Houpt v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA

Charles and Gail Houpt appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Wells Fargo Bank and First American Title Company (FATCO). In March 1993, the Houpts executed a promissory note to the American Bank of Commerce (Note). As security on the Note, the Houpts granted a deed of trust in the Property to American Bank of Commerce, as beneficiary, and FATCO, as Trustee (Deed of Trust). Over a period of time spanning from 1994 to 2004, American Bank of Commerce went through a series of mergers and transactions that resulted in Wells Fargo Bank obtaining the obligation owing under the Note and secured by the Deed of Trust. However, a written assignment of the Note and Deed of Trust designating Wells Fargo Bank as the beneficiary of such was not filed during this time. Starting in November 2007, the Houpts failed to make numerous payments on the Note and ceased all payments by the end of 2009. Consequently, Wells Fargo Bank directed FATCO to foreclose on the Property and on October 18, 2010, FATCO filed a Notice of Trustee’s Sale listing American Bank of Commerce as the current beneficiary and setting the date of the sale for February 17, 2011. The day before the scheduled trustee’s sale, the Houpts filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A year later Wells Fargo Bank was granted stay relief by the bankruptcy court and resumed foreclosure on the Property. The Houpts filed a Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction stating that: (1) Wells Fargo Bank was not the beneficiary or other real party in interest of the Deed of Trust, and as such, Wells Fargo improperly initiated a nonjudicial foreclosure; (2) the district court should grant a preliminary injunction to stop the foreclosure sale; and (3) Wells Fargo’s actions constituted wrongful foreclosure. Wells Fargo denied all claims made and argued that Wells Fargo Bank was the beneficiary of the Deed of Trust through merger and consolidation and, therefore, was exempted from having to record a written assignment of the Deed of Trust prior to exercising its power of sale. Notwithstanding this argument, Wells Fargo Bank obtained a written assignment of the Note and Deed of Trust from Wells Fargo Northwest on August 24, 2012, and recorded the assignment in 2012. The district court, noting that Wells Fargo had recorded its assignment of the Deed of Trust, denied the Houpts’ motion for preliminary injunction but left open the possibility that Wells Fargo had committed a wrongful foreclosure. Ultimately, the district court found that because no foreclosure sale had occurred, Wells Fargo was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. After denying Houpts’ request for reconsideration, the district court entered judgment in favor of Wells Fargo and awarded attorney fees and costs. The Houpts appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Wells Fargo, but remanded for a determination of what effect, if any, a SBA payment and the date of default had on the interest and balance due under the Note. Further, the Court vacated the district court’s grant of attorney fees and costs and remanded for a determination of costs and fees with specific instruction to exclude all costs and fees incurred by Wells Fargo before September 4, 2012. View "Houpt v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA" on Justia Law