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U.S. Bank Trust, N.A. v. Keefe

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

July 9, 2019

U.S. BANK TRUST, N.A. Plaintiff
v.
JAMES D. KEEFE, Defendants

          JUDGMENT

          Nancy Mills Justice

         Procedural Background

         On November 16, 2012, a complaint for foreclosure was filed against defendant with regard to the mortgage and real property involved in this 2019 complaint. See U.S. Bank Trust. NA. v. James D. Keefe, CUMSC-RE-12-419 (Me. Super. Ct., Cum. Cty., Nov. 16, 2012). Plaintiff requested a dismissal without prejudice of the 2012 complaint because plaintiff could not prove it owned the mortgage and lacked standing. The complaint was dismissed without prejudice and with a waiver of interest, fees, and coats, and an award of attorney's fees, (3/6/15 Order 4.)

         On April 24, 2017.[1] plaintiff filed its first complaint in docket number RE-17-104, a complaint for declaratory judgment against Beach First National Bank. On August 3, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion to quiet title, for default judgment and judgment on the pleadings, which was withdrawn on November 8, 2017. On November 27, 2017, the court granted plaintiffs motion to extend all scheduling order deadlines by 60 days.

         On January 2, 2018, the court granted plaintiff's motion to file an amended complaint to add the following four counts against defendant: count II. "breach of note, count III, breach of contract, count IV, quantum meruit, and count V, unjust enrichment. On March 19, 2018, defendant answered plaintiff's amended complaint. On May 25, 2018, parties participated in an alternative dispute resolution conference but the case remained unresolved. On June 20, 2018, defendant moved for partial summary judgment on counts I, declaratory judgment, IV, quantum meruit, and V, unjust enrichment. On July 18, 2018, the court granted defendant's partial motion for summary judgment on all three counts. On September 11, 2018, the court issued a pretrial order.

         On October, 9, 2018, plaintiff moved to file a second amended complaint and proposed to (1) strike the original defendant Beach First National Bank; (2) strike all parties-in-interest; (3) delete counts I, IV, and V; and (4) name James Keefe as defendant. On October 25, 2018, the court granted plaintiff's motion to extend all deadlines by 90 days. On December 3, 2018, plaintiff moved to file a third amended complaint to add a count for foreclosure. On January 11, 2019, the court granted plaintiff's motion to file its third amended complaint. On January 29, 2019, defendant answered plaintiff's third amended complaint. On February 26, 2019, the court granted plaintiff's motion to file its second amended complaint and strike the original defendant Beach First National Bank and parties-in-interest from the complaint and name James Keefe as the sole defendant.

         Jury-waived trial was held on March 26, 2019 on counts II, breach of note, III, breach of contract, and VI, foreclosure, of plaintiff's third amended complaint. After the court sustained defendant's objection to the admission of plaintiff's exhibit K, payment history, plaintiff's counsel stated the plaintiff would not be able to meet its burden at trial. (3/26/19 Tr. 10-11.) After a recess, the court sustained defendant's objection to the admission of plaintiff's exhibit G, a quitclaim assignment.[2] (3/26/19 Tr. 15.) Plaintiff's counsel stated that absent admission of the assignment, plaintiff lacked standing and requested a dismissal of the complaint without prejudice. (3/26/19 Tr. 14.) Defendant moved for a judgment as a matter of law. (3/26/19 Tr. 15.) In the alternative, defendant requested a dismissal with prejudice. (3/26/19 Tr. 14.) The parties' briefs were filed on May 6, May 24, and May 31, 2019.

         Discussion

         The court declines to amend its evidentiary rulings, as plaintiff requests. The court's granting of the third motion to amend the complaint does not constitute the law of the case with regard to the quitclaim assignment. See Pearson v. Wendell, 2015 ME 136, ¶ 26, 125 A.3d 1149 (stating the "law of the case" doctrine relates only to questions of law, not fact).

         Based on the litigation history of this mortgage and plaintiff's proof at trial, the issue is whether plaintiff's motion to dismiss its third amended complaint should be granted with or without prejudice or whether defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law should be granted. Plaintiff conceded it could not meet its burden of proof when the payment history on the note was not admitted. In KeyBank National Association v, Estate of Quint, the trial court entered judgment as a matter of law when plaintiff conceded it could not prove the amount owed when the exhibit purportedly documenting those amounts was not admitted. KeyBank Nat'l Ass'n v. Estate of Quint, 2017 ME 237. ¶ 11, 176 A.3d 717. The Law Court affirmed the judgment. Id. at ¶ 23.

         In support of its request of a dismissal of the complaint without prejudice, plaintiff argues that standing comes first and without standing, nothing else matters. (3/26/19 Tr. 15.) Based on the circumstances of the two cases involving this mortgage, a dismissal with prejudice would be warranted. See Green Tree Servicing. LLC v. Cope, 2017 ME 68, ¶ 2, 158 A.3d 931 ("[W]hen the circumstances warrant, a trial court retains authority to dismiss a foreclosure complaint with prejudice as a sanction, even when the plaintiff lacks standing.") The required procedural steps have been followed. See id. at ¶¶ 19-22: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Welch-Gallant, 2017 ME 105, ¶ 7, 162 A.3d 827.

         In this case, however, even if plaintiff had established standing, it could not prove the required element of the amount owed. See Bank of America, N.A. v. Greenleaf, 2014 ME 89, ¶ 18, 96 A.3d 700; M.R. Civ. P. 50(d). That fact supports the granting of defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law. See Quint, 2017 ME 237, ¶ 11, 176 A.3d 717.

         The entry is

         Judgment is entered in favor of Defendant, James D, Keefe, and against Plaintiff, U.S. Bank Trust, N.A., on ...


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