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Griffin v. ABN Amro Mortgage Group, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 16, 2017

ANNIE Y. GRIFFIN AND FREDERICK GRIFFIN APPELLANTS
v.
ABN AMRO MORTGAGE GROUP, INC., ITS AFFILIATES, HEIRS, AND ASSIGNS, MORRIS & ASSOCIATES, EMILY K. COURTEAU, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS SUBSTITUTED TRUSTEE ON THE DEED OF TRUST, AND CITIMORTGAGE INC., AS SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO ABN APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/21/2015

         DESOTO COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MITCHELL M. LUNDY JR.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: FREDERICK GRIFFIN (PRO SE)

          ANNIE Y. GRIFFIN (PRO SE) ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: BRADLEY BARRON VANCE RICHARD CARLTON KELLER MICHAEL ALAN JEDYNAK

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. Annie and Frederick Griffin stopped paying their mortgage following a disagreement with their mortgage provider over modified loan terms. In 2007, they sued their mortgage carrier, ABN, in the Chancery Court of DeSoto County (Griffin I), alleging fraud as well as violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). The case was removed to federal court, and in 2012 the district court dismissed the action for failure to prosecute. The court's order noted that it had previously warned the Griffins that dismissal for failure to prosecute was imminent if the case did not move forward, and also noted that the Griffins appeared to be engaged in a deliberate strategy of extending the life of the litigation indefinitely. After the case was dismissed, the Griffins filed a new, substantially identical complaint in DeSoto County Chancery Court (Griffin II). Griffin II was dismissed on the ground of res judicata. The Griffins appeal the dismissal of Griffin II to this Court. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         ¶2. In Griffin I, the defendant mortgage company sought to compel arbitration after being sued by the Griffins over modified loan terms. The motion to arbitrate was granted, but the case was remanded back to federal court in June 2010 after the designated arbitrator withdrew from the consumer arbitration business. In March 2011, the Griffins filed a motion to declare the arbitration agreement unenforceable. To move the litigation along, the defendants filed a motion to withdraw their request to compel arbitration, consenting to proceed in court. The district court granted the motion.

         ¶3. The Griffins then filed a pro se motion objecting to the court's grant of the defendants' withdrawal of the request to compel arbitration.[1] The Griffins objected to the motion being granted prior to their having an opportunity to respond (even though the Griffins had a standing motion to find the arbitration agreement unenforceable), and then proceeded to argue that the mortgage contract bound both parties to resolve disputes by arbitration.

         ¶4. On May 23, 2012, the district court entered an order on its own motion dismissing the case for failure to prosecute. The court, in a detailed order, traced the Griffins' shifting legal arguments and came to the conclusion that "[i]t appears to this court that plaintiffs view this lawsuit not as something to be actually litigated, but, rather, as something to be kept alive indefinitely, even at the cost of taking a position that is fundamentally inconsistent with the one they have taken for years in this case."

         ¶5. In January 2014, following the dismissal of the case from the federal court, the Griffins filed a new complaint pro se in the Chancery Court of DeSoto County (Griffin II). The new complaint asserted the same causes of action arising out of the same factual circumstances as those asserted in Griffin I. After various procedural actions including a removal to and then remand back from federal court, as well as reassignment to a different chancellor, the chancery court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss Griffin II on the ground of res judicata.

         ¶6. The ...


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