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Wells Fargo Bank N.A. v. James

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

May 1, 2014

Wells Fargo Bank N.A., as Trustee for Carrington Mortgage Loan Trust, Series 2006-NC4 Asset-Backed Pass-Through Certificates
v.
Faye E. James; Credit Based Asset Servicing and Securitization, LLC; Pledged Property II LLC; Appeal of: Land Tycoon, Inc

Argued December 9, 2013

Appealed from No. 147 CV 2011. Common Pleas Court of the County of Monroe. Higgins, J.

Anthony Roberti, Jim Thorpe, for appellant.

Kimberly Ann Bonner, Mountainside, NJ, for appellees.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE COHN JUBELIRER.[1] DISSENTING OPINION BY JUDGE COVEY.

OPINION

Page 814

RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge[1]

Before this Court is the appeal of Land Tycoon, Inc. (Land Tycoon) from the March 7, 2013 Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County (trial court) denying Land Tycoon's Petition to Intervene (Petition) in the mortgage foreclosure action instituted by Wells Fargo Bank N.A., as Trustee for Carrington Mortgage Loan Trust, Series 2006-NC4 Asset-Backed Pass-Through Certificates (Wells Fargo). On appeal, Land Tycoon argues that the trial court erred in denying its Petition.[2] In addition, by Order dated June 5, 2013, this Court directed the parties to address the questions of whether this Court has jurisdiction over Land Tycoon's appeal and whether the trial court's Order is an appealable order under the

Page 815

Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure.[3],[4]

On January 7, 2011, Wells Fargo filed a mortgage foreclosure complaint against Faye E. James, Credit Based Asset Servicing and Securitization, LLC, and Pledged Property II LLC for the property located at 28 Eagle Drive in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (the Property). On September 12, 2012, Land Tycoon purchased the Property at an upset tax sale. On October 22, 2012, Land Tycoon filed its Petition with the trial court, seeking to intervene in the mortgage foreclosure action. After argument from Wells Fargo and Land Tycoon, the trial court, on March 7, 2013, issued its Order denying Land Tycoon's Petition. In support, the trial court cited Financial Freedom, SFC v. Cooper, 2011 PA Super. 101, 21 A.3d 1229 (Pa. Super. 2011). Land Tycoon filed a Motion for Reconsideration on March 21, 2013, which the trial court did not address. On April 5, 2013, Land Tycoon appealed to this Court.[5]

We first address the issue of whether the trial court's Order denying the Petition is an appealable order. Rule 313(a) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure provides that, generally, appeals may be taken from collateral orders, stating " [a]n appeal may be taken as of right from a collateral order of an administrative agency or lower court." Pa. R.A.P. 313(a). Rule 313(b) defines a collateral order as " an order separable from and collateral to the main cause of action where the right involved is too important to be denied review and the question presented is such that if review is postponed until final judgment in the case, the claim will be irreparably lost." Pa. R.A.P. 313(b). In this case, the main cause of action presented in the underlying case is whether Wells Fargo may foreclose on its mortgage. The question of whether Land Tycoon may intervene is separable from and collateral to this question. This Court has held that the rights of a landowner in its property are rights too important to be denied review, stating:

[T]he criteria for determining whether an appeal falls within the definition of [Pa. R.A.P.] 313(b) requires that the issues raised on appeal transcend the particular interests of the parties and involve rights deeply rooted in public policy. We further note[], however, that public policy rights include those rights of landowners seeking to protect their interests in their homes. . . . [T]he property interests of intervening neighboring homeowners in a zoning matter were too important to be denied review . . . .

Township of Radnor v. Radnor Recreational, LLC, 859 A.2d 1, 4 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004). Finally, if postponed until the resolution of Wells Fargo's foreclosure action, the question of whether Land Tycoon may intervene in that action will be irreparably

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lost. Therefore, the trial court's Order denying Land Tycoon's Petition is a collateral order appealable as of right.

Next, we address the question of whether this Court has jurisdiction over Land Tycoon's appeal. Section 762 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 762, sets forth this Court's jurisdiction, stating, in relevant part:

(a) General rule. --Except as provided in subsection (b), the Commonwealth Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of appeals from final orders of the courts of common pleas in the following cases:
. . . .
(4) Local government civil and criminal matters.
(i) All actions or proceedings arising under any municipality, institution district, public school, planning or zoning code or under which a municipality or other political subdivision or municipality authority may be formed or incorporated or where is drawn in question the application, interpretation or enforcement of any:
(A) statute regulating the affairs of political subdivisions, municipality and other local authorities or other public corporations or of the officers, employees or agents thereof, acting in their official capacity;

42 Pa. C.S. § 762(a)(4)(i)(A). In this case, Land Tycoon seeks to intervene in Wells Fargo's foreclosure action based upon its purchase of the Property at an upset tax sale. In order to resolve this issue, this Court must examine the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (Tax Sale Law).[6] This Court and the Superior Court have both recognized that interpretation of the Tax Sale Law falls within Section 762(a)(4)(i)(A) of the Judicial Code. Pitti v. Pocono Business Furniture, Inc., 859 A.2d 523, 525 n.1 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004); Donaldson v. Ritenour, 354 Pa.Super. 568, 512 A.2d 686, 687 (Pa. Super. 1986). Therefore, because Land Tycoon's appeal deals with the effect of its purchase of the Property at an upset tax sale under the Tax Sale Law on Land Tycoon's right to intervene in Wells Fargo's foreclosure action, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction under Section 762(a)(4)(i)(A).

Finally, we address Land Tycoon's argument that the trial court erred in denying its Petition. Rule 2327(4) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party shall be permitted to intervene if " the determination of such action may affect any legally enforceable interest of such person whether or not such person may be bound by a judgment in the action." Pa. R.C.P. No. 2327(4). Land Tycoon has an interest in the Property that will be bound by the foreclosure action because it has title to the Property. Section 609 of the Tax Sale Law, 72 P.S. § 5860.609; see also Pitti, 859 A.2d at 527 n.5 (" [A]n upset tax sale will convey title subject to all recorded liens and mortgages" ).[7] Wells Fargo's foreclosure action, ...


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