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Couple should have jury trial on legal claims

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A couple whose home is being foreclosed on is entitled to a jury trial on their legal claims against the mortgage holder and loan servicer, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In Mary Beth and Perry Lucas v. U.S. Bank, N.A., et al., No. 28A01-0910-CV-482, Mary Beth and Perry Lucas filed an interlocutory appeal after their request for a jury trial on several counterclaims and third-party claims raised against U.S Bank and Litton Loan Servicing was denied. The Lucases had problems almost immediately after closing their mortgage. They claimed the loan rate and monthly payments were incorrect and there were disputes about the purchase of hazard insurance and escrow amount problems.

The Lucases filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection a little over a year after entering into the loan. The bankruptcy was discharged after four months, but there were issues about fees between the Lucases and Litton. The couple even sought assistance from Indiana Legal Services.

U.S. Bank filed a complaint to foreclose on the mortgage in early 2009; the Lucases alleged that Argent, the company they originally had the loan through, violated the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act, that U.S. Bank committed conversion and deception under the Civil Damages Statute, and that U.S. Bank breached its contractual obligations and its duty of good faith and fair dealing. They also sued Litton for breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and claimed Litton violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and RESPA. The couple also claims they are entitled to damages because Litton committed conversion.

Using Songer v. Civitas Bank, 771 N.E.2d 61, 63 (Ind. 2002), the appellate court analyzed the instant case and found the Lucases to be entitled to a jury trial on their legal claims. While a foreclosure action is essentially equitable and it’s well settled that equitable claims are tried to a court instead of a jury, the fact that a cause contains a foreclosure action doesn’t necessarily draw the entire cause into equity, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

The claims against the bank and loan servicer are grounded in federal and state statutory law, and state common law, all of which are legal causes of action. The majority of relief requested by the Lucases is money damages, a legal remedy, wrote the chief judge. In addition, the nature of many of their claims is different from the bank’s request to foreclose as they are grounded in consumer protection statutes.

“In light of the nature of the claims, the rights and interests involved, and the majority of the relief requested, we cannot say that the essential features of this cause are equitable,” he wrote.

The cause was remanded with instructions to grant the Lucases’ motion for a jury trial on their legal claims.
 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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