Justia Banking Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
The Law Firm of Fox and Fox v. Chase Bank
The Law Firm of Fox and Fox (Law Firm) appealed from a judgment entered after the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Chase Bank, N.A. The Law Firm filed this action against Chase, alleging negligence in the disbursement of funds from a blocked account containing estate funds to the sole signatory on the account (as administrator of the estate), Jazzmen Brumfield (Brumfield). The trial court granted Chase’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Law Firm contends it raised triable issues of fact with respect to whether Chase owed a duty to the Law Firm, whether Chase breached any such duty, and whether Chase’s conduct in distributing the funds to Brumfield (who absconded with the funds) was the proximate cause of the Law Firm’s damages. The Second Appellate District reversed. The court concluded Chase owed the Law Firm a duty of care based on the special relationship it had with the Law Firm as an intended beneficiary of the probate court’s order directing that the estate funds be deposited into a blocked account from which withdrawals could only be made “on court order” and Chase’s acceptance of that order by executing the “receipt and acknowledgment of order for the deposit of money into blocked account.” The court explained that although banks do not generally have a duty to police customer accounts for suspicious activity, Chase owed the Law Firm, as an intended beneficiary of the blocked account order and acknowledgment, a duty to act with reasonable care in limiting distributions from the blocked account to those authorized by court order. View "The Law Firm of Fox and Fox v. Chase Bank" on Justia Law
Gray v. La Salle Bank
Plaintiffs purchased a residence and obtained a $1 million loan, memorialized by a note secured by a deed of trust. Years later, the property was sold through a nonjudicial foreclosure. Plaintiffs, after two prior federal suits were dismissed without prejudice, filed this state lawsuit for wrongful foreclosure, against the Buyers, and Lenders. Lenders successfully argued the action was barred by res judicata (claim preclusion), based on those dismissals; under Federal Rule 41(a)(1)(B), the “two dismissal rule,” the dismissal of the second federal suit was “an adjudication on the merits.”The court of appeal concluded the voluntary dismissal of the second federal lawsuit was not a final “adjudication on the merits” that barred the filing of this case in state court. The two-dismissal rule of Rule 41(a)(1)(B) applies when there is a voluntary dismissal in state or federal court, a second voluntary dismissal in federal court, and the subsequent filing of an action in the same federal court where the second suit was dismissed. Under California law, a plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal without prejudice of a prior action is not a final judgment on the merits that bars a subsequent suit. California does not prohibit a plaintiff from filing dismissals without prejudice in successive actions. The rule is inapplicable to this state court lawsuit alleging only state-law claims. The court nonetheless affirmed, concluding that the challenges to the foreclosure lack merit. View "Gray v. La Salle Bank" on Justia Law
Shetty v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A.
Plaintiff Niki-Alexander Shetty purchased a home that had been foreclosed upon by a homeowners association. The home, however, was still subject to a defaulted mortgage and deed of trust between the bank and the original borrower. Defendants, the bank and mortgage servicer, recorded a notice of default and scheduled a foreclosure sale. Shetty sought to cure the default and resume regular payments on the loan. Defendants, however, refused, insisting that, as a stranger to the loan, he was not entitled to reinstate it. Shetty sued for wrongful foreclosure, arguing he had the right to reinstate the loan pursuant to California Civil Code section 2924c. The trial court sustained a demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that Shetty did not have standing under the statute. The Court of Appeal disagreed with that interpretation of the statute and reversed the judgment as to all defendants except Mortgage Electronic Registration Services, Inc. (MERS), whom Shetty conceded had no liability. View "Shetty v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law
Edelweiss Fund LLC v. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Edelweiss brought a qui tam action against financial institutions (California False Claims Act (Gov. Code 12650) (CFCA)), alleging that the defendants contracted to serve as remarketing agents (RMAs) to manage California variable rate demand obligations (VRDOs): tax-exempt municipal bonds with interest rates periodically reset by RMAs. Edelweiss claims that the defendants submitted false claims for payment for these remarketing services, knowing they had failed their obligation to reset the interest rate at the lowest possible rate that would enable them to sell the series at par (face value), and “engaged in a coordinated ‘Robo-Resetting’ scheme where they mechanically set the rates en masse without any consideration of the individual characteristics of the bonds or the associated market conditions or investor demand” and “impose[d] artificially high interest rates on California VRDOs.” Edelweiss alleged that it performed a forensic analysis of rate resetting during a four-year period and that former employees of the defendants “stated and corroborated” this robo-resetting scheme.The trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the allegations lacked particularized allegations about how the defendants set their VRDO rates and did not support a reasonable inference that the observed conditions were caused by fraud, rather than other factors.The court of appeal reversed. While allegations of a CFCA claim must be pleaded with particularity, the court required too much to satisfy this standard. The court rejected an alternative argument that Edelweiss’s claims are foreclosed by CFCA’s public disclosure bar. View "Edelweiss Fund LLC v. JPMorgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law
E-Commerce Lighting, Inc. v. E-Commerce Trade LLC
An arbitrator determined that a borrower and lender were liable to each other for similar amounts, each roughly two and a half million dollars. He then offset the awards against each other, resolving the disputed issue of whether a setoff was proper. A bank, however, had also lent money to the borrower. The bank was not a party to the arbitration, but believed the setoff effectively circumvented the agreement among it, the borrower, and the other lender that the bank’s loan had priority and would be paid back first. Instead of being offset against the other lender’s award, the bank believed, the borrower’s award should have gone toward satisfying the bank’s loan. It thus convinced the trial court to correct the arbitrator’s award by eliminating the setoff. The Court of Appeal held that on the facts presented, the correction affected the merits of the arbitrator’s decision. Accordingly, the correction was improper, and the Court reversed. View "E-Commerce Lighting, Inc. v. E-Commerce Trade LLC" on Justia Law
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Superior Court
A qui tam plaintiff alleged that two banks violated the California False Claims Act (CFCA) by failing to report and deliver millions of dollars owing on unclaimed cashier’s checks to the State of California as escheated property. The trial court denied the banks’ motions to dismiss. The banks sought writ relief.The court of appeal denied relief, upholding the denial of the motions to dismiss. The court rejected the banks’ argument that a qui tam plaintiff may not pursue a CFCA action predicated on a failure to report and deliver escheated property unless the California State Controller first provides appropriate notice to the banks under Code of Civil Procedure section 1576. For pleading purposes, the complaints adequately allege the existence of an obligation as required under the CFCA: the plaintiff adequately alleged that the banks were obligated to report and deliver to California the money owed on unredeemed cashier’s checks, Allowing this action to proceed does not violate the banks’ due process rights. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Young v. Midland Funding, LLC
Young claims her employer told her that it had received a wage garnishment order in 2019. Young then discovered the existence of a 2010 default judgment against her, in favor of Midland, for a purported debt of $8,529.93 plus interest. Young sued to set aside the 2010 default judgment, based on extrinsic mistake or fraud. She sought damages, penalties, and reasonable attorney fees and costs under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Civ. Code, 1788), arguing that Midland was a debt collector of consumer debt and had engaged in false and deceptive conduct in attempting to collect that debt, citing her contention that she was never served with process. Midland denied Young’s allegations, asserted affirmative defenses, and filed an anti-SLAPP motion (section 425.16) to strike Young’s claims.The trial court granted the anti-SLAPP motions, finding Young did not show she would probably prevail on the merits of her claims and awarded Midland attorney fees and costs. The court of appeal vacated. Young showed she would probably prevail on the merits of her Rosenthal Act claim, producing prima facie evidence that Midland falsely represented substituted service on her was accomplished. She was not required to show that Midland knowingly made this false representation. Young’s Rosenthal Act cause of action was not time-barred. View "Young v. Midland Funding, LLC" on Justia Law
Honchariw v. FJM Private Mortgage Fund, LLC
Borrower took out a $5.6 million dollar bridge loan, with 8.5% interest per annum, secured by a deed of trust on real property. They defaulted on a monthly payment of $39,667, triggering late fee provisions: a one-time 10% fee assessed against the overdue payment ($3,967) and a default interest charge of 9.99% per annum assessed against the total unpaid principal balance. Borrower filed a demand for arbitration, alleging the loan was in violation of Business & Professions Code 10240 and the late fee was an unlawful penalty in violation of section 1671. The arbitrator rejected both claims and denied the demand for arbitration. Borrower petitioned to vacate the decision, arguing that the arbitrator exceeded their authority by denying claims in violation of “nonwaivable statutory rights and/or contravention of explicit legislative expressions of public policy.”The court of appeal reversed the denial of that petition. The trial court erroneously failed to vacate an award that constitutes an unlawful penalty in contravention of public policy set forth in section 1671. Liquidated damages in the form of a penalty assessed during the lifetime of a partially matured note against the entire outstanding loan amount are unlawful penalties. There is no precedent upholding a liquidated damages provision where a borrower missed a single installment and then was penalized pursuant to such a provision. View "Honchariw v. FJM Private Mortgage Fund, LLC" on Justia Law
Morris v. JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A.
In 2008, Morris defaulted on her home mortgage. After negotiating a loan modification, she again defaulted in 2009. Morris and her husband, Mazhari, then filed two bankruptcy proceedings. Mazhari died while the second bankruptcy was pending. Morris unsuccessfully tried to obtain another loan modification. Following the 2016 lifting of the automatic stay in her third bankruptcy, Morris’s home was sold at public auction to Chase, the deed of trust beneficiary and successor to the original lender. Morris claims that the trustee’s sale occurred without notice to her because Chase and then Rushmore, the loan servicer, pursued foreclosure secretly while giving her false assurances that loan modification terms were forthcoming and shuttling her between uninformed representatives who gave her inconsistent information about her modification request.Morris sought post-foreclosure relief, including damages, an order setting aside the trustee’s sale, and a declaration quieting title under the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR) (Civ. Code 2923.6, 2923.7) and other theories. In 2018, the trial court dismissed all claims. After another delay occasioned by another bankruptcy, Morris appealed. The court of appeal reversed in part, with respect to claims alleging failure to appoint a single point of contact (HBOR 2923.7), dual tracking (2923.6), and failure to mail upon request a notice of default and notice of trustee’s sale 2924b). The court otherwise affirmed. View "Morris v. JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A." on Justia Law
Goodwin v. Comerica Bank, N.A.
Plaintiff appeals two concurrent orders denying his petition to confirm an arbitration award and granting Comerica Bank's petition to vacate the award on the ground that the arbitrator made a material omission or misrepresentation in his disclosure of prior cases involving the parties' lawyers.The Court of Appeal concluded that, because the bank failed to seek the arbitrator's disqualification within 15 days of discovering the facts requiring disqualification and before the arbitrator decided the pending fee motion, it forfeited the right to demand disqualification. Accordingly, the court reversed the order vacating the award based on the arbitrator's disqualification. Because the bank identified no other grounds for denying the petition to confirm the award, the court granted that petition. View "Goodwin v. Comerica Bank, N.A." on Justia Law