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Peterson v. Wells Fargo Trustee

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 27, 2016

WELLS FARGO TRUSTEE, et al., Defendants.



         Alyssa Peterson lost a mortgage foreclosure action in state court, and her appeal and eventual efforts to be heard en banc or by the Connecticut Supreme Court failed. She subsequently brought this action pro se in federal court, raising eight claims that predominantly were or could have been raised as defenses in state court. On the defendants' motion, for reasons of both issue and claim preclusion, I dismissed with prejudice all of Peterson's claims except slander of title. Peterson has moved for reconsideration of that order. In addition, the defendants have moved for summary judgment on Peterson's remaining claim, arguing that she has not satisfied the required element of damages for slander of title. Peterson has cross-moved for summary judgment, focusing on the elements of malice and special damages.

         I find that Peterson has not made any new arguments or cited additional authority to warrant revisiting my order with respect to the motion to dismiss. I therefore deny her motion for reconsideration. I also conclude that Peterson has not produced sufficient evidence to satisfy the requisite elements for slander of title, and so grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment and deny Peterson's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record demonstrates 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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986) (plaintiff must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat properly supported motion for summary judgment).

         When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970); see also Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d 520, 523 (2d Cir. 1992) (court is required to “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party”). When a motion for summary judgment is properly supported by documentary and testimonial evidence, however, the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but must present sufficient probative evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 872 (2d Cir. 1995).

         “Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991); see also Suburban Propane v. Proctor Gas, 953 F.2d 780, 788 (2d Cir. 1992). If the nonmoving party submits evidence that is “merely colorable, ” or is not “significantly probative, ” summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.

Id. at 247-48. To present a “genuine” issue of material fact, there must be contradictory evidence “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Id. at 248.

         If the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he bears the burden of proof, then summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. In such circumstances, “there can be ‘no genuine issue as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23; accord Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995) (movant's burden satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of nonmoving party's claim). In short, if there is no genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment may be awarded. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         II. Background

         After unsuccessfully appealing from a judgment of foreclosure against her in Connecticut state court, [1] Alyssa Peterson filed this action in federal court in October 2014. She pleaded eight counts: (1) slander of title; (2) quiet title; (3) negligent misrepresentation; (4) fraud by nondisclosure; (5) wrongful disclosure; (6) negligence; (7) breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (8) declaratory and injunctive relief. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. Because claim preclusion and issue preclusion attached to most of the claims as a result of the state court litigation, I granted the defendants' motion in part and dismissed with prejudice all counts except slander of title. See Order, Doc. No. 28.

         In her amended complaint, Peterson asserts that she has a claim for slander of title because the defendants recorded a certificate of foreclosure on the Hartford Land Records on February 7, 2013, while enforcement of the judgment of foreclosure was stayed due to Peterson's appeal. Am. Compl., Doc. No. 32, at ¶ 84. The defendants acknowledge that the certificate of foreclosure was published during the stay and “not withdrawn, ” but deny any “false filing” and slander of title. Answer, Doc. No. 33, at ¶¶ 85, 96.

         The defendants have moved for summary judgment, primarily arguing that Peterson has not met her burden to evidence the element of damages. See Mem. Supp. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Doc. No. 40, at 9 (contending that Peterson has been “unable to identify a single dollar of pecuniary damages attributable to the Certificate of Foreclosure”). In response, Peterson has cross-moved for summary judgment, claiming that the defendants maliciously published a false statement and acted with “reckless disregard of the truth, ” Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J., Doc. No. 49, at 26, as a result of which she suffered “personal harm and humiliation, legal harm, resulting in special damages and associated pecuniary costs, ” Am. Compl. Doc. No. 33, at ¶ 97.

         III. ...

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