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Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Carnell

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 14, 2018

WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY A. CARNELL and ANNA M. CARNELL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          KIM R. GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Presently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 50) filed by Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Wells Fargo") against Defendants Jeffrey A. Carnell and Anna M. Carnell (collectively "the Carnells"). This Motion has been fully briefed (see ECF Nos. 51, 52, 54, 55, 56) and is ripe for disposition.

         This case arises from Wells Fargo's claims against two mortgagors, Jeffrey Carnell and Anna Carnell. Wells Fargo seeks, inter alia, quiet title and a declaratory judgment regarding the property underlying the mortgage on the basis that the Carnells defaulted on their mortgage payments. However, Wells Fargo's claims are complicated by Jeffrey Carnell's assertion that Anna Carnell impermissibly signed his name on the mortgage documents. In the instant Motion, Wells Fargo asks this Court to grant summary judgment in its favor because, regardless of whether Jeffrey Carnell's version of the facts are true, Anna Carnell had the authority to enter the mortgage on Jeffrey Carnell's behalf under a power of attorney -despite not remembering that she had such authority until years later, shortly before the instant case was scheduled for mediation.

         For the reasons that follow, Wells Fargo's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 50) is GRANTED.

         II. Jurisdiction and Venue

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), district courts have original jurisdiction over cases between citizens of different states if the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. For diversity purposes, a national banking association-like Wells Fargo-is considered a citizen of "the State designated in its articles of association as its main office." Wachovia Bank v. Schmidt, 546 U.S. 303, 318 (2006); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1348.

         Wells Fargo's main office is located in South Carolina and Defendants are domiciled in Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 1-5; ECF No. 39 ¶¶ 1-5.) Further, the value of the mortgage underlying this dispute exceeds $75, 000. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 24; ECF No. 39 ¶ 24.) This Court, therefore, has original jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).

         Venue is proper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because the property in question is in the Western District of Pennsylvania and at least one defendant resides in the Western District of Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 25 ¶ 3; ECF No. 29 ¶ 3.)

         III. Relevant Procedural History

         Wells Fargo filed its Complaint with this Court on June 10, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) Wells Fargo's Complaint features ten counts: (1) a claim for quiet title against the Carnells in Count I, (2) a claim for declaratory judgment against the Carnells in Count II, (3) claims for an equitable lien or equitable mortgage against the Carnells in Count III, (4) additional claims for an equitable lien or equitable mortgage against the Carnells in Count IV, (5) a claim for breach of contract against Anna Carnell in Count V, (6) a second claim for breach of contract against Anna Carnell in Count VI, (7) a claim for fraud against Anna M. Carnell and Ryan P. Jay in Count VII, (8) a claim for fraud against Anna M. Carnell and Larry E. Jay in Count VIII, (9) a claim for negligent misrepresentation against Anna M. Carnell and Ryan P. Jay in Count IX, and (10) a claim for negligent misrepresentation against Anna M. Carnell and Larry P. Jay in Count X. (Id. at 16-20.)

         However, in granting the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 23) filed by Ryan P. Jay and Larry E. Jay (collectively "the Jays"), this Court dismissed all claims against the Jays with prejudice because Wells Fargo failed to bring its claims against the Jays within the applicable statute of limitations. See Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Carnell, No. 16-cv-130, 2018 WL 988352, at *8 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 15, 2018). This Court also dismissed all crossclaims brought by Jeffrey Carnell against the Jays, fully terminating the Jays from the instant case. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Carnell, No. 16-cv-130, 2018 WL 1882854 (W.D. Pa. April 19, 2018).

         On April 12, 2018, Wells Fargo filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment, Concise Statement of Material Facts, and Brief in Support thereof. (ECF Nos. 50, 51, 52.) Jeffrey Carnell opposed this Motion by filing his Response to Movant's Concise Statement of Undisputed Material Facts and Brief in Opposition on May 4, 2018. (ECF Nos. 54, 55.) Anna Carnell, pro se, has not filed any response. Lastly, Wells Fargo filed its Reply Brief on May 18, 2018. (ECF No. 56.)

         IV. Relevant Factual History

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.[2]

         Jeffrey Carnell and Anna Carnell were married on two separate occasions-the latter of which occurred on August 21, 1999. (ECF No. 51 ¶¶ 9-10; ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 9-10.) The Carnell's second marriage ended in divorce in 2013. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 52.)[3]

         On May 9, 2003, Jeffrey Carnell executed a durable power of attorney appointing Anna Carnell as his agent/attorney-in-fact.[4] (ECF No. 51 ¶ 11; ECF No. 51-3; ECF No. 54 ¶ 11.) However, Anna Carnell only remembered that she had this power of attorney "right before the mediation" in the present litigation. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 11; ECF No. 54-1 at 132: 14-17.) This power of attorney generally authorizes Anna Carnell to act on Jeffrey Carnell's behalf, including an express authorization for Anna Carnell to mortgage property on Jeffrey Carnell's behalf. (ECF No. 51 ¶¶ 14-16; ECF No. 51-3; ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 14-16.) Anna Carnell managed the Carnells' finances from August 21, 1999 until 2010. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 19; ECF No. 54 ¶ 19.)

         Jeffrey Carnell concedes that he never formally revoked his power of attorney, but believed that the power of attorney was only to be used if he and Anna Carnell were "on good terms" and he was incapacitated. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 13; ECF No. 54 ¶ 13.)

         After the Carnells' second marriage, the Carnells acquired title to real property located at 4139 Elk Lick Road, Everett, Pennsylvania 15537 ("the Property") as "husband and wife" by deed dated October 14, 2005. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 21; ECF No. 54 ¶ 21.)

         Pursuant to a promissory note dated September 5, 2005, M&T Mortgage Corporation ("M&T") loaned the Carnells the principal sum of $82, 400.00. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 22; ECF No. 54 ¶ 22.) Pursuant to a mortgage dated September 5, 2006 ("the M&T Mortgage"), the Carnells gave a mortgage against the Property in order to secure repayment of the debt to M&T. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 25; ECF No. 54 ¶ 25.) Jeffrey Carnell's signature appears on both the M&T promissory note and the M&T Mortgage; he signed his own name on both of these M&T documents. (ECF No. 51 ¶¶ 23-24, 26-27; ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 23-24, 26-27.)

         Pursuant to a promissory note dated June 30, 2008, Wells Fargo loaned the Carnells the principal sum of $101, 952.00 to, at least in part, pay off the debt secured by the M&T Mortgage. (ECF No. 51 ¶¶ 28, 36; ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 28, 36.) Pursuant to a mortgage dated June 19, 2008 ("the 2008 Wells Fargo Mortgage"), the Carnells gave a mortgage against the Property to Wells Fargo in order to secure repayment of the 2008 debt to Wells Fargo. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 32; ECF No. 54 ¶ 32.) Jeffrey Carnell's name appears on both the 2008 Wells Fargo loan and the 2008 Wells Fargo Mortgage, but he did not sign them-Anna Carnell signed his name. (ECF No. 51 ¶¶ 29-31, 33-35; ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 29-31, 33-35.)

         Pursuant to a promissory note dated March 31, 2009, Wells Fargo loaned the Carnells the principal sum of $156, 548.00 to, at least in part, pay off the debt secured by the 2008 Wells Fargo Mortgage. (ECF No. 51 ¶¶ 39, 47; ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 39, 47.) Pursuant to a mortgage dated March 20, 2009 ("the 2009 Wells Fargo Mortgage"), the Carnells gave a mortgage against the Property to Wells Fargo in order to secure the repayment of the 2009 debt to Wells Fargo. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 43; ECF No. 54 ¶ 43.) Jeffrey Carnell's name appears on both the 2009 Wells Fargo loan and the 2009 Wells Fargo Mortgage, but he did not sign them-Anna Carnell signed his name. (ECF No. 51 ¶¶ 40-42, 44-46; ECF No. 54 ¶¶ 40-42, 44-46.)

         On March 14, 2012, Wells Fargo filed an action in the Bedford County Court of Common Pleas to foreclose on the lien of the 2009 Wells Fargo Mortgage against the Property ("Foreclosure Action"). (ECF No. 51 ¶ 50; ECF No. 54 ¶ 50.) In this Foreclosure Action, Jeffrey Carnell filed an answer and new matter on May 29, 2012, stating that the M&T Mortgage was "legitimate, " but asserting that he did not execute the 2008 Wells Fargo Mortgage or the 2009 Wells Fargo Mortgage. (ECF No. 51 ¶ 51; ECF No. 54 ¶ 51.) However, the Foreclosure Action has purportedly been discontinued effective March 16, 2018 due to the substitution of Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC as a party plaintiff for Wells Fargo. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 51 n.16.)

         V. Legal Standard

         "Summary judgment is appropriate only where . . . there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. .. and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Melrose, Inc. v. Pittsburgh, 613 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Ruehl v. Viacom, Inc., 500 F.3d 375, 380 n.6 (3d Cir. 2007)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Issues of fact are genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 363 (3d Cir. 2005). Material facts are those that will affect the outcome of the trial under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The Court's role is "not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009). "In making this determination, 'a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor.'" Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 206 F.3d 271, 278 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 111 (3d Cir. 1994)).

         The moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 411 U.S. at 323. If the moving party meets this burden, the party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials" of the pleading, but "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 n.ll (1986)). "For an issue to be genuine, the nonmovant needs to supply more than a scintilla of evidence in support of its position-there must be sufficient evidence (not mere allegations) for a reasonable jury to find for the nonmovant." Coolspring Stone Supply v. Am. States Life Ins. Co.,10 F.3d 144, 148 (3d Cir. 1993); see also Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Sew.,409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. ...


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