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Beal Bank USA v. New Century Mortgage Corp.

Supreme Court of Maine

October 1, 2019

BEAL BANK USA
v.
NEW CENTURY MORTGAGE CORPORATION

          Argued: May 15, 2019

          Richard E. Briansky, Esq. (orally), Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, Boston, Massachusetts, for appellant Beal Bank USA.

          Jonathan E. Selkowitz, Esq. (orally), and Frank D'Alessandro, Esq., Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc., Portland; Thomas A. Cox, Esq., Portland; and Andrew R. Sarapas, Esq., Strout & Payson, P.A., Rockland, for Amici Curiae Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc., and Maine Attorneys Saving Homes.

          Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General, and Kevin J. Crosman, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for Amicus Curiae Attorney General.

          John A. Doonan, Esq., and Reneau J. Longoria, Esq., Doonan, Graves & Longoria, LLC, Beverly, Massachusetts, for Amicus Curiae Caliber Home Loans Inc.

          F. Bruce Sleeper, amicus curiae pro se.

          Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Beal Bank USA appeals from the decision of the Superior Court (Penobscot County, A. Murray, J.) "denying" its complaint to compel the assignment of a mortgage to Beal by the insolvent originating lender New Century Mortgage Corporation.[1] Beal argues that, because it is the holder of the note secured by the mortgage, the court erred when it failed to apply the equitable trust doctrine to conclude that New Century holds the mortgage in trust for Beal and that Beal is entitled to an assignment of the mortgage. Beal also argues that it produced sufficient independent evidence of ownership of the mortgage to compel an assignment.[2] We disagree and affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are either alleged in Beal's complaint or were found by the trial court and supported by record evidence.[3] Knope v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC, 2017 ME 95, ¶ 3, 161 A.3d 696.

         [¶3] On September 29, 2006, the homeowners of the property at issue signed a promissory note listing New Century as the lender. To secure the note, the homeowners executed a mortgage that identified New Century as the "lender" and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS), as the "nominee" for the lender.[4] The note was transferred several times and eventually obtained by LNV Corporation, which held the note at the commencement of this case. On October 30, 2008, MERS purported to assign the mortgage to LNV. On November 28, 2016, LNV filed a complaint alleging that it was the equitable owner of the mortgage because New Century held any interest it had in the mortgage in trust for LNV, as holder of the note, and seeking an order to compel New Century to assign "any interest" it held in the mortgage to LNV. Later, Beal was substituted as the plaintiff.

         [¶4] On January 10, 2018, the Superior Court held a hearing on Beal's complaint; New Century did not appear.[5] Beal presented what appeared to be the original promissory note, a copy of the mortgage, several mortgage modification agreements, and correspondence and account information pertaining to the homeowners' loan and the property.

         [¶5] On March 4, 2018, the Superior Court entered an order denying the relief sought by Beal and ruled that applying the equitable trust doctrine[6] in the manner Beal requested would be inconsistent with our ruling in Bank of America, N.A. v. Greenleaf,2014 ME 89, 96 A.3d 700. After the court ...


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