Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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This case arose from an allegedly forged home-equity loan. Plaintiff sued the lenders, bringing several claims, including statutory fraud and violations of the Texas Finance Code and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the lenders without stating its reasons. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the court of appeals (1) properly affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s constitutional forfeiture claim; and (2) erred in holding that Plaintiff’s remaining claims were barred on statute of limitations and waiver grounds. View "Kyle v. Strasburger" on Justia Law

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In 2004, the Woods obtained a $76,000 home-equity loan secured by their homestead. Nearly eight years later, the Woods notified the note holder, HSBC, and loan servicer, Ocwen that the loan did not comply with the Texas Constitution because the closing fees exceeded 3% of the loan amount. Neither of the lenders attempted to cure the alleged defects. In 2012, the Woods sued, seeking to quiet title and asserting claims for constitutional violations, breach of contract, fraud, and a declaratory judgment that the lien securing the home-equity loan is void, that all principal and interest paid must be forfeited, and that the Woods have no further obligation to pay. The trial court granted the lenders summary judgment and the court of appeals affirmed, citing the statute of limitations. The Texas Supreme Court reversed in part.“No . . . lien on the homestead shall ever be valid unless it secures a debt described by this section[.]” TEX. CONST. art. XVI, § 50(c). This language is clear, unequivocal, and binding. Liens securing constitutionally noncompliant home-equity loans are invalid until cured and thus not subject to any statute of limitations. The Woods do not, however, have a cognizable claim for forfeiture. View "Wood v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law

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Garofolo took out a $159,700 home-equity loan. She made timely payments and paid off the loan in, 2014. Ocwen had become the note’s holder. A release of lien was promptly recorded in Travis County, but Garofolo did not receive a release of lien in recordable form as required by her loan’s terms. Garofolo notified Ocwen she had not received the document. Upon passage of 60 days following that notification, and still without the release, Garofolo sued, alleging violation of the home-equity lending provisions of the Texas Constitution and breach of contract. She sought forfeiture of all principal and interest paid on the loan. The federal district court dismissed. The Fifth Circuit certified questions of law to the Texas Supreme Court, which responded that the constitution lays out the terms and conditions a home equity loan must include if the lender wishes to foreclose on a homestead following borrower default, but does not create a constitutional cause of action or remedy for a lender’s breach of those conditions. A post-origination breach of terms and conditions may give rise to a breach-of-contract claim for which forfeiture can sometimes be an appropriate remedy. When forfeiture is unavailable, the borrower must show actual damages or seek some other remedy such as specific performance. View "Garofolo v. Ocwen Loan Serv., L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Lorene and Harley Walter owned a certificate of deposit account with Bank of America. The account was a survivorship account and a payable-on-death account. After Harley died and while Lorene was still alive, the Bank distributed the funds in the account to Dwight Eisenhauer and Jo Ann Day, the named beneficiaries on the account, in equal sums. The Bank violated its deposit agreement with the Walters in doing so because these payments were made before Harley’s death. Eisenhauer, using his power of attorney, deposited his check into an account in Lorene’s name, making himself beneficiary upon her death. After Lorene died, Eisenhauer, as the independent executor of Lorene’s estate, sued the Bank for breach of the deposit agreement. The jury found that the Bank had failed to comply with the agreement but that the estate suffered no damages. The trial court subsequently granted judgment for Eisenhauer notwithstanding the jury’s verdict and rendered judgment for the amount that had been distributed to Day, plus interest, costs, and attorney fees. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict to Eisenhauer, as the evidence supported the jury’s finding that the estate suffered no damages. View "Bank of America, N.A. v. Eisenhauer" on Justia Law