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COA finds argument that documents were ambiguous is really ‘a failure to read’

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A real estate investor who argued that he should not be held personally liable because the loan documents were ambiguous was reminded by the Indiana Court of Appeals that “a failure to read does not equate with an ambiguity….”  

In Steven Weinreb v. Fannie Mae, 49A04-1211-PL-587, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s partial grant of summary judgment and grant of monetary award to Fannie Mae. Specifically, the court found the loan documents were not ambiguous; the non-recourse carve-outs and prepayments premium provisions of the note were enforceable; and the guaranty as well as the loan documents were not unconscionable.

It also concluded that claim preclusion and collateral estoppel do not preclude Steven Weinreb from challenging the lower court’s partial grant of summary judgment.

Weinreb, a resident of New York, and his business partners formed WK Strawbridge, LLC, in 2006 to acquire the title to Strawbridge Green Apartments in Indianapolis. Permanent financing was eventually sought from Arbor Commercial Funding, LLC, which provided a commercial loan in the principal amount of $6 million through Fannie Mae.

Beginning in December 2009, a series of mechanic’s liens were filed against the apartments, totaling $72,287.12. In July 2010, Strawbridge LLC failed to pay its monthly installments under the promissory note. A month later, Fannie Mae sent Strawbridge LLC and Weinreb a demand letter for immediate payment of the loan installments, ordering Strawbridge LLC to remit tenant rental payments directly to Fannie Mae, and advised that failure to pay amounted to a default under the terms of the note.

On July 20, 2011, Fannie Mae was awarded summary judgment in rem in the amount of $7.81 million. The trial court ordered foreclosure but found that Fannie Mae’s claims against Weinreb were not resolved by this judgment and could be pursued at a later date.

Fannie Mae then bought the apartments from the sheriff’s sale for $6.61 million, leaving a deficiency of $1.81 million plus interest and expenses. In Feb. 2012, Fannie Mae filed a complaint against Weinreb for the deficiency.

Weinreb argued he had not read the loan documents prior to signing them because the complexity of the papers was overwhelming. However, the trial court rejected Weinreb’s arguments and issued a partial summary judgment in favor of Fannie Mae and against Weinreb in the amount of $1.81 million.

Weinreb appealed, again asserting, in part, that the loan documents were extrinsically ambiguous which made summary judgment inappropriate. He did not raise an issue with the language but, rather, he argued that the implementation of the agreements resulted in latent ambiguity.

The court of appeals found no ambiguity in either the note, the mortgage or the guaranty. It also did not find any ambiguity coming during the implementation.

“A failure to read does not equate with an ambiguity arising from the implementation of the clear terms of the Note, Mortgage and Guaranty,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the court.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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