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Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Pike

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

March 1, 2017

Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee for FFMLT Trust 2005-FF2, Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2005-FF2
Jennifer L. Pike Opinion No. 2017 DNH 038


          Joseph DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge

         Deutsche Bank brought suit against Jennifer Pike seeking a declaratory judgment that its mortgage on Pike's property is not subject to her homestead interest or, alternatively, that Deutsche Bank is entitled to equitable subrogation for the amount it paid to satisfy a prior mortgage. Pike brought a counterclaim to quiet title to the property with respect to her homestead interest.[1] Deutsche Bank and Pike both move for summary judgment. Pike also moves to withdraw or amend admissions.

         I. Motion to Withdraw or Amend Admissions

         After the motions for summary judgment were filed, Pike moved to withdraw or amend her admissions, some of which Deutsche Bank had cited in support of its motion. The admissions were by default which was the result of Pike's failure to file a timely response to Deutsche Bank's requests for admissions. Deutsche Bank objects to the motion to withdraw or amend.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36, a party may serve written requests for admissions on another party. If the requests are not answered or objected to within thirty days after service, the “matter is admitted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3). “A matter admitted under this rule is conclusively established unless the court, on motion, permits the admission to be withdrawn or amended.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(b).

         The court may allow the moving party to withdraw or amend her admissions “if it would promote the presentation of the merits of the action and if the court is not persuaded that it would prejudice the requesting party in maintaining or defending the action on the merits.” Id. Prejudice for purposes of Rule 36(b) is not simply that the proponent of the admission would have to prove the fact but instead requires a showing of a particular difficulty in proving the case such as the absence of a witness or evidence. Farr Man & Co., Inc. v. M/V Rozita, 903 F.2d 871, 876 (1st Cir. 1990) (citing Brook Village N. Assocs. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 686 F.2d 66, 70 (1st Cir. 1982)).

         In this case, Deutsche Bank sent Pike a request for admissions, which listed twenty-seven statements to admit or deny, on January 7, 2016. Pike's counsel received the request on January 11, along with other discovery requests. Her responses were due on February 10. Pike did not provide responses by that date. Therefore, the responses were deemed admitted by default on February 11, 2016.

         Pike's counsel requested an extension of time to respond to discovery on February 23 but did not address the requests for admissions, which were already admitted by default. Deutsche Bank's counsel agreed to an additional thirty days, which made the deadline March 11, 2016, to provide other discovery responses. Pike did not provide the requested discovery by that date either. Counsel for Deutsche Bank wrote to Pike's counsel on April 11, 2016, stating that Pike's responses to Deutsche Bank's interrogatories and requests for production of documents were overdue. Counsel warned that if the discovery was not received promptly a motion would be filed.

         A week later, counsel for Deutsche Bank agreed to give Pike another ten days to respond to the interrogatories and the requests for documents. Pike provided her responses to all of the discovery requests, including the request for admissions, on April 25, 2016. Pike's deposition was taken on October 27, 2016.[2]

         Pike argues that she did not admit Deutsche Bank's request for admissions by default because her responses were timely in light of the extensions she sought and received. Deutsche Bank points out that Pike had already defaulted on her responses to its request for admissions when her counsel first asked for an extension of time to respond to discovery and that her counsel never indicated that he sought more time to respond to the request for admissions. Under the circumstances, Pike is deemed to have admitted all parts of the request for admissions by her failure to respond within the time allowed.

         In support of allowing her to withdraw the admissions, Pike argues that the case should be tried on the merits, not through defaulted admissions, and that she has evidence to refute the defaulted admissions pertaining to the New Century and First Franklin mortgages. Deutsche Bank asserts that Pike's new assertion that she did not sign the New Century mortgage “deeply prejudices” it. Deutsche Bank provides no showing, however, that witnesses or evidence pertaining to that issue are no longer available. Indeed, both Pike and the notary public who notarized Pike's signature on the New Century mortgage have been deposed on the issue of whether she signed the mortgage.

         Pike's counsel has demonstrated a lack of diligence in responding to discovery and in pursuing the issue of the admissions. Although counsel was aware in April of 2016 that Deutsche Bank deemed its requests admitted, Pike's counsel waited until February 1, 2017, after Deutsche Bank filed its motion for summary judgment, to ask to withdraw the admissions. The court is reluctant, however, to allow Pike's counsel's sloppy practice to significantly hamper Pike's defense when Deutsche Bank has not shown any specific prejudice that would be caused by withdrawing the admissions.

         Therefore, the motion to withdraw is granted.

         II. Motions for Summary Judgment

         Deutsche Bank moves for summary judgment on the ground that its security interest in the property at issue, 34 Dogwood Lane, New London, New Hampshire, is not subject to Jennifer Pike's asserted homestead interest or, alternatively, that the homestead interest does not apply to the amount through equitable subrogation. Pike moves for summary judgment in her favor, asserting that she retains a homestead interest in the property. The motions are addressed as follows.

         A. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A genuine dispute is one that a reasonable fact-finder could resolve in favor of either party and a material fact is one that could affect the outcome of the case.” Flood v. Bank of Am. Corp., 780 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2015). Reasonable inferences are taken in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, but unsupported speculation and evidence that “is less than significantly probative” are not sufficient to avoid summary judgment. Planadeball v. Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Inc., 793 F.3d 169, 174 (1st Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         When parties submit “cross-motions for summary judgment, the standard does not change; [courts] view each motion separately and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the respective non-moving party.” Bonneau v. Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 51 Pension Trust Fund, 736 F.3d 33, 36 (1st Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). Based on that record, the court then “determine[s] whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law on facts that are not disputed.” Barnes v. Fleet Nat'l Bank, N.A., 370 F.3d 164, 170 (1st Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         C. Background

         In June of 2000, William T. Pike, Jr. married Jennifer L., who became Jennifer L. Pike. To avoid confusion, the court hereafter will refer to the Pikes by their first names, William and Jennifer. On August 15, 2001, William bought the property at issue in this case, 34 Dogwood Lane, New London, New Hampshire, from Margaret H. Jenkins. The purchase was financed in part with a mortgage from Mascoma Savings Bank.

         On December 11, 2003, the Pikes refinanced with a loan in the amount of $225, 000.00 from New Century Mortgage Corporation that was secured by a mortgage in favor of New Century. William signed the note, and it appears that William and Jennifer both signed the mortgage. The mortgage was recorded at the Merrimack County Registry of Deeds on December 17, 2003. Paragraph twenty-four of the mortgage provides: “Borrower, and Borrower's spouse, if any, release all rights of homestead in the Property and release all rights of curtesy and other interests in the Property.” Doc. 1, Ex. 2.

         Signatures for William and Jennifer appear at the end of the mortgage. Both signatures are notarized. Nevertheless, Jennifer contends that she did not sign the mortgage and suggests that William or someone else may have forged her signature.[3] She asserts that she never discussed ...

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