COA rules against bank in lien dispute

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Wells Fargo Bank could not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse default judgment entered against it in favor of two companies trying to foreclose on mechanic’s liens. The court also had a warning for litigants when filing amended complaints.

John E. Smith Builders Inc. and Isley’s Plumbing Inc. performed work on the home of Heather Stone after it sustained damage in a fire. Her home was mortgaged through Washington Mutual. The mortgage was later acquired by JP Morgan Chase Bank in 2008.

Smith Builders filed a complaint to foreclose on its mechanic’s lien on the homeowner’s property; Isley filed a cross-claim seeking to foreclose on its claimed mechanic’s lien. Smith Builders later entered bankruptcy and Edward Echert was substituted as a party in interest.

The trial court granted default judgments in October 2012 in favor of Dechert and Isley and against Washington Mutual and determined Isley’s mechanic’s lien held priority over Dechert’s. In April 2013, the mortgage was transferred to Wells Fargo, which sought to have the judgment set aside under Trial Rule 60(B)(4).

In Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Edward P. Dechert, Trustee of the Bankruptcy Estate of John E. Smith and Isley's Plumbing, Inc., 34A02-1311-PL-980, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, rejecting the bank’s claim that Dechert’s decision to file a second amended complaint and Isley’s response to that complaint resulted in the automatic vacation of the default judgments entered against the bank. None of the amended pleadings undermined any basis upon which the default judgments against the bank were issued.

The judges also rejected Wells Fargo’s claims that certain pleadings were not properly served upon the bank and that default judgments should be set aside because Indiana courts disfavor default judgments and windfalls.
“However, we note that Dechert’s decision to file the first amended complaint was inappropriate,’’ Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. “Here, where service had been accomplished, the appropriate procedure for Dechert to follow was to establish that service of process (in whatever form) had been completed upon Washington Mutual, and then to move for default judgment under Trial Rule 55—without filing a complaint alleging additional facts not necessary to proof of the merits of the case. Because the allegations in the first amended complaint do not differ on the elements of the causes of action, there was fair notice of Dechert’s claims upon which the trial court could enter a default judgment, and there was a nine-month delay between that judgment and Wells Fargo’s appearance in the case.

“Parties who pursue a similar procedure may not find themselves in a similar position, however, particularly with respect to changes in substantive allegations entitling a party to relief. Litigants are, therefore, warned accordingly.”


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.