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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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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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