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Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Henderson

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 15, 2017

WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.
v.
GENEVIEVE HENDERSON

          Argued April 10, 2017

          Genevieve Henderson, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

          Sean R. Higgins, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Lavine, Keller and Pellegrino, Js.

         Procedural History

         Action to foreclose a mortgage on certain of the defendant's real property, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Middlesex, where the defendant filed a counterclaim; thereafter, the court, Marcus, J., granted the plaintiff's motion to strike; subsequently, the court, Domnarski, J., denied the defendant's motion to dismiss; thereafter, the court, Aurigemma, J., granted the plaintiff's motions for summary judgment as to liability and for a judgment of strict foreclosure, and rendered judgment thereon, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

         Syllabus

         The plaintiff bank sought to foreclose a mortgage on certain of the defendant's real property. The trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to liability and its motion for a judgment of strict foreclosure, and rendered judgment thereon, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Held:

         1. The defendant could not prevail on her claim that the trial court improperly granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to liability, which was based on her claim that the plaintiff lacked standing to foreclose because it had not been assigned the mortgage and note until after it commenced the action: the trial court determined that the plaintiff proffered documentary evidence establishing a prima facie foreclosure case and that the defendant presented no evidence to support her argument that the plaintiff was not the holder of the note on the date the action commenced, and even if the mortgage was assigned after the foreclosure action commenced, the plaintiff's theory, which was supported by an affidavit, was that it was the holder of the note when the action commenced, and the unrebutted affidavit and copy of the note were sufficient to establish, for summary judgment purposes, the plaintiff's standing to foreclose; moreover, the trial court did not improperly decline to review the merits of several of the defendant's amended special defenses, which were substantively nearly identical to ones that previously were stricken by the court and, thus, were properly disposed of summarily by the court in ruling on the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff's affidavit stating that the plaintiff possessed the original copy of the note was clearly a reference to the original document, and the defendant was not deprived of an evidentiary hearing on the issue of the plaintiff's standing, as she failed to establish that a genuine issue of material fact existed with regard to whether the plaintiff had standing to foreclose.

         2. The defendant was not deprived of due process with respect to several motions and a request for a chain of custody hearing that she filed during the course of the litigation, the defendant having been provided with a full and fair opportunity to present her counterarguments to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to liability: the record was inadequate for review of the defendant's claim that she was prevented from making oral argument on a second motion to dismiss that she filed, and even if the court did not hear argument on that motion, the defendant suffered no harm because she presented in other motions the same argument as to standing that she raised in the second motion, and the defendant was not deprived of an evidentiary hearing on the second motion because she submitted no proof to rebut the plaintiff's jurisdictional allegations in its complaint; moreover, there was no denial of due process with respect to the defendant's request for a chain of custody hearing because the granting of the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment dispensed with the need for any such hearing, the defendant had no right to an evidentiary hearing on her motion to reargue, which the court had the discretion to deny without a hearing, and the defendant was not deprived of oral argument on her motion for a continuance, as she failed to provide any record of a request for oral argument on that motion, oral argument was not required under the applicable rule of practice (§ 11-18 [a]), the trial court had the discretion to rule on the motion without providing for oral argument, and the defendant made no claim that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion.

          OPINION

          KELLER, J.

         In this foreclosure action, the self-represented defendant, Genevieve Henderson, appeals from the trial court's rendering of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.[1] The defendant claims that (1) the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that it had standing to foreclose, and (2) she was deprived of due process of law in connection with several motions that she brought during the course of the litigation.[2] We conclude that the defendant's claims lack merit and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the court.

         In rendering its summary judgment decision, the court, Aurigemma, J., reviewed the documentation submitted in support of the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, to which the defendant did not file any written objection. As a result of the lack of any objection, the court also considered the defendant's second motion for summary judgment, which in substance essentially was a cross motion for summary judgment, and the documentation annexed thereto, which had been filed subsequent to the plaintiff's motion. This approach was invited by the plaintiff's counsel, who pointed out to the court that the defendant's cross motion for summary judgment also served as a response to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

         In a memorandum of decision, the court stated the following with respect to its review of the supporting affidavits and documentation: ‘‘The [plaintiff] has moved for summary judgment on the grounds that there are no genuine issues of material fact as to the [defendant] and the plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. The plaintiff has supported its motion with the affidavit of Alisha Mulder, vice president, loan documentation, of [the plaintiff], which appends the note, mortgage and notice of default. The defendant has supported her objection to . . . summary judgment with her own affidavit. . . .

         ‘‘On December 31, 2007, the defendant executed and delivered a note to Wachovia Mortgage [Corporation] (Wachovia) in the original principal amount of $180, 000. [The plaintiff] has been the holder of the note for all times relevant to this action.

         ‘‘Also on December 31, 2007, the defendant executed a mortgage . . . in favor of Mortgage Electronic Registrations Systems, Inc. (MERS), as nominee for Wachovia Mortgage Company to secure the note with real property located [in Middlefield]. . . . The mortgage was dated December 31, 2007, and recorded January 7, 2008. . . . MERS subsequently assigned the mortgage to [the plaintiff].

         ‘‘The defendant is in default under the terms of the note and mortgage for failing to make payments. [The plaintiff] provided notice of default to the defendant dated April 18, 2010 and elected to accelerate the sums due and owing under the note. [The plaintiff] commenced this action against the defendant by [writ of] summons and complaint bearing a return date of August 31, 2010.

         ‘‘The parties engaged in mediation through the Judicial Branch mediation program. When mediation was unsuccessful, the defendant filed an answer and [special defenses] on March 18, 2013, and a counterclaim on April 15, 2013. On February 21, 2014, the court granted [the plaintiff's] motion to strike the special defenses and counterclaim.

         ‘‘The defendant filed a motion to dismiss [the plaintiff's] complaint for lack of standing on February 18, 2014. The court ...


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