Trujillo v. Regions Bank
ORDER GRANTING 21 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (jk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXA
Case No. A-13-CA-799-SS
BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and
specifically Defendant Regions Bank's Motion for Sunmiary Judgment [#21], to which Plaintiff
Emma Trujillo has not responded. Having reviewed the documents, the relevant law, and the file
as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and orders GRANTING the motion.
On October 3, 1997, Emma Trujillo purchased 24.476 acres of real property located at 9780
FM 86 in Caidwell County, Texas. The note was secured by a deed of trust, and the title of the
property was vested solely in Trujillo.
Mot. Summ. J. [#21-1] Ex.
(Rider to Deed of Trust).
On April 20, 2002, Trujillo and Albert Alvarez entered into a financing agreement (the construction
loan) with Tilson Home Corporation to build a custom home on the property. To secure payment
for the construction of the home, Tilson placed a contractor's lien in the name of Trujillo and
Alvarez on the home and the property. The contractor's lien was in the amount of$ 105,089.00. Id.
Trujillo and Alvarez later decided to bundle the property loan and the construction loan and
refinance them solely in Alvarez's name, and on November 27, 2002, Alvarez signed a promissory
note (the Note) with TXL Mortgage Corporation.
2 (the Note). The principal sum of the
Note was $127,089.00. The Note was secured by a Deed of Trust.
Ex. 3 (Deed of Trust).
The Deed of Trust contains a provision providing the right to accelerate all sums secured by the Deed
of Trust and to invoke its power of sale. Id. On November 27, 2002, the Note and Deed of Trust
were assigned to Union Planters Bank, N.A., which merged with Regions Bank in July 2004.
The bank promised to use the loan proceeds to pay off the balance of the $30,839.76 property
loan and the balance of the $105,089.00 construction loan, thereby extinguishing the liens that
encumbered the property. After Alvarez executed the Note, the bank fulfilled its promise and paid
off the balance of the property loan and the construction loan. In exchange for the bank's payment,
the removal of liens, and lower interest rates, Alvarez promised to repay the Note, and Alvarez and
Trujillo agreed to secure this promise with the Deed of Trust in the name of both Alvarez and
Trujillo. Both Alvarez and Trujillo signed the Deed of Trust. Id.
As Defendant summarizes the transaction, it provided the following benefits: (1) the bank
received the right to access interest on a Note secured by a Deed of Trust and the right to foreclose
on the property if the Note was in default; (2) Alvarez received the benefit of interest rates lower
than those applicable to the construction loan; (3) Alvarez and Trujillo jointly received the benefit
of extinguishing the contractor's lien; and (4) Trujillo received the benefit of paying offthe property
loan and extinguishing the original deed of trust that burdened the property. Trujillo also received
the indirect benefit of a Note with interest rates lower than those applicable to the construction loan
and lower than those she could have obtained on her own.
In October 2005, Alvarez stopped making mortgage payments, and the Note was in default.
InNovember 2005, Trujillo's attorney demanded Regions Bank recognize Trujillo's position as coborrower on the Note. Trujillo paid the arrears and made the mortgage payments for the next seven
years. In 2013, Truj illo stopped making payments, and the Note was again in default. In July 2013,
Trujillo received the notice of acceleration of the Note and of the impending foreclosure sale. Prior
to the sale, Trujillo filed her "Original Petition for Declaratory Judgment Application for Temporary
Restraining Order and Entry of Permanent Injunction," seeking an injunction and asserting claims
for breach of contract, gross negligence, attempt to wrongfully foreclose, interference with business
relations, detrimental reliance, bad faithlfraudulent conduct, slander of title, and fraud against
Removal [#1-3] Ex. A (Orig. Pet.). Trujillo filed her lawsuit on August
31, 2013, in the 22nd Judicial District Court
of Caldwell County, Texas. On September 11,2013,
Regions Bank removed the case to this Court.
Regions Bank agreed to delay exercising its foreclosure rights and not engage in feegenerating discovery and litigation practices based on Trujillo's representation she would pay the
amount in arrears by obtaining financial assistance from her son or by selling a portion of the
property and would dismiss her claims. From May2013 to July 2014, Truj illo remained in the home
without making mortgage payments. On July 7, 2014, she sold a portion of her property, and,
through that sale, satisfied the Note, allowing her to keep her home. Yet, to date, Trujillo has failed
to dismiss her lawsuit. Regions Bank has therefore moved for summary judgment to bring an end
to his matter.
As an initial matter, the Court notes Trujillo has not filed a response to Defendant's motion
for summary judgment, a motion filed on February 20, 2015. Because Trujillo has not filed a
response, the Court grants the motion as unopposed. See Local Rule CV-7(e)(2). The Court
nevertheless addresses the merits of the motion below, and agrees with Defendant's position.
Legal StandardSummary Judgment
Summary judgment shall be rendered when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure
materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986); Washburn
Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp.
Harvey, 504 F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007).
A dispute regarding a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict in favor ofthe nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to view all inferences
drawn from the factual record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec.
Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washburn, 504 F.3d at 508. Further, a court
"may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence" in ruling on a motion for summary
judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Anderson, 477
U.S. at 254-55.
Once the moving party has made an initial showing that there is no evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case, the party opposing the motion must come forward with competent summary
judgment evidence of the existence of a genuine fact issue. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Mere
conclusoiy allegations are not competent summary judgment evidence, and thus are insufficient to
defeat a motion for summaryjudgment. Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343
(5th Cir. 2007). Unsubstantiated assertions, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation are
not competent summary judgment evidence. Id. The party opposing summary judgment is required
to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which that evidence
supports his claim. Adams
Travelers Indem. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2006).
Rule 56 does not impose a duty on the court to "sift through the record in search of evidence" to
support the nonmovant's opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Id. "Only disputes over
facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing laws will properly preclude the
entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Disputed fact issues that are "irrelevant
and unnecessary" will not be considered by a court in ruling on a summary judgment motion. Id.
If the nonmoving party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to its case and on which it will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment must
be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.
Since Trujillo has not responded or done much of anything in her own lawsuit, she has not
provided the Court with any summary judgment evidence supporting her claims. After review of
the evidence provided by Defendant, it is apparent Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on
of Trujillo's claims.
Breach of Contract
Trujillo alleges Regions Bank is liable for breach of an implied contract to communicate and
accept payment from Trujillo on the Note. Orig. Pet. ¶ 17. A claim for breach of implied contract
requires the plaintiff prove the parties engaged in conduct indicating a mutual intent to form a
contract, Haws & Garrett Gen. Contractors, Inc.
Gorbett Bros. Welding Co., 480 S .W.2d 607,
609 (Tex. 1972). Here, there is no evidence of mutual intent to support a finding of an implied
contract, there is no evidence of breach, and there is no evidence Trujillo suffered any damages as
the result of any breach. As such, Regions Bank is entitled to judgment on Trujillo ' s claim for
breach of implied contract.
Trujillo alleges Regions Bank was grossly negligent in allowing Alvarez, Trujillo ' s boyfriend
or spouse, to execute the Deed of Trust to secure the Note. Orig. Pet. ¶ 18. Trujillo's claim is
curious considering she signed the Deed of Trust herself as the "wife" of Alvarez. See Deed of
Trust. Nevertheless, Trujillo has presented no evidence to support any element of a negligence
claim, much less a gross negligence claim. Regions Bank is entitled to judgment.
Wrongful Foreclosure Attempt
Trujillo alleges Regions Bank "attempted to wrongfully foreclose" on the property. Id. ¶ 19.
The elements of a wrongful foreclosure claim are: (1) a defect in the foreclosure sale proceedings;
(2) a grossly inadequate sales price; and (3) a causal connection between the defect and the grossly
inadequate sales price.
Charter Nat'l BankHous.
App.Houston [14th Dist.]
Stevens, 781 S.W.2d 368, 371 (Tex.
1989, writ denied). There is no evidence Regions Bank failed to comply
with the power of sale terms in the Deed of Trust or with
51.002 of the Texas Property Code. The
Court grants Regions Bank's request for summary judgment on the wrongful foreclosure attempt
Interference in Contractual and Business Relations
Trujillo alleges Regions Bank interfered in contractual and business relations. Orig. Pet.
¶ 20. To prevail on a claim for tortious interference with an existing contract, Trujillo must provide
evidence: (1) Truj illo had a valid contract; (2) Regions Bank willfully and intentionally interfered
with the contract; (3) the interference proximately caused Truj illo' s injury; and (4) Truj illo incurred
actual damage or loss. Butnaru v. Ford Motor Co., 84 S.W.3d 198, 207 (Tex. 2002). To prevail on
a claim for tortious interference with prospective relations, Trujillo must provide evidence: (1) there
was a reasonable probability she would have entered into a business relationship with a third party;
(2) Regions Bank intentionally interfered with the relationship; (3) Region Bank's conduct was
independently tortious or unlawful; (4) the interference proximately caused Trujillo's injury; and
(5) Trujillo suffered actual damage or loss. Coinmach Corp.
AspenwoodApt. Corp., 417 S.W.3d
909, 923 (Tex. 2013). Trujillo presents no evidence to support either of these causes of action, and
Regions Bank is entitled to summary judgment on those claims.
Trujillo alleges Regions Bank induced her reliance on an established course of dealing to her
detriment. Orig. Pet. ¶ 21. Under Texas law, "detrimental reliance" is not a separate tort cause of
action. Garcia v. Lucero, 366 S.W.3d 275, 281-82 (Tex.
App.El Paso 2012, no pet.) (citation
omitted). Additionally, there is no evidence to support any such claim. Regions Bank's motion for
summary judgment on the claim is granted.
Bad Faith/Fraudulent Conduct
Trujillo alleges Regions Bank is liable for bad faith in pursuing the foreclosure action. Orig.
Pet. ¶ 22. Trujillo also alleges Regions Bank breached its duty
of good faith and fair dealing with
respect to the Note and its efforts to foreclose on the property. Id. ¶ 23. Trujillo argues Regions
Bank disregarded the fact the collateral was put up in the course of a fraud and the property owner
was not a signatory to the Note. Id. ¶ 22. Here, there is no evidence to support Trujillo's bad faith
or fraud claims. Trujillo signed the Deed of Trust as Alvarez's wife, and there is no indication
Alvarez committed fraud in securing the Note with the Deed of Trust. Regions Bank is entitled to
judgment on Trujillo's claims for bad faith and fraudulent conduct.
Slander of Title
Trujiilo alleges Regions Bank is liable for slander of title. Orig. Pet. ¶ 24. To prove slander
of title, Trujillo must produce evidence showing: (1) the uttering and publishing of the disparaging
words; (2) the words were false; (3) the words were malicious; (4) Trujillo sustained special damages
thereby; and (5) Trujillo possessed an interest in the property disparaged. Taub
Co., 75 S.W.3d 606, 616 (Tex.
App.Texarkana 2002, pet. denied). Trujillo must further
demonstrate the loss of a specific sale in order to recover. Id. There is no evidence Regions Bank
made a false and malicious statement and no evidence of a loss of a specific sale of property.
Regions Bank is entitled to judgment on the claim.
For the reasons described above, the Court finds Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law, and Trujillo is not entitled to any of her requested relief.
IT IS ORDERED that Defendant Regions Bank's Motion for Summary Judgment
[#21] is GRANTED.
SIGNED this the
S-day of March 2015.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
799 msj ordjtw.frm
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?