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U.S. Bank N.A. v. Mattos

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

February 12, 2016

U.S. BANK N.A. IN ITS CAPACITY AS TRUSTEE FOR THE REGISTERED HOLDERS OF MASTR ASSET BACKED SECURITIES TRUST-NCl, MORTGAGE PASS-THROUGH CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2005-NCl, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOSEPH KEAOULA MATTOS, CHANELLE LEOLA MENESES, Defendants-Appellants, and CITIFINANCIAL, INC., ASSOCIATION OF APARTMENT OWNERS OF TERRAZZA/CORTEBELLA/LAS BRISIS/TIBURON, EWA BY GENTRY COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION, Defendants-Appellees, and JOHN DOES, JANE DOES, DOE PARTNERSHIPS, DOE CORPORATIONS, DOE ENTITIES, and DOE GOVERNMENTAL UNITS, Defendants

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT (CIVIL NO. 11-1-1539)

Melodie Aduja (Aduja & Aduja) for Defendants-Appellants.

Paul Alston J. Blaine Rogers Kee M. Campbell (Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing) for Plaintiff-Appellee.

NAKAMURA, C.J., FOLEY AND GINOZA, JJ.

OPINION

FOLEY, J.

Defendants-Appellants Joseph Keaoula Mattos and Chanelle Leola Meneses {together, Appellants) appeal from the (1) August 26, 2014 "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Decree of Foreclosure Against All Defendants on Complaint Filed July 21, 2011" and (2) August 26, 2014 "Judgment on Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Decree of Foreclosure Against All Defendants on Complaint Filed July 21, 2011, " both entered in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit[1] (circuit court).

On appeal, Appellants argue that the circuit court erred when it (1) held that Plaintiff-Appellee U.S. Bank N.A. in its Capacity as Trustee for the Registered Holders of the Mastr Asset Backed Securities Trust 2005-NC1, Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2005-NC1 (U.S. Bank) "did not need to prove that it had standing to judicially foreclose on the subject property prior to filing its complaint" and (2) granted summary judgment in U.S. Bank's favor.

(1) Appellants contend U.S. Bank lacked standing to foreclose on the Mortgage because the Assignment of Mortgage (AOM), dated January 3, 2007, and Second Assignment of Mortgage (Second AOM), dated September 29, 2010, contained "fatal flaws."

First, Appellants contend the AOM and Second AOM were invalid because the signer and notary were "robo-signers." Appellants' "Opposition to [U.S. Bank's] Motion for Summary Judgment and Decree of Foreclosure Against All Defendants on Complaint Filed July 21, 2011" failed to assert facts or law explaining how the alleged "robo-signing" caused them harm or damages. See U.S. Bank Nat'1 Ass'n v. Benoist, No. CAAP-14-0001176 at *4 (App. Nov. 12, 2015) (SDO); see also Nastrom v. New Century Mortg. Corp., 2012 WL 2090145, at *6 (E.D. Cal. June 8, 2012) (dismissing claim'where "Plaintiffs offer[ed] no factual allegations (or legal theory) indicating how the alleged robo-signing of documents which assigned the subject loans harmed Plaintiffs."); Block v. BAC Home Loans Servicing LP, 2012 WL 2031640, at *4 (E.D. Mich. June 6, 2012) ("Plaintiffs' vague and speculative assertions of what has been labeled as 'robo-signing1 are insufficient to state a plausible claim of fraud or irregularity."). This court has previously held that "such conclusory assertions of 'robo-signing' fail to state a plausible claim." Benoist, SDO at *4 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Lee v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 2012 WL 2467085, at *5 (D. Hawai'i 2012)) (rejecting an identical "robo-signing" argument); see Nottage v. Bank of New York Mellon, 2012 WL 5305506, at *6 (D. Hawai'i 2012) (summarizing case law where courts have rejected "robo-signing" argument).

Second, Appellants contend U.S. Bank lacked standing to foreclose on the Mortgage because the AOM and Second AOM violated the securitized trust's Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA) when it attempted to assign the Mortgage to U.S. Bank after the securitized trust had closed. "Typically, borrowers do not have standing to challenge the validity of an assignment of [their] loans because they are not parties to the agreement and because noncompliance with a trust's governing document is irrelevant to the assignee's standing to foreclose." U.S. Bank Nat'1 Ass'n v. Salvacion, 134 Hawai'i 170, 175, 338 P.3d 1185, 1190 (App. 2014). "Hawai'i courts may recognize exceptions when a challenge would deem the assignment void, not voidable." Salvacion, 134 Hawai'i at 175, 338 P.3d at 1190; see Benoist, SDO at *2 (holding that an identical PSA argument was without merit). This court, however, has held that the non-compliance with a PSA does not render the assignment void. Given our holding in Salvacion, Appellants have no standing to challenge U.S. Bank's alleged noncompliance with the PSA.

Third, Appellants argue that U.S. Bank lacked standing to foreclose on the Mortgage because New Century Mortgage Corporation (New Century) did not assign the underlying Note to U.S. Bank and, therefore, U.S. Bank "could not show that it represented a party with a legal chain of ownership." In response, U.S. Bank argues that U.S. Bank' was the holder of the Note and, therefore, was entitled to foreclose the Mortgage as a matter of law.

"In order to enforce a note and mortgage under Hawaii law, a creditor must be 'a person entitled to enforce' the note. One person entitled to enforce an instrument is a 'holder' of the instrument. A 'holder' is the 'person in possession of a negotiable instrument.'" In re Tvrell. 528 B.R. 790, 794 (Bankr. D. Haw. 2015) (citing Hawaii Revised Statute (HRS) § 490:3-301 (2008 Repl.)[2] and HRS § 490:1-201(b) (2008 Repl.)[3]).

In support of its "Motion for Summary Judgment and Decree of Foreclosure Against All Defendants on Complaint Filed July 21, 2011" (U.S. Bank's MSJ), U.S. Bank submitted the declaration of Richard Work (Work), the Contract Management Coordinator of Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC (Ocwen.).[4]Work's declaration stated:

5) According to the Ocwen Records, [U.S.Bankl is in possession of an original promissory note dated October 15, 2004, in the principal amount of Two Hundred Ninety-Six Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($296, 000.00) executed by [Joseph Keaoula Mattos] in favor of [New Century]. ...

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