Argued: March 4, 2019
Catherine R. Connors, Esq., and John J. Aromando, Esq.,
Pierce Atwood LLP, Portland, and Nicholas A. Danella, Esq.
(orally), Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, Birmingham,
Alabama, for appellant Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB
D. Clifford, IV, Esq. (orally), Clifford & Golden, P.A.,
Lisbon Falls, for appellee Matthew J. Needham
P. Dumais, Esq., Eaton Peabody, Brunswick, for amicus curiae
Maine Bankers Association
R. Leland, Esq., and Jonathan M. Dunitz, Esq., Verrill Dana,
Portland, for amicus curiae Maine Association of Mortgage
ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB, d/b/a Christiana Trust,
not individually but as Trustee for Hilldale Trust, appeals
from a judgment in favor of Matthew J. Needham entered in the
Superior Court (Androscoggin County, MG Kennedy, J.)
after a bench trial on Wilmington's foreclosure
complaint. For the reasons discussed below, we vacate the
judgment and remand the matter for entry of judgment for
The following facts are undisputed. In August 2005, Needham
signed a promissory note in favor of EquiFirst Corporation
that was secured by a mortgage on his real property situated
in Auburn. Needham defaulted on that loan in August 2014 when
he stopped making the required payments. In September 2016,
loan servicer BSI Financial Services sent Needham a notice of
the right to cure on behalf of Ventures Trust-the then-holder
of the note and mortgage by virtue of assignment-as required
by 14 M.R.S. § 6111(1) (2018). Ventures Trust thereafter
filed a foreclosure complaint in January 2017.
In December 2017, Ventures Trust filed a motion seeking to
substitute Wilmington Savings Fund, FSB, as plaintiff because
it had transferred the mortgage and note by assignment to
Wilmington, as trustee for Hilldale Trust, in October 2017.
The motion was granted in January 2018.
A short bench trial was held in April 2018, after which
Needham stipulated that Wilmington's complaint and
filings were proper, its various exhibits were admissible,
and he had in fact defaulted under the terms of the note and
mortgage. The parties agreed that the only issue to be
decided by the court was whether 14 M.R.S. § 6111(1)
requires a mortgagee itself-and not its loan servicer acting
as its agent-to send the notice of the right to cure.
Resolution of that question would be dispositive of the case.
In lieu of presenting their arguments at trial, the parties
agreed to submit written arguments.
The court entered judgment for Needham on July 10, 2018. In
its judgment, the court explained:
The clearest guidance available to this [c]ourt in deciding
this issue is the oft-repeated mandate that a plaintiff
seeking a judgment of foreclosure must strictly comply with
statutory requirements. See, e.g., [Bank of Am., N.A. v.]
Greenleaf,2014 ME 89, ¶ 18, 96 A.3d 700;
[Chase Home Fin. LLC v.] Higgins,2009 ME 136,
¶ 11, 985 A.2d 508; Camden Nat'l Bank v.
Peterson,2008 ME 85, ¶ 21, 948 A.2d 1251. Section
6111 plainly requires notice to be "given by the
mortgagee." 14 M.R.S.A. § 6111(1). The term
"mortgage servicer" appears elsewhere in section
6111, e.g., id. § 6111(1-A)(D), (E), indicating
the Legislature recognizes that a servicer is a distinct