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Taggart v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

June 18, 2013

WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE, INC., et. al. Defendants.


LAWRENCE F. STENGEL, District Judge.

This is a mortgage foreclosure case that pro se plaintiff, Kenneth Taggart, filed against Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc. ("Wells Fargo"), American Partners Bank, and Eagle Nationwide Mortgage Company ("Eagle Nationwide"). The Amended Complaint alleges violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act ("RESPA"), Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"), breach of contract, violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL"), violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), and breach of fiduciary duty. Pending before this court is Eagle Nationwide's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 96). For the reasons set forth, I will grant Defendant's Motion and dismiss the case with prejudice.

I. Background

In December, 2008 Kenneth Taggart applied to refinance his mortgage loan on property located at 709 Schwab Road, Hatfield, Pennsylvania.[1] Eagle Nationwide Mortgage Company acted as a broker and American Partners Bank funded the loan. Complaint at ¶¶ 8-9. The mortgage loan closed on December 16, 2008. Wells Fargo now services the loan, which is owned by a securitized trust. Complaint at ¶ 11.

On March 1, 2010, Kenneth Taggart filed a cause of action alleging various federal and state law claims. The complaint alleges various violations of the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Laws, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In addition, the complaint raises breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims.[2] Plaintiff now seeks leave to add Mortgage Electronic Systems ("MERS") as a defendant because Plaintiff claims that MERS was the original lender of the mortgage loan in question.

Wells Fargo filed a motion to dismiss Taggart's complaint on June 4, 2010. (Doc. No. 5). On September, 27, 2010, I granted Wells Fargo's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 40). On December 10, 2010, Taggart filed an amended complaint. (Doc. No. 51). Again, Wells Fargo filed a second motion to dismiss on December 20, 2010 (Doc. No. 52), which was granted on April 19, 2011, and dismissed Wells Fargo from Taggart's amended complaint with prejudice.[3] (Doc. No. 70). That same day Eagle Nationwide's Motion to Dismiss was denied as untimely.[4] (Doc. No. 79).

On January 16, 2012, without filing a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, Plaintiff filed another Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 99). On January 19, 2012, I entered an Order permitting Plaintiff to file a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint on or before Thursday, January 26, 2012. On January 26, 2012, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion, which added claims against the previously-dismissed Wells Fargo and attempts to substitute Mortgage Electronic Registration systems ("MERS") with a John Doe alleged in the initial complaint. Eagle Nationwide responded on February 9, 2012 and Wells Fargo was permitted to file a response on February 12, 2012.

II. Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). A dispute is "genuine" when "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party" based on the evidence in the record. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" when it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id.

A party seeking summary judgment initially bears responsibility for informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the moving party's initial Celotex burden can be met simply by demonstrating to the district court that "there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 325. After the moving party has met its initial burden, the adverse party's response "must - by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule - set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)(2). Summary judgment is therefore appropriate when the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing that is "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322.

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must draw "all justifiable inferences" in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 255. The court must decide "not whether... the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented." Id. at 252. If the non-moving party has produced more than a "mere scintilla of evidence" demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact, then the court may not credit the moving party's "version of events against the opponent, even if the quantity of the [moving party's] evidence far outweighs that of its opponent." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc. , 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

III. Discussion


a. Principle Residence

Counts 1-9, 19, and 38 of Mr. Taggart's complaint alleges violations of RESPA. RESPA "does not apply to credit transactions involving extensions of credit (1) primarily for business, commercial, or agricultural purposes...." 12 U.S.C. § 2606(a). The Code of Federal Regulations provides that "RESPA and [Part 3500] apply to all federally related mortgage loans, except for the exemptions provided in paragraph (b) of this section." Paragraph (b) provides an exemption for, among other items, "[a]n extension of credit primarily for a business, commercial, or agricultural purpose, as defined by Regulation Z, 12 CFR 226.3(a)(1). Persons may rely on Regulation Z in determining whether the exemption applies." 24 C.F.R. § 3500.5(b). Regulation Z exempts several categories of lending transactions, including "[a]n extension of credit primarily for a business, commercial or agricultural purpose." 12 C.F.R. § 226.3(a). The Truth in Lending Official Staff Commentary provides:

Credit extended to acquire, improve, or maintain rental property (regardless of the number of housing units) that is not owner-occupied is deemed to be for business purposes. This includes, for example, the acquisition of a warehouse that will be leased or a single-family house that will be rented to another person to live in.1

46 Fed. Reg. 50288, 50297 (Oct. 9, 1981) (as amended 75 Fed. Reg. 7658 (Feb. 22, 2010)).

Eagle Nationwide argues the mortgage loan is not covered by RESPA because the Hatfield property was a rental property, not owner-occupied. In 2006, Mr. Taggart applied for a mortgage for property in Holland, Pennsylvania. On this application, his 2008 application to refinance, and when he filed this lawsuit in 2010, Mr. Taggart listed his current address as the property in Holland, Pennsylvania and listed the Hatfield property as a rental property.

Plaintiff argues that "Eagle is simply misrepresenting to the court that they are not liable for violations of fiduciary duties owed to plaintiff and lending violations asserted by plaintiff.... this is erroneous ...

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