U.S. Bank v. First Am. Title Ins. Co.

Citation944 F.Supp.2d 386
Decision Date08 May 2013
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 10–cv–5201.
PartiesU.S. BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION as Trustee for the Benefit of the Certificate Holders Under the Pooling and Service Agreement Relating to the Mortgage Backed Pass Through Certificates Series 2002–29 v. FIRST AMERICAN TITLE INSURANCE CO.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Daniel S. Bernheim, III, Dashika R. Wellington, Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., Philadelphia, PA, for U.S. Bank, National Association.

Edward J. Hayes, Lauren P. McKenna, Fox Rothschild LLP, Philadelphia, PA, for First American Title Insurance Co.

MEMORANDUM

YOHN, District Judge.

U.S. Bank, N.A. (U.S. Bank) and First American Title Insurance Company (“First American”) have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. U.S. Bank brought this suit against First American for breach of contract and bad faith under a title insurance policy with respect to a securitized mortgage, of which U.S. Bank is the trustee. First American argues that the claims are barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, and the statute of limitations, that there are no genuine issues of material fact with respect to the claims, and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. After careful review of each party's motion for summary judgment, the responses thereto, and the attached exhibits, I conclude that under the undisputed facts U.S. Bank's breach of contract claim is barred by the statute of limitations, and that there are no genuine issues of material fact with respect to the bad faith claim and that the claim fails as a matter of law. Therefore, summary judgment is granted in favor of First American and denied as to U.S. Bank.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY1

In July 2002, Allied Mortgage Group, Inc. (“Allied”) issued a loan to Christopher P. Fekos for real property located at 99 Alexander Drive, McMurray, Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) Allied purchased a title insurance policy from First American in connection with the loan that insured Allied's mortgage as a first lien on the Fekos property up to $868,500.00. ( Id. ¶ 7.) First American assigned the duties of closing and recording the mortgage to its agent, Ideal Settlement Services, Inc. (“Ideal”), along with the duty of satisfying an existing mortgage on the property held by Beneficial Consumer Discount Company (“Beneficial”). ( Id. ¶¶ 8–9.) Ideal failed to satisfy the Beneficial mortgage and promptly record the Allied mortgage; consequently, by the time it recorded the Allied mortgage on March 4, 2003, two intervening mortgages had already been recorded: one by Centex Home Equity Co. (“Centex”) and one by Bank Pittsburgh. ( Id. ¶¶ 9–10.) Fairbanks Capital Corp. (“Fairbanks”), servicer for the Allied mortgage, discovered the title defect and provided First American with notice of a claim under the title insurance policy on December 8, 2003. ( Id. ¶¶ 23, 27; see also Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. E, pt. C.) First American responded to Fairbanks on December 15, 2003, stating that it “stands behind its policy as issued” and “will indemnify should [the policyholder] suffer a loss.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 28; see also Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. E, pt. C.)

On December 26, 2003, Allied assigned the mortgage and the title insurance policy for the Fekos property to a securitized trust, entitled “Certificate Holders Under the Pooling and Servicing Agreement Relating to the Mortgage Backed Pass Through Certificates Series 2002–29” (the “Trust”), of which Bank One, N.A. (“Bank One”) was the trustee.2 (Am. Compl. ¶ 19; Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. 4.) On February 1, 2004, U.S. Bank purchased a book of the institutional trust business from Bank One, and as a result U.S. Bank became the trustee of the Trust.3 (Am. Compl. ¶ 20; Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. Q.)

Fekos eventually defaulted on his loans. Bank Pittsburgh obtained a foreclosure judgment against the Fekos property on August 2, 2005. (Am. Compl. ¶ 25.) The property was subsequently sold at a sheriff's sale to Bank Pittsburgh on October 7, 2005, thus discharging the Allied (now U.S. Bank) mortgage. ( Id. ¶ 26.) On June 29, 2006, Fairbanks filed a notice of claim with First American, requesting that First American take all necessary actions to resolve the adverse claim as a result of the foreclosure and sheriff's sale of the Fekos property. (Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. E, pt. F.) First American responded on July 27, 2006, and informed Fairbanks that it had initiated an investigation into the claim and would contact Fairbanks as soon as the facts had been ascertained. ( Id. Ex. E, pt. G.)

On March 23, 2007, First American brought suit against JP Morgan Chase (JP Morgan) in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Pennsylvania (the Washington County Action), seeking a declaratory judgment as to its obligations to JP Morgan under the title insurance policy. (Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. 11; Ex. E, pt. H.) Bank One had merged with JP Morgan in July 2004, and neither First American nor JP Morgan appears to have realized until 2010—years after First American commenced the Washington County Action—that JP Morgan had no interest in the Allied Mortgage because it had been transferred to U.S. Bank prior to the merger. ( Id. at 11.) Upon realizing the error, JP Morgan moved to substitute U.S. Bank as the defendant trustee in the Washington County Action, but that motion was denied on August 24, 2010, without explanation and U.S. Bank never became a party to the Washington County action. ( Id. at 12.) On April 1, 2011, the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County found that U.S. Bank was the proper trustee, that JP Morgan had no interest in the title insurance policy, and that First American owed no obligation to JP Morgan. Thus, the court granted First American's motion for summary judgment against JP Morgan with regard to the Declaratory Judgment action. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. L.) The judgment was affirmed by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on April 3, 2012. ( Id. Ex. M.)

U.S. Bank brought this action on October 5, 2010, alleging breach of contract and bad faith insurance claims against First American. I dismissed U.S. Bank's original complaint without prejudice to its right to file an amended complaint with more specific factual allegations. U.S. Bank filed its amended complaint on August 17, 2011. Both parties now seek summary judgment.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Facts that could alter the outcome are ‘material,’ and disputes are ‘genuine’ if evidence exists from which a rational person could conclude that the position of the person with the burden of proof on the disputed issue is correct.” Ideal Dairy Farms, Inc. v. John Labatt, Ltd., 90 F.3d 737, 743 (3d Cir.1996). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.’ Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968)). To establish that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, a party may rely on “depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials....” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

III. DISCUSSION

U.S. Bank claims that First American is in breach of contract under the title insurance policy, and also claims that it is in violation of 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 8371 for acting in bad faith. Meanwhile, First American argues that U.S. Bank's claims are barred by claim and issue preclusion and that the statute of limitations has expired. Furthermore, First American argues that if either or both of the claims survive those arguments, it did not breach the title insurance contract or deal in bad faith. I begin my analysis with First American's preclusion and statute of limitations arguments, for if the claims are indeed barred under either theory it makes addressing the merits of the claims unnecessary.

A. Claim Preclusion and Issue Preclusion

“Under the Full Faith and Credit Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, ‘judicial proceedings ... shall have the same full faith and credit in every court within the United States ... as they have by law or usage in the courts of’ the state from which they emerged. Section 1738 ‘has long been understood to encompass the doctrines of res judicata, or claim preclusion, and collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion.’ R & J Holding Co. v. Redevelopment Auth. of Cnty. of Montgomery, 670 F.3d 420, 426 (3d Cir.2011) (quoting San Remo Hotel v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 545 U.S. 323, 326, 125 S.Ct. 2491, 162 L.Ed.2d 315 (2005)). In its motion for summary judgment, First American argues that U.S. Bank's claims are barred by the doctrines of claim preclusion and issue preclusion because of the Washington County trial court's grant of summary judgment and the affirmation of that judgment by the Superior Court on appeal. For the following reasons, I conclude that the claims are not barred by these doctrines.

1. Res Judicata

“Res judicata, or claim preclusion, prohibits parties involved in prior, concluded litigation from subsequently asserting claims in a later action that were raised, or could have been raised, in the previous litigation.” Wilkes ex rel. Mason v. Phoenix Home Life Mut. Ins. Co., 587 Pa. 590, 902 A.2d 366, 376 (2006) (citing R/S Fin. Corp. v. Kovalchick, 552 Pa. 584, 716 A.2d 1228, 1230 (1998)). Under Pennsylvania law, the following elements must be present for res judicata to apply: (1) identity of issues; (2) identity in the cause of action; (3) identity of persons or parties to the action; and (4) identity of the capacity of the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
7 cases
  • Cmty. Bank v. Fid. Nat'l Title Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • 23 de julho de 2021
    ...its claim under the policy in August 2017. (See Docket No. 37 at 21-22) (citing U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. First Am. Title Ins. Co. , 944 F.Supp.2d 386 (E.D. Pa. 2013)), aff'd 570 F. App'x 209 (3d Cir. 2014) (holding that the SOL began to run when Plaintiff suffered a "legal loss," i.e. its "......
  • Stechert v. Travelers Home & Marine Ins. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 17-CV-784
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • 15 de maio de 2018
    ...policy and (2) knew or recklessly disregarded its lack of reasonable basis in denying the claim." U.S. Bank, N.A. v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., 944 F. Supp. 2d 386, 403-404 (E.D. Pa. 2013), aff'd, 570 Fed. Appx. 209 (3d Cir. 2014)(quoting Post v. St. Paul Travelers Ins. Co., 691 F.3d 500, 52......
  • Trust v. W. Land Servs.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • 30 de março de 2021
    ...begins to run as soon as the right to institute and maintain the suit arises." U.S. Bank, Nat. Ass'n v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., 944 F. Supp. 2d 386, 398 (E.D. Pa. 2013), aff'd sub nom. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass'n v. First Am. Title Ins. Corp., 570 F. App'x 209 (3d Cir. 2014); Sevast v. Kakouras,......
  • Community Bank v. Fidelity National Title Insurance Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • 23 de julho de 2021
    ...its claim under the policy in August 2017. (See Docket No. 37 at 21-22 (citing U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass 'n v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., 944 F.Supp.2d 386 (E.D. Pa. 2013), aff'd 570 Fed.Appx. 209 (3d Cir. 2014) (holding that the SOL began to run when Plaintiff suffered a "legal loss," i.e. its "i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT