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JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Romine

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

September 26, 2013

JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Successor by merger to Chase Home Finance LLC, Successor by Merger to Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Raymond E. Romine, Defendant-Appellee, Brian K. Urbanski, as Trustee of the 424 Stonecrop Court Trust, Defendant-Appellant.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, C.P.C. No. 11CV-06-6894

Reimer, Arnovitz, Chernek & Jeffery Co., L.PA., and Darryl E. Gormley, for plaintiff-appellee.

Wittenberg Law Group, Eric J. Wittenberg and Jennifer L. Routte, for defendant-appellant.

DECISION

DORRIAN, J.

(¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Brian K. Urbanski, Trustee of the 424 Stonecrop Court Trust ("appellant"), appeals from a judgment of mortgage foreclosure granted by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in an action filed by plaintiff-appellee, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. ("Chase"). For the following reasons, we affirm.

Facts and Case History

(¶ 2} On November 15, 2002, defendant-appellee, Raymond E. Romine ("Romine"), executed a promissory note in the amount of $73, 500 in connection with a loan in the same amount. The note identified the lender as Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp. ("Chase Manhattan"). On the same date, Romine executed a mortgage in favor of Chase Manhattan on real property located at 424 Stonecrop Court in Galloway, Ohio ("the real property"). The parties do not dispute that Chase Manhattan thereafter merged with Chase Home Finance, LLC ("Chase Home Finance") and that Chase Home Finance, LLC thereafter merged with Chase.

(¶ 3} Chase attached to the complaint copies of the note and the mortgage as well as a copy of a preliminary judicial title report. The note bears a general "pay to the order of endorsement, in blank, initialed by an assistant secretary of Chase Manhattan. The title report, based on examination of Franklin County records, disclosed that Romine, the mortgagor, had on September 22, 2005, conveyed the mortgaged real property by general warranty deed to "424 Stonecrop Court Trust, J.A. Gilcher, as Trustee." In addition, public records included an "affidavit of successor trustee, "dated July 27, 2009, indicating that Gilcher had resigned as trustee and that appellant had been appointed successor trustee of the 424 Stonecrop Court Trust.

(¶ 4} On June 6, 2011, Chase filed a complaint seeking foreclosure of the real property naming as defendants, inter alia, Romine and appellant. Chase alleged that it was the holder of the promissory note and the mortgage; the note and mortgage were in default for lack of payment, and Chase had declared the debt due. Chase further alleged that the mortgage created a valid and first lien upon the real property. Chase sought judgment against Romine in the amount of the sum it alleged was unpaid on the note ($46, 173.13 plus interest dating from May 1, 2009), an order of foreclosure of the mortgage, and sale of the premises to satisfy the amounts due it.

(¶ 5} Appellant answered the complaint and denied Chase's allegations that Chase was the holder of a valid note and mortgage and was entitled to seek a decree of foreclosure. Appellant asserted as a defense that Chase lacked legal standing to prosecute the foreclosure. Appellant also included a counterclaim seeking to quiet title to the property and sought a judgment declaring the mortgage null and void or, alternatively, a judgment rescinding the mortgage.

(¶ 6} Chase thereafter filed a motion pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6) seeking dismissal of appellant's counterclaims for failure to state a claim. Appellant opposed Chase's motion, but the trial court ultimately granted Chase's Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motion and dismissed appellant's counterclaims.

(¶ 7} The court referred the matter to a magistrate, who conducted a bench trial. At trial, a Chase loan research officer, Frank Dean, testified that the original mortgagee, Chase Manhattan, had merged into Chase Home Finance, which itself thereafter merged into Chase. Dean further testified that the note and the mortgage had always been retained by one of these Chase entities and that, to his knowledge, the note and mortgage had never been delivered or transferred to a non-Chase entity. Dean further testified that Chase last received payment on the note on May 1, 2009, and that Chase had accelerated the note based on payment default. Chase introduced numerous exhibits, including copies of the note and the mortgage, papers reflecting that payments on the note and mortgage were delinquent, and documents evidencing the mergers of the Chase entities. These exhibits were admitted into evidence without objection.

(¶ 8} On cross-examination, Dean acknowledged that Chase's records included a document titled "Assignment of Mortgage, " ("the assignment") that had been signed and notarized on November 27, 2002-several weeks after Romine had executed the original note and mortgage. The document stated that Chase Manhattan had assigned the Romine note and mortgage to the Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae"). Dean testified, however, that, based on his review of the records, the assignment was never given to Fannie Mae, nor was it ever recorded.

(¶ 9} Appellant also testified. He stated that Romine had deeded the real property to the 424 Stonecrop Court Trust, of which he was the current trustee. He acknowledged that the trust had initially made payments to ...


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