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Webster Bank, N.A. v. Myers

Superior Court of Maine, Oxford

July 28, 2017

WEBSTER BANK, N.A., Plaintiff
v.
M. BETH MYERS & TIMOTHY MCGUIRE, Defendants

          DECISION & JUDGMENT

          Robert W. Clifford, Active Retired Justice

          Plaintiff Webster Bank, N.A. initiated the present action through a complaint asserting that defendants M. Beth Myers and Timothy McGuire failed to meet their obligations under a Home Equity Consumer Revolving Loan Agreement and Open-Ended Mortgage Deed. Plaintiff contends that defendants failed to meet all of their obligations under the Loan, including their obligation to make timely monthly payments. As a result of this default, plaintiff accelerated the obligations evidenced by the Loan and seeks the full balance plus interest, late charges, and other fees. Although the Loan is secured by a mortgage, and the mortgage provides that plaintiff is entitled to all remedies of law and equity, including foreclosure, should defendants default under the mortgage or the above agreement, plaintiff has not sought to foreclose on the mortgaged property.

         The court held a bench trial on May 1, 2017. During trial, the parties disputed whether: (1) pursuant to 9-A M.R.S. § 5-111, plaintiff had to comply with the notice requirements of 14 M.R.S. § 6111; (2) defendants had waived their right to assert this affirmative defense; and (3) if compliance with section 6111 is necessary, and whether plaintiff sufficiently complied with that section. The court requested, and the parties provided, post-trial memorandum.

         A. Whether the Notices to Cure Default Had to Comply with 14 M.R. S. § 6111

         Plaintiff contends that 14 M.R.S. § 6111 is inapplicable because the entire provision is focused on mortgages and foreclosure. Plaintiff is not, however, foreclosing or acting as a mortgagee. As a result, plaintiffs action is not "[w]ith respect to [a] mortgage" as required by § 6111.

9-A M.R.S. § 5-111 provides, in pertinent part:
Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, a notice to cure default for a consumer credit transaction secured by a mortgage subject to Title 14, section 6111 must satisfy the requirements of Title 14, section 6111 and not the requirements of this section.

9-AM.RS. § 5-111(6) (2016). Title 14 § 6111, in turn, provides:

With respect to mortgages upon residential property located in this State when the mortgagor is occupying all or a portion of the property as the mortgagor's primary residence and the mortgage secures a loan for personal, family or household use, the mortgagee may not accelerate maturity of the unpaid balance of the obligation or otherwise enforce the mortgage because of a default consisting of the mortgagor's failure to make any required payment, tax payment or insurance premium payment, by any method authorized by this chapter until at least 35 days after the date that written notice pursuant to subsection 1-A is given by the mortgagee to the mortgagor and any cosigner against whom the mortgagee is enforcing the obligation secured by the mortgage at the last known addresses of the mortgagor and any cosigner that the mortgagor has the right to cure the default by full payment of all amounts that are due without acceleration, including reasonable interest and late charges specified in the mortgage or note as well as reasonable attorney's fees. If the mortgagor tenders payment of the amounts before the date specified in the notice, the mortgagor is restored to all rights under the mortgage deed as though the default had not occurred.

14 M.R.S. § 6111(1) (2016).

         "In interpreting a statute, [the court's] single goal is to give effect to the Legislature's intent in enacting the statute." Dickau v. Vt. Mut. Ins. Co., 2014 ME, 158, ¶ 19, 107 A.3d 621 (citation omitted). Initially, the court seeks to accomplish this goal by "examining the plain meaning of the statutory language and considering the language in the context of the whole statutory scheme." Darling's v. Ford Motor Co., 1998 ME 232, ¶ 5, 719 A.2d 111 (citations omitted). "A plain language interpretation should not be confused with a literal interpretation, however." Dickau, 2014 ME 158, ¶ 20, 107 A.3d 621(citations omitted). "Rather, courts are guided by a host of principles intended to assist in determining the meaning and intent of a provision even within the confines of a plain language analysis." Id. (citation omitted). One of these principles is to take "into account the subject matter and purposes of the statute, and the consequences of a particular interpretation." Id. ¶ 21 (citation omitted). "In determining a statute's 'practical operation and potential consequences, ' [the court] may reject any construction that is 'inimical to the public interest' or creates absurd, illogical, unreasonable, inconsistent or anomalous results if an alternative interpretation avoids such results." Id. (quotation omitted); see also Darling's v. Ford Motor Co., 1998 ME 232, ¶ 5, 719 A.2d 111 (the court avoids "statutory constructions that create absurd, illogical or inconsistent results") (citation omitted).

         If a statute is ambiguous, the court may look beyond the plain language of the statute and the context of the statutory scheme "to indicia of legislative intent such as the statute's history and its underlying policy." Fuhrmann v. Staples, 2012 ME 135, ¶ 23, 58 A.3d 1083 (quotation omitted). "A statute is ambiguous if it is reasonably susceptible to different interpretations." Id. (quotation omitted).

         Here, the plain language of 9-A M.R.S. § 5-111 and 14 M.R.S. § 6111 clearly provide that plaintiffs "Notice of Default and Intent to Foreclose" (Notices) must satisfy the requirements of section 6111. This is because 9-A M.R.S. § 5-111 requires such compliance whenever a consumer credit transaction is "secured by a mortgage subject to Title 14, section 6111." This language focuses upon whether the mortgage is subject to section 6111, not whether the creditor is also seeking to foreclose upon the secured property.

         A mortgage is subject to section 6111 if it is upon residential property located in Maine where the mortgagor is occupying all or a portion of the property as the mortgagor's primary residence and the mortgage secures a loan for personal, family, or household use. Here, the record is clear that the mortgage is upon a residential property that serves as the defendants' primary residence and secures a loan ...


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