Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wilson v. Suntrust Bank

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 19, 2017

JENNIFER L. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SUNTRUST BANK; SUNTRUST MORTGAGE INC.; DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS; THE LAW FIRM OF HUTCHENS, SENTER & BRITTON P.A. n/k/a HUTCHENS, SENTER, KELLAM & PETTIT, P.A.; SUBSTITUTE TRUSTEE SERVICES, INC.; and DOES/JANES 1-10 INCLUSIVE, Defendants.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 5 October 2017.

         Appeal by plaintiff from orders entered by Judge Gregory R. Hayes on 29 September 2016 in Cabarrus County Superior Court and 5 December 2016 in Catawba County No. 16-CVS-1972 Superior Court.

          Plaintiff-appellant Jennifer L. Wilson, pro se.

          Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, by Ramona Farzad and Julia B. Hartley, for defendant-appellees SunTrust Bank and SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.

          Hutchens Law Firm LLP, by Lacey Moore Duskin, for defendant-appellees Hutchens Law Firm LLP f/k/a Hutchens, Senter, Kellam & Pettit, P.A., f/k/a Hutchens, Senter & Britton, P.A., and Substitute Trustee Services, Inc.

          Troutman Sanders LLP, by D. Kyle Deak, for defendant-appellee Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas.

          ZACHARY, JUDGE.

         Jennifer L. Wilson (plaintiff) appeals from an order entered on 29 September 2016, that dismissed with prejudice plaintiff's claims against SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Mortgage, Inc., Hutchens Law Firm LLP, [1] Substitute Trustee Services, Inc., and Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (Deutsche Bank) (collectively, defendants). This order quieted title to certain real property in favor of Deutsche Bank, and denied plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.[2] Plaintiff also appeals from an order entered on 5 December 2016, that denied plaintiff's motion for findings and conclusions to be added to the order of 29 September, her motion to amend or alter the order, and her objection to the trial court's holding a hearing in Catawba County.

         On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to conduct a hearing on 15 August 2016, erred by entering an order out of county on 29 September 2016, and erred by dismissing her complaint and denying her motion for entry of a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. We conclude that the trial court did not err by entering the 29 September 2016 order out of county, by dismissing plaintiff's complaint, or by denying plaintiff's motion asking the trial court to "show cause how this court . . . possessed jurisdiction." Because we conclude that the trial court did not err by dismissing plaintiff's complaint, we dismiss as moot plaintiff's argument regarding the denial of her motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

         Plaintiff also argues that the trial court erred by conducting a hearing in Catawba County on 14 November 2016, by denying her motion to alter or amend the 29 September 2016 order, and by denying her motion for entry of findings of fact and conclusions of law in the order. We conclude that the trial court did not err by denying plaintiff's motion for entry of findings and conclusions, plaintiff's motion asking the trial court to alter or amend its judgment, or plaintiff's challenge to the trial court's authority to conduct a hearing in Catawba County.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         We first note that in her brief, plaintiff recites a number of factual circumstances that are not necessary for the disposition of the issues raised on appeal. We find the following facts, which are essentially undisputed, to be relevant to our resolution of this appeal. On 18 January 2007, plaintiff borrowed $296, 000 from SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. (hereafter "SunTrust Mortgage"), in order to finance the purchase of real property located on Pinecroft Court, in Harrisburg, North Carolina (hereafter, "the property"). Plaintiff signed a promissory note and a deed of trust securing the loan. In 2009, plaintiff defaulted on the terms of the loan by failing to make the required mortgage payments. In October 2009, Hutchens Law Firm filed an appointment of substitute trustee, naming Substitute Trustee Services, Inc. ("STS") as substitute trustee. On 3 November 2009, Hutchens Law Firm, as the attorney for STS, wrote to plaintiff informing her that foreclosure proceedings were being initiated.

         Following a hearing, an order allowing foreclosure was entered by an Assistant Clerk of Court for Cabarrus County on 25 January 2010. The order found that SunTrust Bank was the holder of the note; that the note was in default; that plaintiff had been served with notice of the hearing; and that plaintiff had shown no valid reason why foreclosure could not proceed. The Order ruled that STS was authorized to proceed with foreclosure. Plaintiff did not appeal this order. At the foreclosure sale conducted on 15 November 2010, SunTrust Bank was the highest bidder. SunTrust Bank assigned its bid to Deutsche Bank. A Final Report of Foreclosure was filed on 9 December 2010, and on 7 February 2011, a Trustee's Deed was recorded naming Deutsche Bank as the owner of the property.

         On 22 June 2016, plaintiff was served with a notice directing her to vacate the property. On 8 July 2016, plaintiff filed a verified complaint against defendants. In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that in 2007 SunTrust Mortgage had sold the note and deed of trust to another financial entity and that, in order to obtain an order allowing foreclosure, defendants later executed fraudulent documents. Plaintiff sought damages from defendants for "fraud upon the court, " including rescission of foreclosure-related documents, money damages, and a declaration quieting title to the property in favor of plaintiff.

         On 29 July and 1 August 2016, the defendants filed motions asking that plaintiff's complaint be dismissed pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On 2 August 2016, plaintiff filed an amended motion seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a preliminary injunction staying the entry of an order for possession of the property or sale of the property. Plaintiff alleged that the foreclosure sale was "procured by Fraud Upon the Court" and that there was a "serious controversy" as to "the title ownership of the Subject Property[.]" On 15 August 2016, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendants' respective motions for dismissal of plaintiff's claims, together with plaintiff's motion for entry of a TRO and a preliminary injunction.

         On 29 September 2016, the trial court entered an order dismissing plaintiff's complaint with prejudice pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, denying plaintiff's motions for injunctive relief, and taxing plaintiff with the costs of the action. The order was served on plaintiff on 7 October 2016. On 12 October 2016, plaintiff filed a motion asking the trial court to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law for its order of 29 September 2016, as well as a "Motion for Order to Show Cause How this Court at the August 15, 2016 Hearing Possessed Jurisdiction." On 13 October 2016, plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to alter or amend its 29 September 2016 order.

         On 31 October 2016, counsel for defendant Deutsche Bank filed a notice that a hearing would be conducted on plaintiff's motions in Catawba County on 14 November 2016. Plaintiff filed an objection to the location of the hearing on 7 November 2016. Following a hearing conducted on 14 November 2016, the trial court entered an order on 5 December 2016, in which it denied plaintiff's motion for entry of findings and conclusions, plaintiff's motion to alter or amend judgment, plaintiff's motion challenging the court's jurisdiction, and plaintiff's objection to the hearing being conducted in Catawba County. Plaintiff noted an appeal to this Court from the orders entered on 29 September and 5 December 2016.

         Trial Court's Jurisdiction over the 15 August 2016 Hearing

         Plaintiff contends that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to conduct the hearing on 15 August 2016, on the grounds that the court failed to produce evidence of a commission properly assigning Judge Gregory R. Hayes to preside in Cabarrus County on that date. The premise of plaintiff's argument is that her filing of a motion demanding that the trial court "show cause" demonstrating the source of its jurisdiction to preside over the hearing on 15 August 2016, unaccompanied by any evidence showing affirmatively that the court lacked jurisdiction, shifted to the court the burden of establishing the existence of jurisdiction. Plaintiff has misapprehended the law in this regard.

         Plaintiff appears to contend that her allegation that the trial court lacked jurisdiction is sufficient to impose upon the court the duty and burden of proving that it had jurisdiction. However, it is long-established that there is a presumption of regularity in the proceedings of our courts:

Where a judgment rendered by a domestic court of general or superior jurisdiction is attacked in a collateral proceeding, there is a presumption, which can only be overcome by positive proof, that it had jurisdiction both of the persons and the subject-matter, and proceeded in the due exercise of its jurisdiction. . . . Presumptions against the validity of the proceedings will not be indulged in, where the record does not affirmatively show any error or irregularity. . . . As jurisdiction is presumed, at least prima facie, any acts or omissions affecting the validity of the proceedings and judgment must be affirmatively shown[.]

Starnes v. Thompson, 173 N.C. 466, 467-68, 92 S.E. 259, 259-60 (1917) (emphasis added). Moreover, the party challenging the court's jurisdiction has the burden of producing ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.