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.

Williams v. Vanderbilt Mortgage & Finance, Inc.

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

November 8, 2013

CALECHUS WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
VANDERBILT MORTGAGE &, FINANCE, INC., et al. Defendants,

ORDER

DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

This diversity case is before the Court on a number of dispositive motions: Defendant First American Title Company, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment [116]; Defendant Vanderbilt Mortgage & Finance, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment [118]; and Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [123]. Because the Court concludes that Williams cannot establish that any actions by Defendants caused her injuries, Defendants' motions are granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Plaintiff Calechus Williams owned and lived on a six-acre tract of land in Holmes County, Mississippi. In 2006, Williams's parents obtained a loan through defendant Vanderbilt and secured that loan with a deed of trust on a parcel of land that included some of the land owned by Williams. Defendant First American's subsidiary issued a title insurance policy on the deed of trust to Vanderbilt. Neither Vanderbilt nor First American discovered that a portion of the land Vanderbilt's deed of trust encumbered actually belonged to Williams.

In late summer 2008, Williams defaulted on an existing mortgage obligation to Tower Loan. In September 2008, Williams went to Freedom Homes, a retail seller of mobile homes, intending to obtain a single new loan through Freedom Homes that would both finance the purchase of a new home and refinance the Tower Loan obligation that was in default. Sometime in mid-September 2008, Williams says she learned from Freedom Homes that her parents' deed of trust to Vanderbilt showed up on a title search for her land and that Freedom Homes could not proceed until the Vanderbilt deed was removed from her property. On September 24, 2008, Tower Loan recorded a notice of foreclosure on Williams's six-acre tract. The notice provided that a foreclosure sale would take place on October 27, 2008. Williams's property was sold at a foreclosure sale that date.

Williams filed this lawsuit against Vanderbilt and First American on September 1, 2011, asserting claims for negligence and gross negligence. Williams alleges she was unable to secure financing to rectify the default on her Tower Loan obligation because the Vanderbilt deed was negligently placed on her property. She alleges that Defendants' actions caused her to lose her real property, lose the use and enjoyment thereof, suffer from inconvenience and embarrassment, and suffer irreparable harm to her credit rating. In essence, Williams claims that Defendants' alleged negligence caused her property to be foreclosed upon. She seeks $1, 000, 000.00 in actual and punitive damages. Following the close of discovery, the parties filed their dispositive motions. The matters raised have been fully briefed, and the Court has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction and is prepared to rule.

II. Standard

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323. The nonmoving party must then "go beyond the pleadings" and "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (citation omitted). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments are not an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, "but only when... both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. When such contradictory facts exist, the court may "not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (citations omitted).

III. Analysis

Williams's claims sound in negligence. "The elements of a negligence suit, which are well-settled in Mississippi, are duty, breach of duty, causation, and injury." Entrican v. Ming, 962 So.2d 28, 32 (Miss. 2007) (citations omitted). Defendants raise a number of somewhat complicated legal arguments regarding these elements, but the Court need not address them all because there has been no showing of causation. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322 (holding that summary judgment is mandated "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial").

To prove causation, a plaintiff must show that the defendant's negligence "was the proximate cause of the injury, " which "requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant's conduct was the cause in fact and the legal cause of the plaintiff's injury." Huynh v. Phillips, 95 So.3d 1259, 1263 (Miss. 2012) (citation omitted). "Cause in fact means that, but for the defendant's negligence, the injury would not have occurred." Id. (citation omitted). And "negligence will be deemed the legal cause if the injury is the type, or within the classification, of damage the negligent actor should reasonably expect (or foresee) to result from the negligent act.'" Id. (citation omitted).

Williams theorizes that but for the negligently placed lien, Freedom Homes would have paid off her Tower Loan mortgage, and she would have avoided foreclosure. Pl.'s Mem. [124] at 25. She supports this argument with a single piece of evidence: "the statement[] of the Freedom Homes employee, whom Plaintiff believes was called Jenae." Pl.'s Resp. [138] at 8. Williams was asked in her deposition to describe that conversation and gave the following response:

I received a call. [The caller] said, "Well, Ms. Williams, you've been approved for your loan, but you have a lien on your land by Vanderbilt Mortgage." And I told them, "No, Tower Loan." They said, "No, it's Vanderbilt Mortgage." And they said, "We can't, ...

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.