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Federal National Mortgage Association v. Thompson

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

May 24, 2018

Federal National Mortgage Association, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Cory Thompson, Defendant-Appellant, Unknown Spouse of Cory Thompson, Defendant.

          APPEAL from an order of the Circuit Court for Dane County. (L.C. No. 2014CV3377) Affirmed.

          For the defendant-appellant, there were briefs and an oral argument by Christopher Stroebel and Stroebel Law, LLC, Madison.

          For the plaintiff-respondent, there was a brief and an oral argument by Thomas C. Dill and BP Peterman Law Group, LLC, Brookfield.

          SHIRLEY S. ABRAHAMSON, J.

         ¶1 This appeal comes before the court on certification by the court of appeals.[1] Cory Thompson, the debtor defendant, appeals an order of the Dane County Circuit Court, Amy Smith, Judge, granting Federal National Mortgage Association a foreclosure judgment and a monetary judgment of $152, 355.98, plus any amounts held in escrow, interest after August 16, 2012, and costs incurred by Federal National Mortgage Association.[2]

         ¶2 The issue certified is as follows: Where a foreclosure action brought on a borrower's default on a note has been dismissed, is the lender barred by claim preclusion from bringing a second foreclosure action on the borrower's continuing default on the same note?

         ¶3 Essentially, we must answer the following question: When a foreclosure action brought on the borrower's default on the note has been dismissed with prejudice, [3] and the lender had not validly accelerated payment of the amount due under the note, does claim preclusion bar the lender from bringing a second foreclosure action based upon the borrower's continuing default on the same note?

         ¶4 We conclude that when a lender does not validly accelerate payment of the amount due under the note and a foreclosure action brought on the borrower's default on an installment payment under the note has been dismissed with prejudice, claim preclusion does not bar the lender from bringing a subsequent foreclosure action based upon the borrower's continuing default on the same note.

         ¶5 For an earlier action to bar a subsequent action under the doctrine of claim preclusion, there must be, among other elements, "an identity of causes of action in the two suits [ . ] " N. States Power Co. v Bugher, 189 Wis.2d 541, 551, 525 N.W.2d 723 (1995).

         ¶6 There is no identity of causes of action in the instant case and in the earlier lawsuit. The matters that were litigated or might have been litigated in the earlier lawsuit are not the same as those in the instant case. A different set of operative facts predicated upon separate and distinct defaults on the note is alleged in each lawsuit.

         ¶7 Upon dismissal of the first lawsuit, the parties continued the same contractual relationship with the same continuing obligations they had before the commencement of the first lawsuit. The borrower's default resulting from the borrower's failure to make an installment payment due after dismissal of the first lawsuit was not and could not have been litigated in the first lawsuit. Thus, the failure of the borrower to pay an installment after the termination of the first lawsuit created a new set of operative facts upon which the lender could base a subsequent foreclosure action.

         ¶8 After the first lawsuit, the lender gave new notice of intent to accelerate payment. The second lawsuit alleged a different date of default than was alleged in the first lawsuit. These constitute new facts giving rise to a new and subsequent default and a different transaction from that presented in the first foreclosure action.

         ¶9 Additionally, the parties raised and addressed the issues of whether the circuit court erred at trial by admitting a copy of the promissory note into evidence and whether Federal National Mortgage Association proved that it had possession of the original wet-ink promissory note.[4]

         ¶10 We conclude that these additional issues are governed by our decision in Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Wuensch, 2018 WI 35, ___ Wis.2d ___, ___ N.W.2d ___.

         ¶11 Accordingly, we affirm the order of the circuit court.

         I

         ¶12 The facts are undisputed for purposes of this review.

         ¶13 In November 2004, Cory Thompson executed a promissory note payable to America's Wholesale Lender for $162, 800.00, secured by a mortgage on real property. The note was endorsed in blank by America's Wholesale Lender. The note contained an acceleration clause stating that the holder of the note may require Thompson to pay the full amount of unpaid principal plus interest immediately under the following conditions:

(1) Thompson must have defaulted by failing to make a monthly payment on the date that it was due;
(2) the holder of the note must have sent written notice to Thompson stating that it may accelerate the payments under the note if Thompson fails to cure the default by a given date; and
(3) the amount of time in which Thompson is afforded the opportunity to cure his default must not be less than 30 days after the date on which the notice is mailed or otherwise delivered to Thompson.

         ¶14 In November 2010, BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, (formerly Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP) filed a lawsuit against Thompson. The complaint alleged that Thompson failed to make required payments on the note as of April 2009. In its complaint, BAC Home Loans purported to accelerate the debt, which made the principal balance of $153, 202.53 immediately payable in full. BAC Home Loans sought a money judgment in the full amount owed under the note and sought to foreclose on the property securing the note.

         ¶15 At a court trial held on August 16, 2012, the circuit court determined that BAC Home Loans failed to present sufficient evidence to prevail in its foreclosure action and dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice. The circuit court reasoned that BAC Home Loans failed to present evidence of the original notice of intent to accelerate full payment and failed to present evidence that BAC Home Loans was in possession of the original wet-ink note (i.e., that BAC Home Loans was the holder of the note with the right to enforce the note).

         ¶16 In March 2014, Bank of America, N.A., (the entity servicing Thompson's loan beginning in 2011), sent Thompson a notice of intent to accelerate payment of the note. The notice of intent to accelerate payment informed Thompson of the amount due to cure his default ($89, 586.63), when payment was due (on or before May 4, 2014), and where to remit payment. Thompson did not cure his default on or before May 4, 2014.

         ¶17 In December 2014, Bank of America filed a complaint initiating the instant lawsuit. The complaint alleged that Thompson had failed to make payments on the note as of September 2009 and that because Bank of America had accelerated the debt, the principal balance of $152, 355.98 was immediately payable in full.

         ¶18 Thompson moved to dismiss the December 2014 lawsuit, arguing that it was barred ...


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