Estate of Cornell v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, 111318 FED6, 18-1245

Docket Nº:18-1245
Opinion Judge:SUHRHEINRICH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Party Name:Estate of Robert Cornell, Jr.; Audrey D. Bantom, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Robert L. Cornell, Jr.; Anthony Cornell, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC; Thien Hoang Tran, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Vanessa G. Fluker, VANESSA G. FLUKER, ESQ., PLLC, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants. Deborah S. Lapin, Martin S. Frenkel, MADDIN, HAUSER, ROTH & HELLER, P.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellee Bayview Loan Servicing. Joseph J. Bernardi, BERNARDI, RONAYNE & GLUSAC, P.C., Plymouth, Michigan, for A...
Judge Panel:Before: SUHRHEINRICH, MOORE, and BUSH, Circuit Judges. KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
Case Date:November 13, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Estate of Robert Cornell, Jr.; Audrey D. Bantom, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Robert L. Cornell, Jr.; Anthony Cornell, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC; Thien Hoang Tran, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 18-1245

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 13, 2018

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:17-cv-12121-Gershwin A. Drain, District Judge.

ON BRIEF:

Vanessa G. Fluker, VANESSA G. FLUKER, ESQ., PLLC, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants.

Deborah S. Lapin, Martin S. Frenkel, MADDIN, HAUSER, ROTH & HELLER, P.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellee Bayview Loan Servicing.

Joseph J. Bernardi, BERNARDI, RONAYNE & GLUSAC, P.C., Plymouth, Michigan, for Appellee Thien Hoang Tran.

Before: SUHRHEINRICH, MOORE, and BUSH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SUHRHEINRICH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

This appeal concerns a non-judicial foreclosure under Michigan law. After reviewing the pleadings, we conclude that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case. Thus, we VACATE the judgment of the district court with instructions to REMAND to Michigan state court.

I. FACTS

Robert Cornell, Jr. ("Robert") died on July 29, 2015, owing an outstanding mortgage amount of $113, 358.12 on his home at 8615 Wisconsin Street in Detroit, Michigan. At the time of Robert's death, the monthly mortgage payments on the Wisconsin Street home were up to date. Yet in the five months following his death, the mortgage went unpaid. Defendant Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC ("Bayview"), the mortgage holder, sent a delinquency notice to the home on December 16, 2015, showing an unpaid balance of $5, 813.95. On November 3, 2016, Bayview foreclosed on the mortgage and purchased the home by sheriff's deed at public auction. Bayview later sold the home to Defendant Thien Hoang Tran ("Tran").

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 25, 2017, Plaintiffs-Appellants Estate of Robert L. Cornell, Jr. ("Estate"), by and through Personal Representative Audrey D. Bantom and Anthony Cornell (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed a complaint in Michigan state court alleging four causes of action against Bayview, including most notably a lack of standing to foreclose under the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, codified at 12 U.S.C. § 1701j-3 ("Garn-St. Germain Act" or "Act") and Mich. Comp. Laws § 445.1626. Bayview timely removed to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, citing the Garn-St. Germain Act. Plaintiffs did not object to removal or seek remand. Instead, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint asserting an additional claim of quiet title against Tran (Count V). Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings in part on the argument that the Garn-St. Germain Act does not authorize a private right of action. The district court agreed, ruling that the Garn-St. Germain Act does not authorize a private right of action, the Garn-St. Germain Act did not apply to Plaintiffs' claims, or both. The district court granted Defendants' motion on all counts and entered a judgment in their favor. The district court denied Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration, and Plaintiffs filed this timely appeal.

III. ANALYSIS

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The district courts "have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A defendant may remove a case only if the claim could have been brought in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Removal jurisdiction is determined from the "well-pleaded complaint." Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986).

Although no one has specifically addressed subject matter jurisdiction to this point, we have an independent obligation to consider it and may do so sua sponte. Answers in Genesis of Kentucky, Inc. v. Creation Ministries Int'l, Ltd., 556 F.3d 459, 465 (6th Cir. 2009); see also United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002) (Subject matter jurisdiction "can never be forfeited or waived."). We must correct any defect in subject matter jurisdiction regardless of whether the district court considered it, Cotton, 535 U.S. at 630, even if "many months of work on the part of the attorneys and the court may be wasted," Henderson ex rel. Henderson v. Shinseki, 562 U.S. 428, 435 (2011); see also Hampton v. R.J. Corman R.R. Switching Co., 683 F.3d 708, 711-12 (6th Cir. 2012) (vacating district court's grant of summary judgment after determining that Federal Railroad Safety Act did not create a private cause of action).

The face of the complaint references a federal statute, the Garn-St. Germain Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1701j-3, which was the sole basis for federal question jurisdiction removal from state court. Before Congress passed the Garn-St. Germain Act, many states had laws restricting the enforcement of due-on-sale clauses.1 Dupuis v. Yorkville Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 589 F.Supp. 820, 822 (S.D.N.Y. 1984). The Garn-St. Germain Act prohibits states from banning due-on-sale clauses, providing in principal part that "[n]otwithstanding any provision of the constitution or laws (including judicial decisions) of any State to the contrary, a lender may, subject to subsection (c) of this section, enter into or enforce a contract containing a due-on-sale clause with respect to a real property loan." 12 U.S.C. § 1701j-3(b)(1). That means a due-on-sale clause is presumptively valid unless it qualifies as one of nine exceptions listed in § 1701j-3(d): With respect to a real property loan secured by a lien on residential real property containing less than five dwelling units, including a lien on the stock allocated to a dwelling unit in a cooperative housing corporation, or on a residential manufactured home, a lender may not exercise its option pursuant to a due-on-sale clause upon-

(1) the creation of a lien or other encumbrance subordinate to the lender's security instrument which does not relate to a transfer of rights of occupancy in the property;

(2) the creation of a purchase money security interest for household appliances;

(3) a transfer by devise, descent, or operation of law on the death of a joint tenant or tenant by the entirety;

(4) the granting of a leasehold interest of three years or less not containing an option to purchase;

(5) a transfer to a relative resulting from the death of a borrower;

(6) a transfer where the spouse or children of the borrower become an owner of the property;

(7) a transfer resulting from a decree of a dissolution of marriage, legal separation agreement, or from an incidental property settlement agreement, by which the spouse of the borrower becomes an owner of the property;

(8) a transfer into an inter vivos trust in which the borrower is and remains a beneficiary and which does not relate to a transfer of rights of occupancy in the property; or

(9) any other transfer or disposition described in regulations prescribed by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.

In other words, after the Garn-St. Germain Act, states can only regulate nine types of due-on-sale clauses. In response to the Garn-St. Germain Act, Michigan created its own cause of action for lendees harmed by one of those nine banned due-on-sale clauses. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 445.1626 ("A lender shall not enforce a due-on-sale clause in a residential real property loan in any circumstances under which enforcement is prohibited under section 341(d) of the Garn-St. Germain depository institutions act of 1982, 12 U.S.C. 1701j-3, as currently in force."); Mich. Comp. Laws § 445.1628 (creating a private cause of action for a violation of § 445.1626).

To fulfill our obligation of ascertaining subject matter jurisdiction, we must determine whether a private cause of action "arises under" the statute sufficient to confer federal subject matter jurisdiction. The "arising under" gateway into federal court in fact has two distinct paths: 1) "litigants whose causes of action are created by federal law," and 2) "state-law claims that implicate significant federal issues." Hampton, 683 F.3d at 711 (quoting Eastman v. Marine Mech. Corp., 438 F.3d 544, 550 (6th Cir. 2006)). Because the Garn-St. Germain Act does not meet this first test, we join those courts, including this one, that have concluded 12 U.S.C. § 1701j-3 does not establish subject matter jurisdiction based on a federal cause of action. Turman v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 16-6546, 2018 WL 1840199, at *2 (6th Cir. Mar. 21, 2018) (order) (dismissing because "section 1701j-3 . . . does not provide a right of action"); Dupuis, 589...

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