CHARLES D. FINCH, Plaintiff
U.S. BANK, N.A., Defendant.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AN
MaryGay Kennedy, Justice
the Court is Defendant's motion for leave to file an
amended answer. Plaintiff has opposed this motion, and a
hearing was held on March 6, 2018. For the
following reasons, Defendant's motion is granted.
filed its complaint in this matter on January 7, 2016,
requesting in general a declaratory judgment that Defendant
is obligated to discharge its mortgage on Plaintiff's
property following a foreclosure trial wherein judgment was
entered in favor of Plaintiff. Following months of litigation
that resulted in an order issued by this Court setting aside
a default judgment that had been entered against Defendant,
Defendant filed its answer on October 3, 2016. On May 9,
2017, this matter was stayed pursuant to a joint motion by
the parties in light of the pending decision from the Law
Court in Pushard v. Bank of Am., N.A., 2017 ME 230,
175 A.3d 103. That opinion was issued on December 12, 2017.
On January 5, 2018, Defendant filed the current motion
requesting leave to amend its answer in order to add a
counterclaim for unjust enrichment.
Standard of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that, after a
responsive pleading has been served, "a party may amend
the party's pleading only by leave of court or by written
consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be freely given
when justice so requires." Although this is a liberal
standard, the court may deny a motion to amend if it finds
the movant has acted with undue delay or in bad faith, if the
grant of the motion would cause unfair prejudice to the
non-movant, or if amendment would be futile. See
Montgomery v. Eaton Peabody LLP, 2016 ME 44, ¶ 13,
135 A.3d 106; Longley v. Knapp, 1998 ME 142, ¶
19, 713 A.2d 939; Diversified Foods, Inc. v. First
Nat'l Bank of Boston, 605 A.2d 609, 616 (Me. 1992).
When "a proposed amended complaint would be subject to a
motion to dismiss, the court is well within its discretion in
denying leave to amend." Glynn v. City of S,
Portland, 640 A.2d 1065, 1067 (Me. 1994).
has conceded that Defendant's proposed amendment would
not cause undue delay or unfair prejudice, but instead argues
that Plaintiff's motion should be denied due to futility
of amendment. At oral argument, Plaintiff relied on a
decision issued by the Federal District Court for the
District of Maine to argue that Defendant's proposed
amendment would be futile because Defendant's attempt to
bring an unjust enrichment claim under the promissory note is
barred by res judicata. Nationstar Mortg., LLC v.
Nelson, No. 2:14-cv-00507-JDL, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
136660, at *12, *17-18 (D. Me. Oct. 3, 2016). However, this
question has not come squarely before the Law Court. In
Pushard, the Court noted the Defendant bank had
filed a counterclaim for unjust enrichment, but the Court did
not reach the issues of the justiciability or merits of the
counterclaim because it had been dismissed without prejudice
earlier in the proceedings. Pushard, 2017 ME 230,
¶ 36 n.14, 175 A.3d 103.
has directed the Court to Knope v. Green Tree Servicing,
LLC, 2017 ME 95, 161 A.3d 696, for the proposition that
an action brought under a promissory note is not necessarily
barred by a prior foreclosure judgment. In Knope,
the Law Court observed:
Were the note and the mortgage contract treated, under the
law, as one unit, or as related transactions involving the
same parties, then actions on the note would always have to
be joined and adjudicated with actions on the mortgage.
Parties could not achieve a dismissal of claims asserted
under an insufficiently assigned mortgage, because the claims
asserted under the note would have to be considered in a
unitary proceeding, barring final judgment until liability
under the note had been adjudicated, ... Related claims
between the same parties and involving the same transaction
must be joined in the same action. ... Actions under the
mortgage may be treated as separate and distinct from actions
under the note because notes are unsecured and separate from
mortgages, presenting different issues that may, sometimes,
be adjudicated in separate proceedings.
Id., ¶¶ 21-22 & n.4. Although
Knope did not involve the effect of a final
judgment, the Law Court's language implies that a
judgment concerning foreclosure of a mortgage does not
necessarily bar a later action brought under the promissory
note. Thus, because the Law Court has not directly decided
this issue, at this early stage of the proceeding, this Court
is unwilling to find Defendant7s proposed counterclaim is
futile as a matter of law. As there has been no showing of
undue delay or unfair prejudice, the Court finds no reason to
deny Defendant's motion.
foregoing reasons, Defendant's motion for leave to file
an amended answer is GRANTED. The Clerk is directed to
incorporate this Order into the docket by ...