Justia Banking Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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TD Bank, National Association and TD Bank US Holding Company (collectively, "TD Bank") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the circuit court to dismiss claims filed against them by Bolaji Kukoyi and Dynamic Civil Solutions, Inc., on the basis of a lack of personal jurisdiction. In January 2017, Kukoyi retained Jessyca McKnight, a real-estate agent and broker employed with A Prime Location, Inc., d/b/a A Prime Real Estate Location ("Prime"), to assist him in purchasing a house. Kukoyi made an offer on a house, the offer was accepted, and the closing was scheduled to take place at attorney David Condon's office in Birmingham. Before the closing date, McKnight and Prime received an e-mail purportedly from Condon's paralegal instructing Kukoyi to wire funds for the closing costs one week before the closing date to an account at a TD Bank location in Florida. According to Kukoyi, he questioned the instructions but was assured by McKnight and Prime that wiring the funds was necessary for the closing to go forward. Kukoyi initiated a wire transfer in the amount of $125,652.74 from an account he owned jointly with Dynamic Civil Solutions with ServisFirst Bank ("ServisFirst") to the account at TD Bank as instructed in the e-mail McKnight and Prime had forwarded to Kukoyi. Unbeknownst to plaintiffs, the account to which Kukoyi wired the funds had been opened by a company known as Ozoria Global, Inc. ServisFirst discovered that the wire transfer was fraudulent and had not been completely processed. Kukoyi requested that ServisFirst put a stop-payment on the wire transfer, and ServisFirst advised TD Bank that the transfer had been fraudulent and requested that TD Bank reverse the transfer. In late 2017, plaintiffs sued, asserting various causes of action against TD Bank and other defendants in relation to the wire transfer. By March 2019, TD Bank filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. The Alabama Supreme Court determined TD Bank demonstrated that it had a clear legal right to mandamus relief, and granted the writ. The trial court was directed to grant TD Bank's motion to dismiss. View "Ex parte TD Bank US Holding Company" on Justia Law

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Brad Dupree sued PeoplesSouth Bank ("PeoplesSouth"), alleging that PeoplesSouth wrongfully gave the proceeds of a $100,000 certificate of deposit to his father, not him. Jimmy Dupree was Brad's father. In 1993, Jimmy opened the CD at issue here; it was issued in both Brad's and Jimmie's names. Handwritten edits on the CD later reversed the order of the names to "Jimmy Dupree and Brad Dupree" and also replaced Brad's taxpayer ID number with Jimmy's taxpayer ID number. A handwritten note, dated December 1993 on the back of the CD stated "changed order of names to report interest under Jimmy's SS#." No evidence was offered as to who made the handwritten changes, and they were not initialed by either Jimmy or Brad. Brad was a minor at the time the CD was issued and did not contribute any money to the purchase of the CD. In November 2010, before filing this case, Brad, his mother, and his stepbrother sued Jimmy alleging Jimmy had wrongfully converted certain personal property, including the CD. In 2012, while the 2010 action was pending, Jimmy cashed the CD without notifying Brad. PeoplesSouth issued a cashier's check payable to the order of "Jimmy Dupree or Brad Dupree" for the amount of the CD less amounts set off by PeoplesSouth related to Jimmy's business loan. Jimmy cashed the check and then spent the funds. Brad learned during mediation of the 2010 action that Jimmy had cashed in the CD and was advised by the mediator to sue PeoplesSouth. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the bank. Brad appealed, arguing he should have won on his breach-of-contract claim and awarded $100,000 in damages. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that without any rights in the CD by virtue of an inter vivos gift, Brad could not show he was damaged by PeoplesSouth's alleged nonperformance, and he was therefore unable to prevail on his breach-of-contract claim. Judgment in favor of the bank was affirmed. View "Brad Dupree v. PeoplesSouth Bank" on Justia Law

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Pentagon Federal Credit Union ("PenFed") appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Susan McMahan. McMahan and her husband purchased property in Loxley, Alabama in 2005. The purchase mortgage was provided by Wells Fargo bank, and a second mortgage was granted in favor of PenFed. In pertinent part, the PenFed mortgage stated "At no time shall this mortgage, not including sums advanced to protect the security of this mortgage, exceed $55,000.00. ... [PenFed] shall be subrogated to the rights of the holder of any previous lien, security interest, or encumbrance discharged with funds advanced by [PenFed] regardless of whether these liens, security interests or other encumbrances have been released of record." In 2014, the McMahans filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, listing both the Wells Fargo and PenFed mortgages. Both Wells Fargo and PenFed ultimately foreclosed on the mortgages. The McMahans' bankruptcy case was dismissed in late 2015. The Wells Fargo debt/lien and the PenFed debt were not discharged in the bankruptcy proceedings. PenFed filed suit against Wells Fargo to quiet title as the first lien holder to the McMahan property by virtue of the PenFed mortgage, the foreclosure deed, and the erroneous legal description in the Wells Fargo mortgage. PenFed did not notify or make McMahan a party to that lawsuit. That lawsuit was never tried to conclusion but was settled, and PenFed paid Wells Fargo $91,256.54 to satisfy the [Wells Fargo] note and in exchange for a cancellation and release of the Wells Fargo mortgage. PenFed did not acquire the right to enforce the Wells Fargo note and/or mortgage. Within one year of the foreclosure, PenFed sold the property, leaving the McMahans with a deficiency balance of $14,433.41. PenFed's calculation of the post-foreclosure-sale surplus proceeds excluded the $91,256.54 that PenFed paid to Wells Fargo to satisfy the Wells Fargo note and cancel the Wells Fargo mortgage. In 2018, McMahan sued PenFed, alleging PenFed's sale of the property to third-party purchasers created excess proceeds greater than what PenFed was entitled to received under the original note. The circuit court concluded PenFed could not exclude the surplus proceeds it paid to Wells Fargo to settle the Wells Fargo mortgage. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred in characterizing the doctrine of unjust enrichment as an affirmative defense. Accordingly, PenFed did not waive the defense of unjust enrichment by failing to plead it in its responsive pleadings. Instead, PenFed raised the argument to the circuit court at trial and in its trial brief; the argument was properly before the circuit court. Judgment was reversed for further consideration of the merits of PenFed's unjust-enrichment argument. View "Pentagon Federal Credit Union v. McMahan" on Justia Law

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Deutsche Bank National Trust Company sought to appeal a circuit court order in a foreclosure action it brought against Dortha and Randy Karr. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the order appealed from was not a final judgment, thus it dismissed the Bank's appeal. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Company v. Karr" on Justia Law

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Patricia Devine sued to invalidate a foreclosure sale that divested her interest in a property located in Elberta, Alabama. The trial court explained that the foreclosure was lawful and that Devine's lawsuit was, in any event, barred by the statute of limitations and precluded by the doctrine of res judicata. Devine insisted on appeal that the foreclosure was illegal and therefore void, but the Alabama Supreme Court found she failed to address the trial court's application of the statute of limitations and the doctrine of res judicata. The trial court was therefore affirmed. View "Devine v. Bank of New York Mellon Company" on Justia Law

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Five Star Credit Union ("Five Star") attempted for over a decade to collect a debt owed by William Elliott. Five Star obtained a judgment against Elliott in 2011, but he never paid. In 2017, Five Star sought to garnish Elliott's wages by filing a process of garnishment against Elliott's employer, The Elliott Law Group, P.A. ("ELG"), a law firm under Elliott's complete control. ELG opposed the process of garnishment. Following a hearing, the trial court found that the assertions in ELG's opposition were untrue and ordered that Elliott's income from ELG be garnished. Elliott and ELG appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the appellants' arguments lacked merit, and affirmed the trial court. View "Elliott Law Firm Group, P.A. v. Five Star Credit Union" on Justia Law

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Deutsche Bank National Trust Company ("Deutsche Bank"); MERSCORP, Inc., and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (collectively, "MERS"); and CIS Financial Services, Inc. ("CIS"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for permission, pursuant to Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P., to appeal the trial court's denial of their motions seeking to dismiss the claims of the plaintiffs-- Walker County and Rick Allison, in his official capacity as judge of probate of Walker County (collectively, "plaintiffs")--seeking class-based relief on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated Alabama counties and judges of probate. At issue was a particular aspect of the mortgage-securitization process. Deutsche Bank served as trustee for numerous residential mortgage-backed security ("RMBS") trusts containing mortgages for properties located in Walker County and other Alabama counties. In this case, plaintiffs initiated the underlying litigation against Deutsche Bank "seeking to recover the benefit [Deutsche Bank allegedly] received by relying on the real property recording systems of the Counties without compensating the Counties for that benefit." Plaintiffs alleged that Alabama law requires mortgage assignments to be recorded; therefore, they maintained, the MERS system used by Deutsche Bank avoided the proper recording of mortgage assignments, along with the payment of the requisite filing fees, and has resulted in lost income to county governments. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court and remanded: “We see no intent in the Code section to embrace a mandatory rule that all conveyances, which would include not only real-property conveyances but also apparently all conveyances of personal property, are required to be recorded in the probate court. Instead, 35-4-50 simply states that the probate court is where conveyances that are required by law to be filed must be filed. Section 35-4-51, in turn, is the Code section that provides for the recording of conveyances generally, and it places a duty on only the probate court to accept those filings. The arguments before us demonstrate no legal duty to record mortgage assignments.” View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as trustee of any specific residential mortgage-backed security" on Justia Law

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SE Property Holdings, LLC ("SEPH") appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Bank of Franklin ("BOF") on BOF's claim demanding specific performance of a contractual provision. In March 2005, Vision Bank, a Florida company, loaned Bama Bayou, LLC, formally known as Riverwalk, LLC ("the borrower"), $6,000,000. Multiple individuals allegedly personally guaranteed repayment of the loan ("the guarantors"). In June 2008, pursuant to a "participation agreement," Vision Bank conveyed to BOF a 25 percent interest in the loan. Vision Bank conveyed additional participation interests in the loan to other banks. The borrower and the guarantors allegedly defaulted on their obligations with respect to the loan, and in January 2009 Vision Bank filed suit against them. The borrower and the guarantors asserted counterclaims against Vision Bank and brought BOF into the action as an additional counterclaim defendant. In April 2009, Vision Bank foreclosed on a mortgage securing the loan. Vision Bank was the highest bidder at the foreclosure sale and thereafter executed foreclosure deeds in favor of BOF and the other participating banks. In 2012, Vision Bank sold its operating assets to Centennial Bank and relinquished its Florida bank charter. Vision Bank and SEPH entered into an "agreement and plan of merger," whereby Vision Bank merged "with and into" SEPH. In October 2016, the trial court entered an order setting aside the foreclosure sale and declaring the foreclosure deeds void. Among other things, BOF asserted in its cross-claim that SEPH had an obligation to repurchase BOF's participation interest in the loan. In support, BOF pointed to the participation agreement between BOF and SEPH's predecessor, Vision Bank. The court granted BOF's motion for summary judgment on its claim for specific performance based on the participation agreement. SEPH argued on appeal that the trial court erred in determining that a "proceeding" involving Vision Bank's termination of existence was "commenced," so as to invoke the contractual provision; it asserted Vision Bank's voluntary merger with SEPH was not a "proceeding." The participation agreement in this case stated that BOF's participation interest was conveyed without recourse, but the contract provision provided BOF at least some security in the form of a right to force the repurchase of its participation interest in the event of the financial deterioration of the originating bank, i.e., Vision Bank. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the voluntary merger like the one entered into by Vision Bank and SEPH is not a "proceeding" as that term is used in the participation agreement, and reversed the trial court's judgment ordering SEPH to purchase BOF's participation interest. View "SE Property Holdings, LLC, f/k/a Vision Bank v. Bank of Franklin" on Justia Law

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GHB Construction and Development Company, Inc. ("GHB"), sued West Alabama Bank and Trust ("WABT") seeking a judgment declaring that its materialman's lien against property owned by Penny Guin was superior to WABT's mortgage lien secured by the same property owned by Guin. Upon motion by WABT, the circuit court dismissed GHB's complaint. In reversing the circuit court, the Alabama Supreme Court found WABT's argument was based on authority that assumed that a mortgage lien was properly created before the creation of a materialman's lien; the issue then became whether future advances issued subsequent to the creation of the materialman's lien related back to the priority date of the mortgage lien.Because WABT's mortgage lien was created after GHB's materialman's lien, WABT's mortgage lien never had priority over GHB's materialman's lien. The earliest date the future advances issued by WABT to Guin could relate back to was October 16, 2015, the date of the first advance to Guin. "Even if WABT is correct in arguing that the advances made to Guin relate back to the date the mortgage lien was created, based on the allegations of the complaint, it is possible for GHB to prove that its materialman's lien was created before WABT's mortgage lien. Accordingly, we need not analyze WABT's argument; the authority relied upon by WABT is distinguishable from the present case." The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "GHB Construction and Development Company, Inc. v. West Alabama Bank and Trust" on Justia Law

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EvaBank appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Traditions Bank, TBX Title, Inc., and Terry Williams. In 2013, EvaBank customers William Michael Robertson and Connie Robertson, entered into a purchase agreement with Terry Williams, pursuant to which Williams agreed to purchase the Robertsons' property located on County Road 35 in Hanceville ("the property"). EvaBank held two mortgages on the property. Williams financed his purchase through Traditions Bank. TBX Title, a Traditions Bank subsidiary, acted as the closing agent for the real-estate transaction. EvaBank faxed Traditions Bank the payoff statement for the wrong EvaBank customer, Michael Roberson, with an address in Moulton, Alabama. TBX Title closed the real-estate transaction between the Robertsons and Williams. Traditions Bank thereafter delivered a check to EvaBank; EvaBank accepted and negotiated the check and applied the proceeds to the loan of Michael Roberson. TBX Title wired the net sales proceeds from the closing to the Robertsons. TBX Title recorded the warranty deed and mortgage and mailed the deed to Williams. When EvaBank contacted William Robertson about his loan being past due; Robertson responded that the loan should have been paid off at the closing with the proceeds from the sale. EvaBank learned at this point that there was a problem with the payoff statement it had provided. EvaBank sent Traditions Bank an e-mail explaining its mistake and noting that it had made a demand upon William Michael Robertson to pay the remaining balance due on the EvaBank mortgages but that Robertson had refused. Accordingly, EvaBank informed Traditions Bank that it would not release it mortgages encumbering the Robertsons' property until the balance on the loan they were securing had been fully satisfied. Traditions Bank sued EvaBank, asserting a claim of slander of title and seeking a judgment declaring that it was the first lienholder on the property. All parties moved for a summary judgment. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Traditions Bank and TBX Title, on the basis of equitable estoppel, on the claims involving those parties and dismissed all other claims. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that Traditions Bank and TBX Title were on notice of one or more discrepancies between the payoff statement and the closing documents, which, through the exercise of due diligence, would have revealed the fact that the payoff statement was not for the loan secured by the Evabank mortgages encumbering the property being sold by the Robertsons. Therefore, the Court concluded as a matter of law, that Traditions Bank and TBX Title's reliance on the payoff statement, without further inquiry, was not reasonable. Accordingly, they could not rely on estoppel as a basis on which to claim a priority interest in the property. View "Evabank v. Traditions Bank, et al." on Justia Law