JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Eldon
The erroneous interpretation of a court order was not a good and compelling reason to open a summary judgment. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., brought this foreclosure action against Donald Eldon. Eldon filed requests for admissions in Nov. 2010, including that the plaintiff had no legal or equitable interest in the note and mortgage and the debt was paid in full. The court denied the plaintiff's motions for protective order and, finding no timely responses, ultimately, granted summary judgment for the defendant in May 2011. The bank appealed arguing that the court abused its discretion by denying its Aug. 1, 2011 motion to open the judgment and later motions to reargue and for permission to amend responses, because the denials were based on default admissions that were plainly false and represented a harsh, disproportionate discovery sanction. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to open when, for its decisions on the summary judgment motion and motion to open, the plaintiff failed to provide evidence that it had an interest in the note when it commenced this foreclosure action and that the debt was still outstanding. The plaintiff's acknowledged erroneous interpretation of the court's discovery order was not a good and compelling reason to open the summary judgment, especially given the ample time and opportunity the plaintiff had to rectify the problem. The court did not abuse its discretion in denying the plaintiff's motion to reargue the motion to open. In the motion, filed on Oct. 28, 2011, the plaintiff, for the first time, challenged the admissions, attaching an affidavit and evidence to establish ownership of the note and mortgage and the defendant's continued indebtedness. This was not newly discovered evidence that would warrant reconsideration of the court's decision to deny the motion to open. Additional arguments raised represented an impermissible collateral attack on the summary judgment. While perhaps a harsh discovery sanction, it was imposed when the court granted summary judgment, not when it denied the three ensuing motions. Because the plaintiff failed to appeal from the summary judgment or move to open the judgment within 20 days of the decision, the Appellate Court declined to consider the merits of the summary judgment decision.