Bank of New York Mellon v. Corradetti, 020421 NJSC, A-81-19

Docket NºA-81-19
Opinion JudgePER CURIAM
Party NameThe Bank of New York Mellon, f/k/a The Bank of New York, as Trustee (CWALT2006-36T2), Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Marianne Corradetti and Anthony Corradetti, h/w, Defendants-Respondents, and State of New Jersey, Defendant.
AttorneyMichael R. O'Donnell argued the cause for appellant (Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti and KML Law Group, attorneys; Michael R. O'Donnell, of counsel, and Ronald Z. Ahrens, on the briefs). Randolph C. Lafferty argued the cause for respondents (Cooper Levenson, attorneys; Jennifer B. Barr, on...
Judge PanelPER CURIAM CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, ALBIN, FERNANDEZ-VINA, SOLOMON, and PIERRE-LOUIS join in this opinion. JUSTICE PATTERSON did not participate. CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, ALBIN, FERNANDEZ-VINA, SOLOMON, and PIERRE-LOUIS join in this opinion. JUSTICE PATTERS...
Case DateFebruary 04, 2021
CourtSupreme Court of New Jersey

The Bank of New York Mellon, f/k/a The Bank of New York, as Trustee (CWALT2006-36T2), Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Marianne Corradetti and Anthony Corradetti, h/w, Defendants-Respondents,

and

State of New Jersey, Defendant.

No. A-81-19

Supreme Court of New Jersey

February 4, 2021

Argued January 5, 2021

On appeal from and certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at ___ N.J.Super. ___ (App. Div. 2020).

Michael R. O'Donnell argued the cause for appellant (Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti and KML Law Group, attorneys; Michael R. O'Donnell, of counsel, and Ronald Z. Ahrens, on the briefs).

Randolph C. Lafferty argued the cause for respondents (Cooper Levenson, attorneys; Jennifer B. Barr, on the briefs).

PER CURIAM

In this appeal, the Court considers the trial court's determination that a note, mortgage, and HUD-1 Settlement Statement -- which together reflected a $1, 779, 000 mortgage loan on the Ocean City property of defendants Anthony and Marianne Corradetti -- were invalid because the defendants' signatures were forged.

Plaintiff Bank of New York Mellon filed a foreclosure complaint against defendants in 2014, claiming the Corradettis had been in default on the $1, 779, 000 mortgage loan they had received from plaintiff's predecessor in interest, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (Countrywide) since April 2009.

In opposition, defendants claimed that the mortgage documents plaintiff presented were forged: The documents were purportedly signed, and the mortgage was notarized, on September 25, 2006 -- although the HUD-1 form states it was "Printed on 09/26/2006 at 15:52." Defendants produced proof that they were in Croatia on that day and did not return to the United States until September 26, 2006; they thus could not have signed the documents on September 25.

In October and November 2006, two mortgages on defendants' properties were fully satisfied for $407, 000 and $1, 352, 059.25, respectively. Defendants admitted the HUD-1 "reflects" that proceeds from the disputed loan were "allegedly used" to satisfy those earlier loans, as well as back taxes, but they denied signing the HUD-1 or being aware of any payment made by Countrywide to the holders of those earlier mortgages. At the bench trial, Marianne Corradetti testified that she was aware of the larger of the two earlier mortgages but had no knowledge as to how it was paid. She denied making any of the 29 payments on the Countrywide loan that were made between 2006 and 2009.

The trial court found that defendants had "provided clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence to overcome any presumption of authenticity offered by the notarial seal" on the mortgage and that the documents were therefore void as forgeries. In reaching its holding, the court found "[Marianne] Corradetti's testimony with regard to her not signing the subject [mortgage loan documents] on September 25, 2006 to be credible"; however, the court found "her testimony not credible" "as to what other documents were signed or not signed by her and her husband."

The court rejected plaintiff's argument that the payment history for the 2006 loan establishes a ratification of the mortgage, noting that plaintiff had failed to prove it was defendants who actually made the purported payments on that loan. The court reasoned that whoever forged the mortgage documents may have made the payments to cover up the forgeries. The court also found plaintiff failed to present any evidence -- other than the forged and therefore invalid HUD-1 statement -- that the September...

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