Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp. v. Schwartzwald

Citation2012 OHIO 5017
Decision Date31 October 2012
Docket NumberNo. 2011-1362,No. 2011-1201,2011-1201,2011-1362
PartiesFEDERAL HOME LOAN MORTGAGE CORPORATION, APPELLEE, v. SCHWARTZWALD ET AL., APPELLANTS.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
NOTICE

This slip opinion is subject to formal revision before it is published in an advance sheet of the Ohio Official Reports. Readers are requested to promptly notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 South Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, of any typographical or other formal errors in the opinion, in order that corrections may be made before the opinion is published.

[Until this opinion appears in the Ohio Official Reports advance sheets,

it may be cited as Fed. Home Loan Mtge. Corp. v. Schwartzwald,

Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-5017.]

Foreclosure—Jurisdictional aspects of standing—Civ.R. 17(A)—Jurisdiction determined as of time of filing suit.

APPEAL from and CERTIFIED by the Court of Appeals for Greene County,

No. 2010 CA 41, 194 Ohio App.3d 644, 2011-Ohio-2681.

O’DONNELL, J.

{¶ 1} Duane and Julie Schwartzwald appeal from a judgment of the Second District Court of Appeals affirming a decree of foreclosure entered in favor of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. In addition, the appellate court certified that its decision in this case conflicts with decisions of the First andEighth Districts on the following issue: "In a mortgage foreclosure action, the lack of standing or a real party in interest defect can be cured by the assignment of the mortgage prior to judgment."

{¶ 2} Federal Home Loan commenced this foreclosure action before it obtained an assignment of the promissory note and mortgage securing the Schwartzwalds' loan. The Schwartzwalds maintained that Federal Home Loan lacked standing to sue. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Federal Home Loan and entered a decree of foreclosure. The appellate court affirmed, holding that Federal Home Loan had remedied its lack of standing when it obtained an assignment from the real party in interest.

{¶ 3} However, standing is required to invoke the jurisdiction of the common pleas court, and therefore it is determined as of the filing of the complaint. Thus, receiving an assignment of a promissory note and mortgage from the real party in interest subsequent to the filing of an action but prior to the entry of judgment does not cure a lack of standing to file a foreclosure action.

{¶ 4} Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals is reversed, and the cause is dismissed.

Facts and Procedural History

{¶ 5} In November 2006, Duane and Julie Schwartzwald purchased a home in Xenia, Ohio, and received a mortgage loan from Legacy Mortgage in the amount of $251,250. They executed a promissory note and a mortgage granting Legacy Mortgage a security interest in the property. Legacy Mortgage then endorsed the promissory note as payable to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., and assigned it the mortgage.

{¶ 6} In September 2008, Duane Schwartzwald lost his job at Barco, Inc., and the Schwartzwalds moved to Indiana so he could accept a new position. They continued making mortgage payments as they tried to sell the house in Xenia, but they went into default on January 1, 2009. In March 2009, WellsFargo agreed to list the property for a short sale, and on April 8, 2009, the Schwartzwalds entered into a contract to sell it for $259,900, with closing set for June 8, 2009.

{¶ 7} However, on April 15, 2009, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation commenced this foreclosure action, alleging that the Schwartzwalds had defaulted on their loan and owed $245,085.18 plus interest, costs, and advances. It attached a copy of the mortgage identifying the Schwartzwalds as borrowers and Legacy Mortgage as lender, but did not attach a copy of the note, claiming that "a copy of [the note] is currently unavailable."

{¶ 8} Julie Schwartzwald then contacted Wells Fargo about the foreclosure complaint. She testified, "I was told that it was 'standard procedure' and 'don't worry about it' because we were doing a short sale." The Schwartzwalds did not answer the complaint.

{¶ 9} On April 24, 2009, Federal Home Loan filed with the court a copy of the note signed by the Schwartzwalds in favor of Legacy Mortgage. The final page carries a blank endorsement by Wells Fargo placed above the endorsement by Legacy Mortgage payable to Wells Fargo.

{¶ 10} On May 15, 2009, Wells Fargo assigned the note and mortgage to Federal Home Loan, and Federal Home Loan filed with the court a copy of the assignment on June 17, 2009. It then moved for a default judgment and a summary judgment, but the trial court discovered that Federal Home Loan had failed to establish a chain of title because no assignment of the mortgage from Legacy Mortgage to Wells Fargo appeared in the record.

{¶ 11} During this time, even though it had assigned its interest in the note and mortgage to Federal Home Loan, Wells Fargo continued discussing a short sale of the property with the Schwartzwalds, but delays in this process eventually caused the Schwartzwalds' buyer to rescind the offer. On December 14, 2009, the trial court granted the Schwartzwalds leave to file an answer. Thatsame day, Federal Home Loan filed with the court a copy of the assignment of the mortgage from Legacy Mortgage to Wells Fargo dated November 27, 2006.

{¶ 12} Federal Home Loan again moved for summary judgment, supporting the motion with the affidavit of Herman John Kennerty, vice president of loan documentation for Wells Fargo as servicing agent for Federal Home Loan, who averred that the Schwartzwalds were in default and who authenticated the note and mortgage as well as the assignment of the note and mortgage from Wells Fargo. Subsequently, Federal Home Loan filed copies of the notarized assignments from Legacy Mortgage to Wells Fargo and from Wells Fargo to Federal Home Loan.

{¶ 13} The Schwartzwalds also moved for summary judgment, asserting that Federal Home Loan lacked standing to foreclose on their property.

{¶ 14} The trial court entered summary judgment for Federal Home Loan, finding that the Schwartzwalds had defaulted on the note, and it ordered the equity of redemption foreclosed and the property sold. Federal Home Loan purchased the property at a sheriff's sale.

{¶ 15} On appeal, the Second District Court of Appeals affirmed and held that Federal Home Loan had established its right to enforce the promissory note as a nonholder in possession, because assignment of the mortgage effected a transfer of the note it secured. The court further explained that standing is not a jurisdictional prerequisite and that a lack of standing may be cured by substituting the real party in interest for an original party pursuant to Civ.R. 17(A). Thus, the court concluded that although Federal Home Loan lacked standing at the time it commenced the foreclosure action, it cured that defect by the assignment of the mortgage and transfer of the note prior to entry of judgment.

{¶ 16} The court of appeals certified that its decision conflicted with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Byrd, 178 Ohio App.3d 285, 2008-Ohio-4603, 897 N.E.2d 722 (1st Dist.), ¶ 15-16; Bank of New York v. Gindele, 1st Dist. No. C-090251, 2010-Ohio-542, ¶ 3-4; and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Jordan, 8th Dist. No. 91675, 2009-Ohio-1092, ¶ 21, cases that held that a lack of standing cannot be cured by substituting the real party in interest for an original party pursuant to Civ.R. 17(A). We accepted the conflict and the Schwartzwalds' discretionary appeal on the same issue.

Arguments on Appeal

{¶ 17} The Schwartzwalds explain that the essential aspect of standing is injury to a legally protected right and claim that Federal Home Loan had not been injured by their default at the time it commenced this foreclosure action, because it had not obtained the note and mortgage until after it filed the complaint. Relying on federal caselaw, they maintain that standing is determined as of the time the action is brought, so that subsequent events do not cure a lack of standing. They further urge that although the requirement of a real party in interest can be waived, that requirement cannot be equated with the requirement of standing.

{¶ 18} Federal Home Loan asserts that pursuant to R.C. 1303.31, it is a "person entitled to enforce the note" because it is "[a] nonholder in possession of the instrument who has the rights of a holder" by virtue of the negotiation of the note from Legacy to Wells Fargo and the assignment from Wells Fargo. Further, it maintains that R.C. 1303.31 defines only which party is entitled to enforce a note and that the failure to be a real party in interest at the commencement of suit can be cured pursuant to Civ.R. 17(A) by the assignment of the mortgage and note. It also contends that the jurisdictional requirement of justiciability is satisfied if the allegations of the complaint establish that the plaintiff has standing to present a justiciable controversy and that even if it is determined that those allegations were in fact false, the matter remains justiciable so long as the plaintiff subsequently obtains the right to foreclose prior to judgment. On this basis, it argues that because "the Ohio Constitution bestows general (and not limited)jurisdiction on common pleas courts, common pleas courts have 'jurisdiction' to hear disputes, even if the named plaintiff was not the correct person to invoke it." Thus, it concedes that the record in this case does not establish that it was a person entitled to enforce the note as of the date the complaint was filed, but it maintains that it "proved that it was such a person prior to judgment."

{¶ 19} Accordingly, the question presented is whether a lack of standing at the commencement of a foreclosure action filed in a common pleas court may be cured by obtaining an assignment of a note and mortgage sufficient to establish standing prior to the entry of judgment.

Law and Analysis
Standing to Sue

{¶ 20} The Ohio...

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1 cases
  • Nationstar Mortg. v. Anderson
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 8, 2023
    ...to obtain a judgment in foreclosure without also proving it is a party entitled to enforce the note. As the Holden Court explained: But Schwartzwald did not define what documents necessary to establish standing. We stated, based on those facts, "[B]ecause [the bank] failed to establish an i......

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