Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Trustee v. Strong
1st Impression Issue On Standing To Raise Pooling Agreement Issues
Banking and Financial Institutions | Creditors’ and Debtors’ Rights | Civil Procedure | Standing
- Connecticut Appellate Court
- AC 35253
- Apr 15 2014 (Date Decided)
- Bear, J.
Connecticut’s appellate courts have not required a foreclosure plaintiff to produce evidence of ownership deriving from a pooling and servicing agreement in making its prima facie case on summary judgment. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., trustee, brought this mortgage foreclosure action against Diane Strong. Her special defense alleged that the plaintiff lacked standing because ownership of the indebtedness was not transferred to the plaintiff in accordance with the terms of the relevant pooling and servicing agreement and, consequently, the plaintiff was not the valid owner of the note and mortgage when it commenced this action. The trial court granted summary judgment as to liability to the plaintiff and rendered a judgment of strict foreclosure. The defendant appealed first claiming that the court erred in granting summary judgment as genuine issues of material fact existed about the plaintiff’s status as owner of the note and mortgage, implicating the plaintiff’s standing. Unpersuaded, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Whether a mortgagor may challenge a foreclosing party’s standing based on its noncompliance with a pooling and servicing agreement, to which the mortgagor is not a party and has no legal interest, presented an issue of first impression. Connecticut law on foreclosure actions and third party beneficiaries sufficed for the panel to conclude that summary judgment was proper. The defendant’s challenge to the validity of the plaintiff’s status as owner of the note and mortgage, as opposed to the plaintiff’s actual possession of the note and ownership of the mortgage, implicated the merits of the foreclosure action, not the plaintiff’s standing to bring the action. Because the plaintiff produced evidence that Connecticut appellate courts have recognized as sufficient to establish the elements of its prima facie case, it was entitled to the presumption that it had standing and that there were no genuine issues of material fact precluding judgment as a matter of law in its favor, barring evidence produced by the defendant that showed otherwise. The plaintiff’s alleged noncompliance with the agreement did not undermine its standing and ability to establish the ownership element of its prima facie case. The defendant did not meet her burden of establishing that summary judgment as to liability should not have been rendered based on a genuine issue of material fact or matter of law.