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Valley National Bank v. Private Transerve, LLC

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 30, 2018

VALLEY NATIONAL BANK
v.
PRIVATE TRANSERVE, LLC, ET AL.

          Argued November 28, 2017

          John Tartaglia, self-represented, with whom, on the brief, was Linda Tartaglia, self-represented, the appellants (defendant John Tartaglia et al.).

          Andrew M. McPherson, with whom, on the brief, was William J. Kupinse, Jr., for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Prescott, Elgo and Harper, Js.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

          In this action seeking, inter alia, to enforce a personal guarantee of a mortgage note, the defendants John Tartaglia and Linda Tartaglia, [1] against whom summary judgment as to liability only was rendered, appeal following a hearing in damages from the court's award of $967, 467.59 in favor of the plaintiff, Valley National Bank. On appeal, the defendants argue that the court improperly (1) denied their motion to dismiss the action, in which they alleged that the plaintiff was not the owner of the debt at the time the action was commenced and, thus, lacked standing to prosecute the action; (2) granted summary judgment as to liability only despite the defendants' insistence that genuine issues of material facts existed regarding the plaintiff's ownership of the debt; (3) permitted the plaintiff to amend the complaint after summary judgment despite the defendants' contention that the amendment added a new cause of action; and (4) made several evidentiary rulings against the defendants at the hearing in damages. We are not persuaded by the defendants' claims and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the court.

         The record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. The plaintiff commenced the underlying action in January, 2011. The initial complaint contained three counts. The first two counts sought to foreclose mortgages on two multifamily residential properties located in Bridgeport. The mortgages were executed by Private Transerve, LLC, as security for a revolving building promissory note of up to $500, 000. The third count sought money damages based upon breach of an unconditional guarantee of the debts of Private Transerve, LLC. The guarantee was executed by the defendants and Geoffrey Minte.

         On May 31, 2013, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment as to liability only. The defendants, Minte, and Private Transerve, LLC, filed an opposition. On October 23, 2013, after argument on the motion for summary judgment but prior to the court acting on that motion, the defendants, Minte, and Private Transerve, LLC, filed a motion to dismiss the action, claiming that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring the action, and, thus, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff opposed the motion to dismiss.

         On August 15, 2014, the court, Tyma, J., issued a decision denying the motion to dismiss. The court rejected all arguments that the plaintiff did not own the debt at the time the action was commenced in January, 2011, finding on the basis of the pleadings, affidavits, and other proof in the file that the note and mortgages initially had been assigned from the original lender, PAF Capital, LLC, to The Park Avenue Bank, and then, in June, 2010, were assigned to the plaintiff by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation acting as receiver for The Park Avenue Bank. The court moreover rejected all claims that there were problems affecting the validity of the aforementioned assignments.

         On August 17, 2015, the court, Hon. Alfred J. Jennings, judge trial referee, issued a decision granting the motion for summary judgment as to liability only on all counts of the complaint. The court again rejected all arguments regarding the plaintiff's lack of standing to prosecute the action, indicating that the original signed note had been presented and reviewed by the court and the defendants at the hearing on the motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the plaintiff had made ‘‘an adequate showing of the prima facie elements of its case for foreclosure and breach of guaranty: ownership of the loan, default of payment, and notice of breach.''[2]

         During the pendency of the underlying action, the two properties at issue were foreclosed in separate actions brought by Bridgeport's water pollution control authority. In each of those actions, the plaintiff exercised its right to redeem each of the properties on its assigned law day. As a result, the plaintiff acquired title to the properties and rendered moot its own foreclosure counts in the present action. Each time the plaintiff acquired a property, it filed an amended complaint removing the related foreclosure count, eventually leaving a single count complaint seeking money damages on the basis of the defendants' breach of the personal guarantee of the debt. The last such amendment was the third amended complaint, to which the defendants objected, arguing, inter alia, that the plaintiff was attempting to correct defects in its prior pleadings or to change the cause of action alleged. The court overruled the defendants' objection and permitted the amendment.

         A hearing in damages was held by the court, Wenzel, J., on July 26 and August 2, 2016. John Tartaglia appeared as a self-represented party at the hearing. Linda Tartaglia and Minte did not appear. On August 11, 2016, the court issued a memorandum of decision awarding joint and several damages totaling $967, 467.59 against the defendants and Minte. This appeal followed.[3]

         On appeal, the defendants raise a number of claims, none of which warrants significant discussion. The court's granting of permission to file the third amended complaint and its evidentiary rulings at the hearing in damages were discretionary in nature and are entitled to deferential review. The defendants have failed to demonstrate that any of these rulings relied upon clearly erroneous factual findings or a misapprehension of the law, or that the court otherwise abused its discretion.

         As they have argued throughout these proceedings, the defendants continue to maintain that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring this action against them. Most of the arguments are identical to those raised in conjunction with both the motion to dismiss and the motion for summary judgment. On the basis of our review of the record provided, as well as the briefs and arguments of the parties, we are convinced that the claims raised before the trial court regarding standing lack merit and were properly rejected by the court for the reasons provided in its memoranda of decision. In short, the record reflects that the plaintiff established through ...


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