing party to recoup attorney’s fees under the intertwined tort and contract claims. (Xuereb v. Marcus & Millichap, Inc. (1992) 3 Cal.App.4th 1338, 1341-1343.)



  1. Special Verdict on Wrong Foreclosure

 The special verdict on the cause of action for wrongful foreclosure asked: Did Chase “violate any law or regulation governing foreclosure?” Bergman contends the special verdict should have read: Did Chase Bank “cause an illegal, fraudulent or oppressive sale of the real property located at 22330 Foxhall Drive, Corona, CA 92883?” Bergman argues his claim is not for wrongful foreclosure based on a statutory violation

but “Chase’s fraudulent practice of inducing borrowers into default with the promise of a

loan modification.” The basis for this instruction is thus exactly the same as Bergman’s causes of action for intentional misrepresentation and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, for which he recovered damages. Under these circumstances, there was no miscarriage of justice in refusing Bergman’s alternative instruction. (Mize- Kurzman v. Marin Community College Dist., supra, 202 Cal.App.4th at p. 862, citing Soule v. General Motors Corp., supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 580.)

  1. Special Verdict on Punitive Damages

 Bergman claims the jury should have been instructed that Chase could be directly liable for fraud and punitive damages. A corporate employer may only be liable for punitive damages as a result of its employees’ acts where it somehow ratified the behavior. (Civ. Code, § 3294, subd. (b); Weeks v. Baker & McKenzie (1978) 63 Cal.App.4th 1128, 1153.) The special verdict on punitive damages was based on CACI No.VF-3904: “Did an agent or employee of [Chase] engage in the conduct of malice, oppression, or fraud against Plaintiff?” The jury was also given an instruction based on CACI No. 3936 about liability for punitive damages for a corporate entity based on the acts of its agents. Chase could not be found directly liable for punitive damages for its own conduct. (Davis v. Kiewit Pacific Co. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 358, 365.) The jury was properly instructed on punitive damages.

  1. Motion to Amend

At the end of trial, the court denied Bergman’s request for leave to amend to add a claim for breach of a written contract under HAMP or the Chase trial payment plan. An appeal from a trial court’s decision in granting or denying a request to amend the

pleadings is reviewed for a clear showing of an abuse of discretion. (Garcia v. Roberts (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 900, 909.) The guiding principles are: “(1) whether facts or  legal theories are being changed and (2) whether the opposing party will be prejudiced by the proposed amendment.” (City of Stanton v. Cox (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1557, 1563.)

Throughout the trial, Bergman had relied on a theory of an oral promise, not a written contract. The trial court properly denied Bergman’s oral motion to amend, and subsequent motion for JNOV, because the introduction of new facts and theories would cause prejudice to Chase. There was no reason for Bergman to wait years to amend his claims. We reject Bergman’s contentions on this issue.

  1. Attorney’s Fees

 Bergman argues he should have been allowed to offer evidence of the attorney’s fees he incurred in the unlawful detainer action and he was entitled to recover those fees under the note and trust deed. We conduct a de novo review on whether there is a legal basis for a fee award. (Conservatorship of Whitley, supra, 50 Cal.4th at p. 1212.)

After Chase objected to the submission of evidence on attorney’s fees for the unlawful detainer action, Bergman’s counsel stated he would raise it later. Bergman’s counsel did not raise the issue again. The record shows Bergman waived this issue. (Estate of Odian (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 152, 168.) Furthermore, Bergman’s claim was for attorney’s fees sustained in a separate unlawful detainer action by Mraz, the third party who purchased the property at trustee’s sale. Bergman cites no authority for the recovery of attorney’s fees under these circumstances. In fact, he concedes there is no

authority but asks this court to resolve the issue in a published opinion. We decline to do so.


We reject both appeals and affirm the judgment. In the interests of justice, we order the parties to bear their own costs on appeal.




We concur:


  1. J.



In Re Brown Denies TILA Rescission post-Jesinoski

The US Supreme Court opinion in Jesinoski has confused many foreclosure defense pundits, like Neil Garfield, into thinking that the loan suddenly becomes void upon filing of a notice of TILA rescission.  Such people don’t have a clue about rescission.

As the court for In Re Brown, below, explains, TILA rescission doesn’t happen UNLESS a TILA violation occurred, and it always requires an unwinding of the loan including a tender of payment by both creditor and borrower.

Furthermore, the court all but called Brown scammers for trying to use Bankruptcy to stave off foreclosure.

In re: BARBARA MURPHY BROWN, Chapter 13, Debtor.

Case No. 15-12027-RGM.United States Bankruptcy Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division.

September 21, 2015.


ROBERT G. MAYER, Bankruptcy Judge.

This case was before the court on September 3, 2015, on the chapter 13 trustee’s motion to dismiss this case because the debtor was not eligible to be in chapter 13. The trustee argued that she was over the debt limit of $1,149,525 for secured debts. 11 U.S.C. §109(e).

The debtor attempted to show that the outstanding balance of the loan was less than the §109(e) eligibility limit. She testified that she and her non-filing husband borrowed $1,265,000 on June 27, 2008. They made payments until March 2010 when they sought to rescind the loan. The debtor presented two documents showing, she said, an outstanding loan balance of $1,143,404.28 as of September 1, 2013, and — notwithstanding that neither she nor her husband had made any payments on the loan — $1,078,513.03 as of September 1, 2015.[1] The documents show, in addition to the principal balances the debtor relies on, that the loan is a variable interest rate loan; that the interest rate changes annually as of August 1; that the payment changes annually as of September 1; and that the interest rate is the 1 Year LIBOR published daily in the Wall Street Journal plus a margin of 2.25%. In fact, the two documents are the 2013 and 2015 annual notices from the lender showing the calculation of the new monthly payment and giving the debtor notice of the amount of the new monthly payment.

A change in the monthly payment of an adjustable rate mortgage is calculated in advance of the payment change date based on the contractually due principal balance as of the payment change date.[2] This is, in fact, what the June 24, 2013, letter shows. It states:

  Projected Principal Balance as of the Payment Change Date:         $1,143,404.28

  Remaining Loan Term as of the Payment Change Date:                 300 months

There were, contractually, 300 payments due from September 1, 2013, to the end of the loan. Five years had elapsed on the 30-year loan made on June 27, 2008, and on which the first payment was due on September 1, 2008. Put another way, 60 months had elapsed out of a total of 360 months.

The second payment change letter was dated June 19, 2015. It states:

Your new payment is based on the 1 YEAR LIBOR, your margin, your loan balance of $1,078,513.03, and your remaining loan term of 276.

There were, contractually, 276 payments due from September 1, 2015, to the end of the loan. Twenty-four months elapsed from the effective date of the June 24, 2013 payment change letter to the effective date of the June 19, 2015 payment change letter.

This is the proper manner in which to calculate the new payment. The contractually due principal balance as of the change date is the appropriate number rather than the principal balance actually due as of the change date. The actual outstanding principal balance cannot be known when the new payment is calculated about six weeks before the payment change date. Payments could be missed or late. (In this case, no payments were made after March 2010.) If the payment change were calculated on the actual principal balance, the monthly payment would necessarily be higher than if it were calculated on the contractually due principal balance. If the debtor and her husband made all of the missed payments after receiving the payment change notification and continued with the higher monthly payments calculated on the actual outstanding principal balance, the monthly payments would payoff the loan in less than 30 years, depriving the debtor and her husband of the benefit of the longer loan term. By using the contractually due principal balance, if the debtor and her husband reinstated the loan and continued with the monthly payments, the loan would payoff at the end of the 30-year term as agreed by the parties. The principal balances shown on the payment change letters reflect what the principal balance would have been had the debtor made all contractually due mortgage payments. She admittedly stopped making payments after March 2010, and the principal balances shown on the two payment change letters understate the actual principal balances as of the date of the letters.

The court can estimate the principal balance as of March 2010 from the information presented by the debtor. The original loan amount was $1,265,000. It was a 30-year note. The interest rate was a variable rate which was prime plus a margin of 2.25%. The lowest interest rate possible is 2.25%, which assumes that the prime rate was zero, which it was not. Using a loan rate of 2.25% from June 27, 2008 through March 2010, the principal balance due as of April 1, 2010, can be computed. It was $1,217,394.45. This is simply a mathematical calculation. It makes assumptions in the light most favorable to the debtor. The resulting principal balance is above the §109(e) eligibility limit. In fact, the loan payoff is higher that this calculated principal balance because the 1 Year LIBOR was not zero during this period. In addition, interest accrued on the loan from March 1, 2010 through the petition date of June 11, 2015. Interest at the minimal rate of 2.25% per annum as of the petition date would be about $141,500. The interest rate and the interest due when the petition was filed were higher. There are also late charges and other fees and costs. But, the principal balance calculation is sufficient to put the debtor over the §109(e) eligibility limit.

Debtor’s counsel argues that the debtor and her husband rescinded the loan in March 2010. It is not entirely clear what counsel was arguing. If she was arguing that rescission ipso facto changed the secured loan to an unsecured loan, the debtor is significantly over the unsecured limit. If her argument is that rescission eliminates that loan, she overlooks the debtor’s rescission obligation to put the lender in the same position, less certain fees and costs, as the lender was in before the transaction. It appears that debtor’s counsel relies on Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 574 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 790 (2015). She appears to focus on that portion of the opinion discussing the elements of the common law right of rescission. Reliance is misplaced. The sole issue in that case was whether the borrowers timely rescinded the loan, not the effect of the rescission notice on the borrowers’ obligations when they rescinded the transaction. They gave their rescission notice within the three-year period but did not file suit until after the three-year period. The lender argued that they were time-barred and that the transaction was, therefore, not rescinded. The lender argued that the common law doctrine of rescission applied and required that the borrower tender the loan amount at the time of rescission for there to be a valid rescission. The borrowers gave notice of the rescission but did not tender the rescission payment. The Supreme Court acknowledged the elements of the common law rescission but held that Congress created a new right of rescission that superceded common law rescission and that notice of the rescission was all that the statute required. Debtor’s counsel appears to be arguing that because the common law element of rescission — making a tender of the rescission amount — is not required, the loan is rescinded on notice and the debtor has no further obligation. In fact, the debtor has a further obligation upon giving notice of rescission and that is to make the appropriate rescission payment. This obligation is a claim in bankruptcy. 11 U.S.C. §101(5). Nor does it matter in this case whether the claim is a secured claim or an unsecured claim. Either way, the amount of the claim exceeds the applicable limit.

Debtor’s counsel also appeared to argue that the deed of trust was invalid. There was no evidence that the deed of trust was defective or void.[3] Again, if it were, the debtor would be substantially over the unsecured debt limit of §109(e).

To the extent that debtor’s counsel was arguing that the lender forfeited its loan, its right to repayment or its rescission payment, there was simply no evidence to support the argument.

Having determined that the debtor exceeds the eligibility limits in §109(e), the question is whether the case should be dismissed or the debtor be given time to consider conversion to chapter 11. The case will be dismissed because conversion would be futile — the debtor cannot formulate an effective chapter 11 plan — and because this case was filed in bad faith.

Gilbert v. Residential Funding LLC, 678 F.3d 271 (4th Cir. 2012) makes plain that there is a difference between giving notice of rescission and determining whether the loan is properly rescinded. Anticipating Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, the Court of Appeals held that notice of rescission was required to be given within three years of the closing but suit to enforce the rescission was not required to be filed within the three-year period. Id. at 277. Giving notice of rescission does not, however, mean that the transaction must be unwound. The Court of Appeals stated:

We must not conflate the issue of whether a borrower has exercised her right to rescind with the issue of whether the rescission has, in fact, been completed and the contract voided. . . . At this stage of the litigation, we are not concerned with whether the contract has been effectively voided. A court must make a determination on the merits as to whether that should occur.


The law of the Fourth Circuit is that after the borrower gives notice of rescission, the borrower must have the ability to tender the rescission amount within a reasonable time. The Court of Appeals stated that “[t]he equitable goal of rescission under [the Truth in Lending Act] is to restore the parties to the `status quo ante.'” Am. Mortg. Network, Inc. v. Shelton, 486 F.3d 815, 820 (4th Cir. 2007). To achieve this, the borrower seeking rescission must be able to tender the borrowed funds back to the lender. Rescission is effected in a 3-step process under 15 U.S.C. §1635(b). First, the security interest in the home is voided and the borrower is not liable for any further payments. Second, the creditor has 20 days to refund any payments made in connection with the loan. Third, the borrower must tender the proceeds of the loan. Rescission should not be granted where it is clear that the borrower cannot or will not tender the borrowed funds to the creditor. 15 U.S.C. §1635(b); Shelton, 486 F.3d at 819-20. To do so would simply convert the secured lender to an unsecured lender with a claim against the borrower. That result would be inequitable and does not achieve the purpose of the statute which is to put the parties back into the position they were in prior to the loan.

If the borrower cannot tender the rescission payment within a reasonable time, the loan will not be unwound. In Haas v. Falmouth Financial, LLC, 783 F.Supp.2d 801 (E.D.Va. 2011), the District Court stated:

Because rescission entails restoring the parties to the status quo ante, rescission cannot be granted where, as here, the borrower fails to demonstrate that he has the ability to meet his tender obligation. If plaintiff were allowed to achieve rescission without meeting his tender obligation, the lender would be reduced to an unsecured creditor. Such a result is not only inequitable, but it is inconsistent with the intent of Congress in drafting TILA.

Id. at 808.

Giving notice of rescission does not void the loan or cause the lender to ipso factoforfeit its loan. It only requires that the loan be unwound. The debtor must have the ability to tender the rescission amount within a reasonable time. This obligation is a claim in bankruptcy and, absent any other applicable factor, is a secured claim.[4] It is a claim that must be addressed in a chapter 11 plan. In this case, the debtor would not be able to tender a rescission payment or address it in a chapter 11 plan.

The debtor testified that neither she nor her husband had the ability to tender a rescission amount within 60 days. This testimony — and the fair inference from their circumstances that if they would ever be able to tender the rescission amount, it would be far in the future — is corroborated by the debtor’s testimony, schedules and statement of affairs. The debtor’s husband is a dentist. He suffered a back injury that prevents him from practicing dentistry because of the necessity to stand for long periods. He is receiving significant disability payments. She works in his dental practice in a non-medical capacity. They have no savings. The house is underwater — the debtor valued it at $900,000 on her schedules.

A chapter 11 plan based on a March 2010 rescission of the transaction will not work. They cannot pay the rescission amount from savings because they have none. They cannot sell the property and pay the rescission amount from the proceeds of sale because the house is worth less than the payoff of the loan. They cannot reasonably be expected to qualify for a loan to refinance the lender in their present circumstances because they do not have enough income to support the required mortgage payment and because there is no equity in the property to support a refinance loan.

Nor does the debtor have the ability to cure the present mortgage arrearage in a chapter 11 plan. The debtor, even with the assistance of her co-debtor husband, does not have sufficient income to make the current mortgage payment and an arrearage payment.[5] Conversion to chapter 11 would be futile.

The case was filed in bad faith. There is only one creditor. The plan proposed monthly payments to the chapter 13 trustee of $3,000; however, he was to hold the payments until the debtor concluded her litigation with the lender. The current mortgage payment was not to be made. At the end of the plan, the arrearage might be cured, but there would be a new post-petition arrearage. The plan cannot be confirmed. See n.5.

The plan is illusory. The debtor has the right to dismiss her chapter 13 case at any time. 11 U.S.C. §1307(b). Upon dismissal, all funds that the trustee holds are repaid to the debtor. Harris v. Viegelahn, ___ U.S. ___; 135 S.Ct. 1829 (2015). The debtor does not have the ability, even with her husband’s assistance, to propose a traditional 60-month plan to repay the arrearage and make current mortgage payments. Nor does she have the ability to propose a plan providing that the lender would be paid from the sale of her property. In reality, the debtor simply seeks to obtain the benefit of the automatic stay while she litigates or negotiates with the lender.[6] In light of the debtor’s bad faith and futility of conversion to chapter 11, the court is not required to convert the case to chapter 11 if the debtor requested conversion under §1307.[7] See Marrama vs. Citizen Bank of Massachusetts, 549 U.S. 365, 127 S.Ct. 1105, 166, L.Ed. 2d 956 (2007) (a chapter 7 debtor acting in bad faith does not have an absolute right to convert to chapter 13); In re Mitrano, 472 B.R. 706 (E.D.Va. 2012) (a chapter 13 debtor acting in bad faith does not have an absolute right to dismissal of his case).

The debtor’s case will be dismissed because she is not eligible to be a chapter 13 debtor and because the case was filed in bad faith.

[1] Debtor’s counsel argued that the reduction of the principal loan balance from September 1, 2013 to September 1, 2015, resulted from the debtor and her husband paying the real estate taxes and insurance which, she argued, were in that same approximate — although not precise — amount. That argument is frivolous. A principal balance is reduced by payment to the lender, not by payment to third parties of real estate taxes and insurance.

[2] Interest is paid in arrears. This means that the September payment includes interest that accrued during August. In this case, the loan was made on June 27, 2008. Interest due from June 27, 2008 through June 30, 2008 was paid at closing. The first monthly mortgage payment was due on September 1, 2008 at which included the interest that accrued in August 2008.

[3] Debtor’s counsel raised this argument in her closing statement, but there were no facts in the record to support it.

[4] Another applicable factor could be that the deed of trust was defective in some manner or, perhaps, not recorded. In these instances, the lender would not have a secured claim, but it would have an unsecured claim.

[5] The proposed chapter 13 plan proposes to pay $3,000 a month as the cure payment but no regular monthly payment. The debtor’s budget show that she and her husband have sufficient income to pay the proposed $3,000 chapter 13 plan payment, but, there is no payment to the lender on the mortgage in the budget. The debtor proposes to pay real estate taxes and insurance, $1,340 and $500, respectively, but not the note payment. The combined payment as proposed by the debtor — $3,000, $1,340 and $500 for a total of $4,840 — is significantly smaller than that new payment amount shown on the June 19, 2015 change payment letter. The new monthly payment is $7,514.40. The budget does not have sufficient net disposable income to make the monthly mortgage payment and the arrearage payment. The debtor and her husband would need an additional $5,674 in monthly income to make the mortgage payment and the arrearage payment.

[6] The debtor’s husband unsuccessfully sued the lender in the District Court. The details of the suit were not presented.

[7] Although the practice is to grant a debtor’s motion to convert a chapter 13 cases to chapter 11, especially if there is a §109(e) problem, §1307(a) does not give a debtor the right to convert from chapter 13 to chapter 11. It only gives a debtor the right to convert to chapter 7.

Nationstar v Brown – Statute of Limitations No Defense Against Foreclosure

Statute of Limitations Applies to Whole Payment Stream

By Bob Hurt, 18 September 2015

Florida’s 1st District Appellate Court gave Germaine and Andrea Brown a rude awakening by telling them the Florida foreclosure 5-year statute of limitations does not apply a 30-year stream of mortgage payments even after the creditor accelerates the loan, making the entire balance immediately due and payable.  The panel cited the Florida Supreme Court opinion in Singleton v Greymar (2004) as the controlling authority (“the unique nature of the mortgage obligation and the continuing obligations of the parties in that relationship.”).  The panel held that “the subsequent and separate alleged default created a new and independent right in the mortgagee to accelerate payment on the note in a subsequent foreclosure action.”  In other words, every default of a scheduled payment provides a new right to sue, throughout the original term of the loan.

The panel admitted that Florida’s 3rd District had reached a contrary conclusion in Deutsche Bank v Beauvais (2014).  But the panel harked to the USDC adverse opinion in Stern v BOA (2015) which claimed that Beauvis opinion went against ”overwhelming weight of authority.”  Now the Beauvais court plans to review its decision.

This should make it abundantly clear that the foreclosure statute of limitations in Florida does not constitute a valid defense against foreclosure, except on payments more than 5 years overdue on which the creditor has failed to take action.

Why should this matter to mortgage victims facing foreclosure?  Because you cannot depend on Foreclosure Defense to defeat foreclosure.  The court/trustee will NOT give you a free house.

ONLY ONE methodology gives home loan borrowers a reliable chance beat the appraiser, mortgage broker, title company, servicer, and creditor in a mortgage dispute:  MORTGAGE ATTACK.  Borrowers must ATTACK THE VALIDITY OF THE LOAN, and to do that, they must get a comprehensive mortgage examination.

If you have a mortgage dispute, contact Mortgage Attack NOW for a full explanation of the ONLY WINNING METHODOLOGY.

Mortgage Attack Logo

NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE, LLC v. Brown, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015



Case No. 1D14-4381.

District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.

Opinion filed August 24, 2015.

Nancy M. Wallace of Akerman LLP, Tallahassee; William P. Heller of Akerman LLP, Fort Lauderdale; Celia C. Falzone of Akerman LLP, Jacksonville, for Appellant.

Jared D. Comstock of John F. Hayter, Attorney at Law, P.A., Gainesville, for Appellees.


Appellant challenges a final summary judgment holding that the statute of limitations bars appellant’s action to foreclose the subject mortgage. We agree with appellant that the statute of limitations did not bar the action. Thus, we reverse.

It is undisputed that appellees have failed to make any mortgage payments since February 2007, the first month in which they defaulted. In April 2007, appellant’s predecessor in interest gave notice of its intent to accelerate the note based on the February 2007 breach, and filed a foreclosure action. However, the trial court dismissed that action without prejudice in October 2007, after counsel for the lender failed to attend a case management conference.

The next relevant event occurred in November 2010, when appellant sent appellees a new notice of intent to accelerate, based on appellees’ breach in March 2007 and subsequent breaches. Appellees took no action to cure the default, and appellant filed a new foreclosure action in November 2012. Appellees asserted the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense, arguing that the new action and any future foreclosure actions were barred because they were not filed within five years after the original 2007 acceleration of the note. § 95.11(2)(c), Fla. Stat. (2012) (establishing five year statute of limitations on action to foreclose a mortgage).

The principles set forth in Singleton v. Greymar Associates, 882 So. 2d 1004 (Fla. 2004), apply in this case. In Singleton, the Florida Supreme Court recognized “the unique nature of the mortgage obligation and the continuing obligations of the parties in that relationship.” 882 So. 2d at 1007 (emphasis added). The court sought to avoidboth unjust enrichment of a defaulting mortgagor, and inequitable obstacles “prevent[ing] mortgagees from being able to challenge multiple defaults on a mortgage.” Id. at 1007-08. Giving effect to those principles in light of the continuing obligations of a mortgage, the court held that “the subsequent and separate alleged default created a new and independent right in the mortgagee to accelerate payment on the note in a subsequent foreclosure action.” Id. at 1008. The court found it irrelevant whether acceleration had been sought in earlier foreclosure actions. Id. The court’s analysis in Singleton recognizes that a note securing a mortgage creates liability for a total amount of principal and interest, and that the lender’s acceptance of payments in installments does not eliminate the borrower’s ongoing liability for the entire amount of the indebtedness.

The present case illustrates good grounds for the Singleton court’s concern with avoiding both unjust enrichment of borrowers and inequitable infringement on lenders’ remedies. Judgments such as that under review run afoul of Singleton because they release defaulting borrowers from their entire indebtedness and preclude mortgagees from collecting the total debt evidenced by the notes securing the mortgages they hold, even though the sum of the installment payments not made during the limitations period represents only a fraction of the total debt. See GMAC Mortg., LLC v. Whiddon, 164 So. 3d 97, 100 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015) (dismissal of earlier foreclosure action “did not absolve the Whiddons of their responsibility to make mortgage payments for the remaining twenty-five years of their mortgage agreement”). We further observe that both the note and the mortgage at issue here contain typical provisions reflecting the parties’ agreement that the mortgagee’s forbearance or inaction do not constitute waivers or release appellees from their obligation to pay the note in full. These binding contractual terms refute appellees’ arguments and are inconsistent with the judgment under review.

We have held previously that not even a dismissal with prejudice of a foreclosure action precludes a mortgagee “from instituting a new foreclosure action based on a different act or a new date of default not alleged in the dismissed action.” PNC Bank, N.A. v. Neal, 147 So. 3d 32, 32 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013); see also U.S. Bank Nat. Ass’n v. Bartram, 140 So. 3d 1007, 1014 (Fla. 5th DCA), review granted, 160 So. 3d 892 (Fla. 2014) (Case No. SC14-1305) (dismissal of earlier foreclosure action, whether with or without prejudice, did not bar subsequent foreclosure action based on a new default);Evergrene Partners, Inc. v. Citibank, N.A., 143 So. 3d 954, 955 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014)(foreclosure and acceleration based on an earlier default “does not bar subsequent actions and acceleration based upon different events of default”). The dismissal in this case was without prejudice, so much the more preserving appellant’s right to file a new foreclosure action based on appellees’ breaches subsequent to the February 2007 breach asserted as the procedural trigger of the earlier foreclosure action. We find that appellant’s assertion of the right to accelerate was not irrevocably “exercised” within the meaning of cases defining accrual for foreclosure actions, when the right was merely asserted and then dismissed without prejudice. See Olympia Mortg. Corp. v. Pugh, 774 So. 2d 863, 866-67 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000) (“By voluntarily dismissing the suit, [the mortgagee] in effect decided not to accelerate payment on the note and mortgage at that time.”); see also Slottow v. Hull Inv. Co., 129 So. 577, 582 (Fla. 1930) (a mortgagee could waive an acceleration election in certain circumstances). After the dismissal without prejudice, the parties returned to the status quo that existed prior to the filing of the dismissed complaint. As a matter of law, appellant’s 2012 foreclosure action, based on breaches that occurred after the breach that triggered the first complaint, was not barred by the statute of limitations. Evergrene, 143 So. 3d at 955 (“[T]he statute of limitations has not run on all of the payments due pursuant to the note, and the mortgage is still enforceable based upon subsequent acts of default.”).

We are aware that the Third District has reached a contrary conclusion in Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas v. Beauvais, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D1, 2014 WL 7156961 (Fla. 3d DCA Dec. 17, 2014) (Case No. 3D14-575). A federal district court has refused to follow Beauvais, noting that it is “contrary to the overwhelming weight of authority.” Stern v. Bank of America Corp., 2015 WL 3991058 at *2-3 (M.D. Fla. June 30, 2015) (No. 2:15-cv-153-FtM-29CM). The court in Beauvais acknowledges that its conclusion is contrary to the weight of authority on the questions presented. 2014 WL 7156961, at *8-9. That court’s docket shows that the court has set the case for rehearing en banc; it remains to be seen whether the merits disposition will change.

Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings on appellant’s foreclosure action.



IF the servicer’s home preservation company steals your stuff…

This US 8th Circuit Appellate opinion should give you heart, IF you can get a damages award from an arbitrator or trial court for theft of your stuff by a home preservation company’s felonious employees.

In this case, the arbitrator awarded the Starks $6 million to punish the servicer, note holder, and home preservation company for breaking into the home during a foreclosure dispute after the Starks had moved into an apartment across the street (still in possession, did not abandon).  The 8th Circuit upheld the award.  Appellants appealed to the SCOTUS which denied certiorari.


381 F.3d 793

Stanley William STARK; Patricia Garnet Stark, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
SANDBERG, PHOENIX & VON GONTARD, P.C.; Scott Greenberg; EMC Mortgage Corporation; SpvG Trustee, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 03-2366.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

Submitted: January 15, 2004.

Filed: August 26, 2004.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Ortrie D. Smith, J. COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED Roy B. True, argued, Kansas City, Missouri, for appellant.

Mark G. Arnold, argued, St. Louis, Missouri (Robert B. Best, Jr. and Leonard L. Wagner on the brief), for appellant.

Before BYE, HEANEY and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

BYE, Circuit Judge.


Stanley and Patricia Stark appeal the district court’s order vacating in part an arbitration award granting them punitive damages. We reverse.


* Stanley and Patricia are husband and wife and live near Kansas City, Missouri. In 1999, in hopes of shoring up a failing business, the Starks borrowed $56,900 against their home and secured the loan with a mortgage. Despite the infusion of funds, the business failed and in April 2000 the Starks petitioned for bankruptcy protection. At about the same time, the Starks’ lender sold the note, which was in default, to EMC Mortgage Corporation making EMC a debt collector under the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692o. In anticipation of foreclosure, the Starks vacated the home and moved into an apartment across the street. The Starks, however, remained in possession of legal title and did not abandon the home. In June 2000, EMC’s motion to lift the automatic stay was granted and it proceeded with foreclosure.


The Starks were represented throughout the foreclosure and bankruptcy proceedings by attorney Roy True who notified EMC’s attorney, Scott Greenberg of Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard, P.C., that his representation of the Starks extended beyond the bankruptcy proceedings. Between October 2000 and March 2001, despite letters from True advising EMC he represented the Starks and not to contact them directly, EMC tried several times to deal directly with the Starks. In April 2001, the Starks filed suit against EMC and its attorneys alleging violations of the FDCPA.


EMC moved to compel arbitration as required by the parties’ loan agreement, and the district court ordered the dispute submitted to arbitration. The order compelling arbitration is not at issue in this appeal. During the pendency of the arbitration, EMC’s agent, without the Starks’ consent, forcibly entered the home and posted a sign in the front window indicating the “Property has been secured and winterized. Not for sale or rent. In case of emergency call 1st American (732) 363-3626.” The agent then contacted Mrs. Stark at her apartment, and EMC contacted Mr. Stark at work regarding the matter. Further, on November 5, 2001 and January 27, 2002, EMC wrote to the Starks directly regarding insurance coverage on the home. In total, the Starks testified EMC contacted them by mail, telephone or in person at least ten times after being advised they were represented by counsel.


After these incidents, the Starks moved to amend their complaint to include claims alleging intentional torts against EMC and seeking punitive damages. EMC opposed the motion arguing the arbitration agreement expressly precluded an award of punitive damages. The Starks contended the limitation on punitive damages was unconscionable and unenforceable. After extensive briefing, the arbitrator concluded the limitation was ambiguous and construed the language against EMC. The arbitrator noted the agreement purported to grant him “all powers provided by law” and then purported to deny the power to award “punitive … damages … as to which borrower and lender expressly waive any right to claim to the fullest extent permitted by law.” The arbitrator concluded,


In at least three places the Stark’s [sic] are promised that they can seek all damages allowed by law, and then that promise is taken away. This is the keystone of an ambiguous contract, and the Agreement is to be interpreted in their favor. As a matter of law they are not prohibited from seeking punitive damages from EMC.


Appellee’s app. at 22.


The arbitrator found EMC violated the FDCPA and awarded the Starks $1000 each in statutory damages, $1000 each in actual damages, $22,780 in attorneys fees, and $9300 for the cost of the arbitration. The arbitrator found EMC’s forcible entry into the premises “reprehensible and outrageous and in total disregard of plaintiff’s [sic] legal rights” and awarded $6,000,000 in punitive damages against EMC. Id. app. at 17.1


The Starks moved to confirm the award, and EMC moved to vacate the punitive damages award arguing the arbitration agreement expressly prohibited punitive damages. No other aspect of the award was challenged. The district court vacated the award of punitive damages, holding the agreement was unambiguous and not susceptible to the arbitrator’s interpretation.


On appeal, the Starks contend the arbitrator acted within his authority in construing the contract and his finding of an ambiguity was not irrational. EMC argues the district court’s order vacating the award of punitive damages should be affirmed.



When reviewing a district court’s order confirming or vacating an arbitral award, the court’s findings of fact are reviewed for clear error and questions of law are reviewed de novo. First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 947-48, 115 S.Ct. 1920, 131 L.Ed.2d 985 (1995); Titan Wheel Corp. of Iowa v. Local 2048, Int’l Ass’n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, 253 F.3d 1118, 1119 (8th Cir. 2001).


When reviewing an arbitral award, courts accord “an extraordinary level of deference” to the underlying award itself, Keebler Co. v. Milk Drivers & Dairy Employees Union, Local No. 471, 80 F.3d 284, 287 (8th Cir.1996), because federal courts are not authorized to reconsider the merits of an arbitral award “even though the parties may allege that the award rests on errors of fact or on misinterpretation of the contract.” Bureau of Engraving, Inc. v. Graphic Communication Int’l Union, Local 1B, 284 F.3d 821, 824 (8th Cir.2002) (quotingUnited Paperworkers Int’l Union v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 36, 108 S.Ct. 364, 98 L.Ed.2d 286 (1987)). Indeed, an award must be confirmed even if a court is convinced the arbitrator committed a serious error, so “long as the arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope of his authority.” Bureau of Engraving, 284 F.3d at 824 (quoting Misco, 484 U.S. at 38).


The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16, established “a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements.” Moses H. Cone Mem. Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983). Thus, the FAA only allows a district court to vacate an arbitration award


(1) Where the award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means.


(2) Where there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrators, or either of them.


(3) Where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing, upon sufficient cause shown, or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy; or of any other misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced.


(4) Where the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final, and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made.


9 U.S.C. § 10(a).


Similarly, under 9 U.S.C. § 11 a reviewing court may only modify the arbitrator’s award


(a) Where there was an evident material miscalculation of figures or an evident material mistake in the description of any person, thing, or property referred to in the award.


(b) Where the arbitrators have awarded upon a matter not submitted to them, unless it is a matter not affecting the merits of the decision upon the matter submitted.


(c) Where the award is imperfect in matter of form not affecting the merits of the controversy.


9 U.S.C. § 11.


A “district court must take the award as it finds it and either vacate the entire award using section 10 or modify the award using section 11.” Legion Ins. Co. v. VCW, Inc., 198 F.3d 718, 721 (8th Cir.1999). The deference owed to arbitration awards, however, “is not the equivalent of a grant of limitless power,” Leed Architectural Prods., Inc. v. United Steelworkers of Am., Local 6674, 916 F.2d 63, 65 (2d Cir.1990), and “courts are neither entitled nor encouraged simply to `rubber stamp’ the interpretations and decisions of arbitrators.”Matteson v. Ryder Sys. Inc., 99 F.3d 108, 113 (3d Cir.1996). Thus, courts may also vacate arbitral awards which are “completely irrational” or “evidence[] a manifest disregard for the law.” Hoffman v. Cargill Inc., 236 F.3d 458, 461 (8th Cir.2001) (internal quotations and citations omitted).


An award is “irrational where it fails to draw its essence from the agreement” or it “manifests disregard for the law where the arbitrators clearly identify the applicable, governing law and then proceed to ignore it.” Id. at 461-62. “An arbitrator’s award draws its essence from the [parties’ agreement] as long as it is derived from the agreement, viewed in light of its language, its context, and any other indicia of the parties’ intention.” Johnson Controls, Inc., Sys. & Servs. Div. v. United Ass’n of Journeymen, 39 F.3d 821, 825 (7th Cir.1994) (internal quotations omitted).


Faced with these limitations on a court’s ability to review arbitration awards, EMC argues the arbitrator’s award of punitive damages was properly vacated under § 10 because the arbitrator exceeded his powers by modifying the unambiguous agreement, and properly modified under § 11 because in considering the issue of punitive damages the arbitrator made a decision on a matter not submitted to him.2 EMC also argues the arbitrator’s finding of an ambiguity was irrational and without foundation in reason or fact because the clear language of the agreement precludes an award of punitive damages. Finally, EMC argues the award of punitive damages was excessive and made in manifest disregard of the law. Because we conclude the arbitration agreement unambiguously permitted the award of punitive damages, we hold the award of punitive damages was proper and reverse the district court.



The plain language of the arbitration agreement states the “borrower and lender expressly waive any right to claim [punitive damages] to the fullest extent permitted by law.” Appellee’s app. at 19 (emphasis added). Thus, the agreement only effected a limited waiver of punitive damages, that is, punitive damages were waived only if the governing law permitted such a waiver. Conversely, if the law did not permit the waiver of punitive damages, the arbitration agreement unambiguously preserved the right to claim them.


Under Missouri law “there is no question that one may never exonerate oneself from future liability for intentional torts or for gross negligence, or for activities involving the public interest.” Alack v. Vic Tanny Int’l of Mo., Inc., 923 S.W.2d 330, 337 (Mo.1996) (citingLiberty Fin. Mgmt. Corp. v. Beneficial Data Processing Corp., 670 S.W.2d 40, 48 (Mo.App.1984)) (in turn citing 6A Corbin on Contracts, § 1472 (1962)). An attempt to procure a waiver of punitive damages is an attempt to exonerate oneself from future liability for intentional torts or gross negligence, because the remedy of punitive damages would otherwise be available for such acts. Thus, Missouri law did not permit EMC to exonerate itself from liability for the intentional torts committed against the Starks by procuring the punitive damages waiver, and the arbitrator did not exceed his authority in awarding punitive damages.


We recognize the FAA allows parties to incorporate terms into arbitration agreements that are contrary to state law. See UHC Mgmt. Co. v. Computer Sciences, Corp., 148 F.3d 992, 997 (8th Cir.1998) (holding “[p]arties may choose to be governed by whatever rules they wish regarding how an arbitration itself will be conducted.”) (citation omitted). Thus, had the parties to this agreement intended its interpretation to be governed solely by the FAA, the punitive damages waiver might have barred any such award. The plain language of the agreement, however, makes it clear Missouri law applies to this issue.


The agreement’s arbitration clause provides,


Arbitration. To the extent allowed by applicable law, any Claim … shall be resolved by binding arbitration in accordance with (1) the Federal Arbitration Act, . . . (2) the Expedited Procedures of the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association … and (3) this Agreement.


Appellee’s app. at 19 (emphasis added).


The agreement then defines applicable law as “the laws of the state in which the property which secures the Transaction is located.” Id.(emphasis added). In other words, the agreement makes clear the parties intent to apply Missouri state substantive law while operating within the framework of the FAA, American Arbitration Association rules and the agreement. As previously noted, the punitive damages waiver expressly states the parties intended to waive punitive damages only to the extent permitted by Missouri law. Because Missouri law would not permit a waiver under the facts of this case, we hold the arbitrator’s award of punitive damages was proper.



Alternatively, while we believe the plain meaning of the agreement supports the award of punitive damages, we also conclude the arbitrator’s finding of an ambiguity was not irrational.


The arbitration clause states any claims will be resolved in accordance with the FAA, which permits a waiver of punitive damages. The choice of laws provision, however, states claims must be resolved in accordance with “applicable [Missouri] law,” which does not permit the waiver of punitive damages argued for by EMC in this case. Thus, an arbitrator could reasonably conclude this agreement is ambiguous.


In Mastrobuono v. Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc., 514 U.S. 52, 62, 115 S.Ct. 1212, 131 L.Ed.2d 76 (1995), the Supreme Court considered the juxtaposition of a choice of laws provision prohibiting punitive damages with an arbitration clause permitting an award of punitive damages. The Court concluded “[a]t most, the choice-of-law clause introduces an ambiguity into an arbitration agreement that would otherwise allow punitive damages awards.” Id. (Emphasis added). As in Mastrobuono, an arbitrator interpreting this agreement could reasonably conclude the apparent conflict between the arbitration clause and the choice of laws provision introduced an ambiguity into the agreement. Accordingly, the Supreme Court’s recognition that an ambiguity is created when an agreement purports to be governed by conflicting state and federal law is instructive, and supports the arbitrator’s finding of an ambiguity.


Additionally, we cannot ignore well-settled precedent from this court holding state contract law governs whether an arbitration agreement is ambiguous. See Lyster v. Ryan’s Family Steak Houses, Inc., 239 F.3d 943, 946 (8th Cir.2001). Under Missouri law, “[t]he primary rule in the interpretation of a contract is to ascertain the intention of the parties and to give effect to that intention.” Speedie Food Mart, Inc. v. Taylor, 809 S.W.2d 126, 129 (Mo.Ct.App.1991). The test for determining if an ambiguity exists in a written contract is “whether the disputed language, in the context of the entire agreement, is reasonably susceptible of more than one construction giving the words their plain meaning as understood by a reasonable average person.” Speedie Food Mart, 809 S.W.2d at 129.


In this case, EMC argues the exclusionary language is clear and unambiguous and shields it from liability for any award of punitive damages. When viewed in the context of Missouri law governing exculpatory clauses, however, this clause could easily be viewed as ambiguous. “A `latent ambiguity’ arises where a writing on its face appears clear and unambiguous, but some collateral matter makes the meaning uncertain.” Royal Banks of Missouri v. Fridkin, 819 S.W.2d 359, 362 (Mo. 1991) (en banc) (citation omitted). Here, the ambiguity arises because the clause attempts to effect a prospective waiver of rights which Missouri law holds may not be waived. Under Missouri law “there is no question that one may never exonerate oneself from future liability for intentional torts or for gross negligence, or for activities involving the public interest.” Alack, 923 S.W.2d at 337 (citations omitted). Words purporting to waive claims which cannot be waived “demonstrate the ambiguity of the contractual language.” Id.


Finally, EMC “cannot overcome the common-law rule of contract interpretation that a court should construe ambiguous language against the interest of the party that drafted it.” Mastrobuono, 514 U.S. at 62, 115 S.Ct. 1212 (citations omitted). EMC “cannot now claim the benefit of the doubt. The reason for this rule is to protect the party who did not choose the language from an unintended or unfair result.” Id. at 63, 115 S.Ct. 1212.


Accordingly, we conclude the arbitrator’s finding that the contract was ambiguous was not irrational.



EMC next argues the award of punitive damages was properly vacated because it is excessive and exhibits a manifest disregard of the law. We disagree.


“Beyond the grounds for vacation provided in the FAA, an award will only be set aside where it is completely irrational or evidences a manifest disregard for the law.” Hoffman, 236 F.3d at 461 (internal citations and quotations omitted) (emphasis added). “These extra-statutory standards are extremely narrow: … [A]n arbitration decision only manifests disregard for the law where the arbitrators clearly identify the applicable, governing law and then proceed to ignore it.” Id. at 461-62 (citing Stroh Container Co. v. Delphi Indus., 783 F.2d 743, 749-50 (8th Cir.1986)) (emphasis added).


“A party seeking vacatur [based on manifest disregard of the law] bears the burden of proving that the arbitrators were fully aware of the existence of a clearly defined governing legal principle, but refused to apply it, in effect, ignoring it.” Duferco Int’l Steel Trading v. T. Klaveness Shipping A/S, 333 F.3d 383, 389 (2d Cir.2003). Because “[a]rbitrators are not required to elaborate their reasoning supporting an award,” El Dorado Sch. Dist. # 15 v. Continental Cas. Co., 247 F.3d 843, 847 (8th Cir.2001) (internal quotations omitted), “[i]f they choose not to do so, it is all but impossible to determine whether they acted with manifest disregard for the law.” W. Dawahare v. Spencer,210 F.3d 666, 669 (6th Cir.2000) (citing Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. Jaros, 70 F.3d 418, 421 (6th Cir. 1995)).


Manifest disregard of the law “is more than a simple error in law or a failure by the arbitrators to understand or apply it; and, it is more than an erroneous interpretation of the law.” Duferco Int’l, 333 F.3d at 389 (citations omitted). “Our disagreement with an arbitrator’s interpretation of the law or determination of the facts is an insufficient basis for setting aside his award.” El Dorado Sch. Dist., 247 F.3d at 847 (citing Hoffman, 236 F.3d at 462).


In support of its claim, EMC argues the arbitrator disregarded the Supreme Court’s pronouncements in BMW of N. Am., Inc. v. Gore,517 U.S. 559, 572-74, 116 S.Ct. 1589, 134 L.Ed.2d 809 (1996) (describing a 500:1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages as “breathtaking” and suspicious), and State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 426, 123 S.Ct. 1513, 155 L.Ed.2d 585 (2003) (finding a 145:1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages presumptively excessive). In so arguing, however, EMC has failed to present any evidence that the arbitrator “clearly identif[ied] the applicable, governing law and then proceed[ed] to ignore it.” Hoffman,236 F.3d at 461-62 (citing Stroh Container, 783 F.2d at 749-50). None of the cases relied upon by EMC are cited in the arbitrator’s decision,3 and there is nothing in the record to demonstrate “one of the parties clearly stated the law and the arbitrator[ ] expressly chose not to follow it.” W. Dawahare, 210 F.3d at 670; see also Duferco Int’l, 333 F.3d at 390 (“In determining an arbitrator’s awareness of the law, we impute only knowledge of governing law identified by the parties to the arbitration.”) (citation omitted).


Indeed, to the extent the arbitrator’s decision sets forth the basis for the punitive damages award, it is apparent the arbitrator did not disregard governing law. The arbitrator’s award was intended to punish EMC and to deter others from similar conduct. In arriving at the appropriate amount, the arbitrator specifically found the $6,000,000 award (amounting to one-tenth of one percent of shareholder equity) was “not great punishment but it should act as a deterence [sic].” Appellee’s app. at 18; see also Barnett v. La Societe Anonyme Turbomeca France, 963 S.W.2d 639, 655 (Mo.App.1998) (holding under Missouri law the net worth of a defendant is relevant when determining the extent of punitive damages necessary to punish and deter the defendant). Accordingly, we reject EMC’s claim of manifest disregard.


“Although this result may seem draconian, the rules of law limiting judicial review and the judicial process in the arbitration context are well established and the parties … can be presumed to have been well versed in the consequences of their decision to resolve their disputes in this manner.” Stroh Container, 783 F.2d at 751. Moreover, “[a]rbitration is not a perfect system of justice, nor it is [sic] designed to be.”Hoffman, 236 F.3d at 462 (citation omitted). Rather, it “is designed primarily to avoid the complex, time-consuming and costly alternative of litigation.” Id.


In the arbitration setting we have almost none of the protections that fundamental fairness and due process require for the imposition of this form of punishment. Discovery is abbreviated if available at all. The rules of evidence are employed, if at all, in a very relaxed manner. The factfinders (here the panel) operate with almost none of the controls and safeguards [present in traditional litigation.]


Lee v. Chica, 983 F.2d 883, 889 (8th Cir. 1993) (Beam, J. concurring in part and dissenting in part).


Here, EMC chose to resolve this “dispute quickly and efficiently through arbitration.” Schoch v. InfoUSA, Inc., 341 F.3d 785, 791 (8th Cir.2003), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 1414, 158 L.Ed.2d 81 (2004). Indeed, it was EMC that insisted on removing the matter to arbitration. In so doing, EMC “got exactly what it bargained for.” Id. “Having entered such a contract, [EMC] must subsequently abide by the rules to which it agreed.” Hoffman, 236 F.3d at 463 (citation omitted).



We reverse the district court’s order vacating the award of punitive damages and remand with instructions to confirm the arbitrator’s award in its entirety.


1The arbitrator indicated the award of punitive damages was calculated as one percent of EMC’s shareholder equity. One percent of equity, however, would have resulted in an award of $60,000,000. The arbitrator later clarified this mistake indicating it was his intent to award $6,000,000. Thus, the award was actually calculated as one-tenth of one percent of shareholder equity

2EMC’s § 11 argument is clearly without merit. The issue of punitive damages was submitted to the arbitrator. If the award was improper because it exceeded the scope of the agreement, § 10 is the proper avenue to redress the arbitrator’s error

3The arbitrator’s decision predatesState Farm making it impossible for the arbitrator to have identified the decision as controlling.

Garfield Fruit Loopy Over Tila Rescission

fruitloop photoI believe Neil Garfield misleads borrowers with his diatribe in the article Rescission Confusion Persists. He must have become desperate to sell his useless rescission packages.  He keeps hammering his readers to file a notice of rescission, no matter what, implying that they have a ghost of a chance of success.  He ignores reality, like all kool-aid-drinkers do.  Here’s the reality.

Many court opinions, revealed on previous TILA rescission threads attest to how rescission works. That has not changed at all. TILA and Regulation Z require an unwinding of the transaction with tender first by the lender then by the borrower, and that typically happens when the borrower files an answer to the foreclosure complaint or when the borrower sues to enforce the rescission. The court will determine the following:

1. Did a TILA violation warranting rescission actually occur?
2. Did the borrower send notice of rescission to the creditor within 3 years after loan consummation?
3. Did the creditor receive that notice?
4. Can the creditor tender?
5. Can the borrower tender or will the lender accept an alternative?

A NO answer to any of the above can justify defeat of the rescission, and the court will not order it.

The borrower has one year after expiry of the 20 days following sending of notice of rescission to the creditor in which to sue the creditor for failing to respond within 20 days.

Jesinoski opinion changed nothing in the US Circuits that allowed suit after 3 years. It merely requires all courts to allow the borrower to sue for rescission later than 3 years after consummation of the loan, provided 1, 2, and 3 above occurred.

The creditor has no legal duty to sue the borrower to force a TILA rescission.

Garfield doesn’t want to tell readers the hard core truth that very few people qualify for a TILA rescission because most who sent the notice stopped paying and face foreclosure, and they cannot tender.  Therefore, the court will not order the rescission and they will lose the house.  They would be totally stupid to pay Garfield for a rescission package.

To understand the proper way to beat the bank, visit the Mortgage Attack web site.

Read my discussion of TILA rescission and related case law at Scalia, Jesinoski, and the Process of TILA Rescission/

Bob Hurt

Bob Hurt photo
Bob Hurt, Writer

Why a Mortgage Note is Not a Security

You might believe that a mortgage note or a deed of trust is a security,  but here is your proof to the contrary:
The 1934 Act says that the term “security” includes “any note . . . [excepting one] which has a maturity at the time of issuance of not exceeding nine months,” and the 1933 Act says that the term means “any note” save for the registration exemption in § 3(a)(3). These are the plain terms of both acts, to be applied “unless the context otherwise requires.” A party asserting that a note of more than nine months maturity is not within the 1934 Act (or that a note with a maturity of nine months or less is within it) or that any note is not within the antifraud provisions of the 1933 Act[18] has the 1138*1138 burden of showing that “the context otherwise requires.” (Emphasis supplied.) One can readily think of many cases where it does—the note delivered in consumer financing, the note secured by a mortgage on a home, the short-term note secured by a lien on a small business or some of its assets, the note evidencing a “character” loan to a bank customer, short-term notes secured by an assignment of accounts receivable, or a note which simply formalizes an open-account debt incurred in the ordinary course of business (particularly if, as in the case of the customer of a broker, it is collateralized). When a note does not bear a strong family resemblance to these examples and has a maturity exceeding nine months, § 10(b) of the 1934 Act should generally be held to apply.[19]
“See Exchange Nat. Bank, supra, at 1138 (types of notes that are not “securities” include “the note delivered in consumer financing, the note secured by a mortgage on a home, the short-term note secured by a lien on a small business or some of its assets, the note evidencing a `character’ loan to a bank customer, short-term notes secured by an assignment of accounts receivable, or a note which simply formalizes an open-account debt incurred in the ordinary course of business (particularly if, as in the case of the customer of a broker, it is collateralized)”);Chemical Bank, supra, at 939 (adding to list “notes evidencing loans by commercial banks for current operations”).”
For an explanation, read this first part of the Reves opinion.  The law does not always mean what it says.
494 U.S. 56 (1990)


No. 88-1480.Supreme Court of United States.

Argued November 27, 1989Decided February 21, 1990CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT58*58 John R. McCambridge argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs wereGary M. Elden, Jay R. Hoffman, and Robert R. Cloar.

Michael R. Lazerwitz argued the cause for the Securities and Exchange Commission asamicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Starr, Deputy Solicitor General Merrill, Daniel L. Goelzer, Paul Gonson, Jacob H. Stillman, Martha H. McNeely, Randall W. Quinn, and Eva Marie Carney.

John Matson argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Carl D. Liggio, Kathryn A. Oberly, and Fred Lovitch.[*]

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether certain demand notes issued by the Farmers Cooperative of Arkansas and Oklahoma (Co-Op) are “securities” within the meaning of § 3(a)(10) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. We conclude that they are.


The Co-Op is an agricultural cooperative that, at the time relevant here, had approximately 23,000 members. In order to raise money to support its general business operations, the Co-Op sold promissory notes payable on demand by the holder. Although the notes were uncollateralized and uninsured, they paid a variable rate of interest that was adjusted 59*59 monthly to keep it higher than the rate paid by local financial institutions. The Co-Op offered the notes to both members and nonmembers, marketing the scheme as an “Investment Program.” Advertisements for the notes, which appeared in each Co-Op newsletter, read in part: “YOUR CO-OP has more than $11,000,000 in assets to stand behind your investments. The Investment is not Federal[sic] insured but it is. . . Safe . . . Secure . . . and available when you need it.” App. 5 (ellipses in original). Despite these assurances, the Co-Op filed for bankruptcy in 1984. At the time of the filing, over 1,600 people held notes worth a total of $10 million.

After the Co-Op filed for bankruptcy, petitioners, a class of holders of the notes, filed suit against Arthur Young & Co., the firm that had audited the Co-Op’s financial statements (and the predecessor to respondent Ernst & Young). Petitioners alleged, inter alia, that Arthur Young had intentionally failed to follow generally accepted accounting principles in its audit, specifically with respect to the valuation of one of the Co-Op’s major assets, a gasohol plant. Petitioners claimed that Arthur Young violated these principles in an effort to inflate the assets and net worth of the Co-Op. Petitioners maintained that, had Arthur Young properly treated the plant in its audits, they would not have purchased demand notes because the Co-Op’s insolvency would have been apparent. On the basis of these allegations, petitioners claimed that Arthur Young had violated the antifraud provisions of the 1934 Act as well as Arkansas’ securities laws.

Petitioners prevailed at trial on both their federal and state claims, receiving a $6.1 million judgment. Arthur Young appealed, claiming that the demand notes were not “securities” under either the 1934 Act or Arkansas law, and that the statutes’ antifraud provisions therefore did not apply. A panel of the Eighth Circuit, agreeing with Arthur Young on both the state and federal issues, reversed. Arthur Young & Co. v. Reves, 856 F. 2d 52 (1988). We granted certiorari to address 60*60 the federal issue, 490 U. S. 1105 (1989), and now reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.



This case requires us to decide whether the note issued by the Co-Op is a “security” within the meaning of the 1934 Act. Section 3(a)(10) of that Act is our starting point:

“The term `security’ means any note, stock, treasury stock, bond, debenture, certificate of interest or participation in any profit-sharing agreement or in any oil, gas, or other mineral royalty or lease, any collateral-trust certificate, preorganization certificate or subscription, transferable share, investment contract, voting-trust certificate, certificate of deposit, for a security, any put, call, straddle, option, or privilege on any security, certificate of deposit, or group or index of securities (including any interest therein or based on the value thereof), or any put, call, straddle, option, or privilege entered into on a national securities exchange relating to foreign currency, or in general, any instrument commonly known as a `security’; or any certificate of interest or participation in, temporary or interim certificate for, receipt for, or warrant or right to subscribe to or purchase, any of the foregoing; but shall not include currency or any note, draft, bill of exchange, or banker’s acceptance which has a maturity at the time of issuance of not exceeding nine months, exclusive of days of grace, or any renewal thereof the maturity of which is like-wise limited.” 48 Stat. 884, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 78c(a)(10).

The fundamental purpose undergirding the Securities Acts is “to eliminate serious abuses in a largely unregulated securities market.” United Housing Foundation, Inc. v.Forman, 421 U. S. 837, 849 (1975). In defining the scope of the market that it wished to regulate, Congress painted with a broad brush. It recognized the virtually limitless scope of 61*61 human ingenuity, especially in the creation of “countless and variable schemes devised by those who seek the use of the money of others on the promise of profits,”SEC v. W. J. Howey Co., 328 U. S. 293, 299 (1946), and determined that the best way to achieve its goal of protecting investors was “to define `the term “security” in sufficiently broad and general terms so as to include within that definition the many types of instruments that in our commercial world fall within the ordinary concept of a security.’ ” Forman, supra, at 847-848 (quoting H. R. Rep. No. 85, 73d Cong., 1st Sess., 11 (1933)). Congress therefore did not attempt precisely to cabin the scope of the Securities Acts.[1] Rather, it enacted a definition of “security” sufficiently broad to encompass virtually any instrument that might be sold as an investment.

Congress did not, however, “intend to provide a broad federal remedy for all fraud.”Marine Bank v. Weaver, 455 U. S. 551, 556 (1982). Accordingly, “[t]he task has fallen to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the body charged with administering the Securities Acts, and ultimately to the federal courts to decide which of the myriad financial transactions in our society come within the coverage of these statutes.”Forman, supra, at 848. In discharging our duty, we are not bound by legal formalisms, but instead take account of the economics of the transaction under investigation. See, e. g., Tcherepnin v. Knight, 389 U. S. 332, 336 (1967) (in interpreting the term “security,” “form should be disregarded for substance and the emphasis should be on economic reality”). Congress’ purpose in enacting the securities laws was to regulate investments,in whatever form they are made and by whatever name they are called.

62*62 A commitment to an examination of the economic realities of a transaction does not necessarily entail a case-by-case analysis of every instrument, however. Some instruments are obviously within the class Congress intended to regulate because they are by their nature investments. In Landreth Timber Co. v. Landreth, 471 U. S. 681 (1985), we held that an instrument bearing the name “stock” that, among other things, is negotiable, offers the possibility of capital appreciation, and carries the right to dividends contingent on the profits of a business enterprise is plainly within the class of instruments Congress intended the securities laws to cover. Landreth Timber does not signify a lack of concern with economic reality; rather, it signals a recognition that stock is, as a practical matter, always an investment if it has the economic characteristics traditionally associated with stock. Even if sparse exceptions to this generalization can be found, the public perception of common stock as the paradigm of a security suggests that stock, in whatever context it is sold, should be treated as within the ambit of the Acts. Id., at 687, 693.

We made clear in Landreth Timber that stock was a special case, explicitly limiting our holding to that sort of instrument. Id., at 694. Although we refused finally to rule out a similar per se rule for notes, we intimated that such a rule would be unjustified. Unlike “stock,” we said, ” `note’ may now be viewed as a relatively broad term that encompasses instruments with widely varying characteristics, depending on whether issued in a consumer context, as commercial paper, or in some other investment context.” Ibid. (citing Securities Industry Assn. v. Board of Governors of Federal Reserve System, 468 U. S. 137, 149-153 (1984)). While common stock is the quintessence of a security, Landreth Timber, supra, at 693, and investors therefore justifiably assume that a sale of stock is covered by the Securities Acts, the same simply cannot be said of notes, which are used in a variety of settings, not all of which involve investments. Thus,63*63 the phrase “any note” should not be interpreted to mean literally “any note,” but must be understood against the backdrop of what Congress was attempting to accomplish in enacting the Securities Acts.[2]

Because the Landreth Timber formula cannot sensibly be applied to notes, some other principle must be developed to define the term “note.” A majority of the Courts of Appeals that have considered the issue have adopted, in varying forms, “investment versus commercial” approaches that distinguish, on the basis of all of the circumstances surrounding the transactions, notes issued in an investment context (which are “securities”) from notes issued in a commercial or consumer context (which are not). See, e. g., Futura Development Corp. v. Centex Corp., 761 F. 2d 33, 40-41 (CA1 1985);McClure v. First Nat. Bank of Lubbock, Texas, 497 F. 2d 490, 492-494 (CA5 1974);Hunssinger v. Rockford Business Credits, Inc., 745 F. 2d 484, 488 (CA7 1984);Holloway v. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., 879 F. 2d 772, 778-779 (CA10 1989), cert. pending No. 89-532.

The Second Circuit’s “family resemblance” approach begins with a presumption that anynote with a term of more than nine months is a “security.” See, e. g., Exchange Nat. Bank of Chicago v. Touche Ross & Co., 544 F. 2d 1126, 1137 (CA2 1976). Recognizing that not all notes are securities, however, the Second Circuit has also devised a list of notes that it has decided are obviously not securities. Accordingly, 64*64 the “family resemblance” test permits an issuer to rebut the presumption that a note is a security if it can show that the note in question “bear[s] a strong family resemblance” to an item on the judicially crafted list of exceptions, id., at 1137-1138, or convinces the court to add a new instrument to the list, see, e. g., Chemical Bank v. Arthur Anderson & Co., 726 F. 2d 930, 939 (CA2 1984).

In contrast, the Eighth and District of Columbia Circuits apply the test we created in SECv. W. J. Howey Co., 328 U. S. 293 (1946), to determine whether an instrument is an “investment contract” to the determination whether an instrument is a “note.” Under this test, a note is a security only if it evidences “(1) an investment; (2) in a common enterprise; (3) with a reasonable expection of profits; (4) to be derived from the entrepreneurial or managerial efforts of others.” 856 F. 2d, at 54 (case below). Accord,Baurer v. Planning Group, Inc., 215 U. S. App. D. C. 384, 391-393, 669 F. 2d 770, 777-779 (1981). See also Underhill v. Royal, 769 F. 2d 1426, 1431 (CA9 1985) (setting forth what it terms a “risk capital” approach that is virtually identical to the Howey test).

We reject the approaches of those courts that have applied the Howey test to notes;Howey provides a mechanism for determining whether an instrument is an “investment contract.” The demand notes here may well not be “investment contracts,” but that does not mean they are not “notes.” To hold that a “note” is not a “security” unless it meets a test designed for an entirely different variety of instrument “would make the Acts’ enumeration of many types of instruments superfluous,” Landreth Timber, 471 U. S., at 692, and would be inconsistent with Congress’ intent to regulate the entire body of instruments sold as investments, see supra, at 60-62.

The other two contenders — the “family resemblance” and “investment versus commercial” tests — are really two ways of formulating the same general approach. Because we 65*65 think the “family resemblance” test provides a more promising framework for analysis, however, we adopt it. The test begins with the language of the statute; because the Securities Acts define “security” to include “any note,” we begin with a presumption that every note is a security.[3] We nonetheless recognize that this presumption cannot be irrebutable. As we have said, supra, at 61, Congress was concerned with regulating the investment market, not with creating a general federal cause of action for fraud. In an attempt to give more content to that dividing line, the Second Circuit has identified a list of instruments commonly denominated “notes” that nonetheless fall without the “security” category. See Exchange Nat. Bank, supra, at 1138 (types of notes that are not “securities” include “the note delivered in consumer financing, the note secured by a mortgage on a home, the short-term note secured by a lien on a small business or some of its assets, the note evidencing a `character’ loan to a bank customer, short-term notes secured by an assignment of accounts receivable, or a note which simply formalizes an open-account debt incurred in the ordinary course of business (particularly if, as in the case of the customer of a broker, it is collateralized)”);Chemical Bank, supra, at 939 (adding to list “notes evidencing loans by commercial banks for current operations”).

We agree that the items identified by the Second Circuit are not properly viewed as “securities.” More guidance, though, is needed. It is impossible to make any meaningful inquiry into whether an instrument bears a “resemblance” to 66*66 one of the instruments identified by the Second Circuit without specifying what it is about those instruments that makes them non-“securities.” Moreover, as the Second Circuit itself has noted, its list is “not graven in stone,” 726 F. 2d, at 939, and is therefore capable of expansion. Thus, some standards must be developed for determining when an item should be added to the list.

An examination of the list itself makes clear what those standards should be. In creating its list, the Second Circuit was applying the same factors that this Court has held apply in deciding whether a transaction involves a “security.” First, we examine the transaction to assess the motivations that would prompt a reasonable seller and buyer to enter into it. If the seller’s purpose is to raise money for the general use of a business enterprise or to finance substantial investments and the buyer is interested primarily in the profit the note is expected to generate, the instrument is likely to be a “security.” If the note is exchanged to facilitate the purchase and sale of a minor asset or consumer good, to correct for the seller’s cash-flow difficulties, or to advance some other commercial or consumer purpose, on the other hand, the note is less sensibly described as a “security.” See, e. g., Forman, 421 U. S., at 851 (share of “stock” carrying a right to subsidized housing not a security because “the inducement to purchase was solely to acquire subsidized low-cost living space; it was not to invest for profit”). Second, we examine the “plan of distribution” of the instrument, SEC v. C. M. Joiner Leasing Corp.,320 U. S. 344, 353 (1943), to determine whether it is an instrument in which there is “common trading for speculation or investment,” id., at 351. Third, we examine the reasonable expectations of the investing public: The Court will consider instruments to be “securities” on the basis of such public expectations, even where an economic analysis of the circumstances of the particular transaction might suggest that the instruments are not “securities” as used in that transaction. Compare Landreth Timber,471 67*67 U. S., at 687, 693 (relying on public expectations in holding that common stock is always a security), with id., at 697-700 (STEVENS, J., dissenting) (arguing that sale of business to single informed purchaser through stock is not within the purview of the Acts under the economic reality test). See also Forman, supra, at 851. Finally, we examine whether some factor such as the existence of another regulatory scheme significantly reduces the risk of the instrument, thereby rendering application of the Securities Acts unnecessary. See, e. g., Marine Bank, 455 U. S., at 557-559, and n. 7.

We conclude, then, that in determining whether an instrument denominated a “note” is a “security,” courts are to apply the version of the “family resemblance” test that we have articulated here: A note is presumed to be a “security,” and that presumption may be rebutted only by a showing that the note bears a strong resemblance (in terms of the four factors we have identified) to one of the enumerated categories of instrument. If an instrument is not sufficiently similar to an item on the list, the decision whether another category should be added is to be made by examining the same factors.

Bob Hurt, Concerned Bob Hurt         Blog 1 2  f  t  
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