CA: Ragland Vs. US Bank, Opinion, Certified For Publication

California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three
Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Applying basic contract and tort law, we reverse the judgment in favor of U.S. Bank on the causes of action for negligent misrepresentation, fraud, violation of section 2924g(d), and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Ragland produced evidence creating triable issues of fact as to whether Downey Savings induced her to miss a loan payment, thereby wrongfully placing her loan in foreclosure, and whether she suffered damages as a result. We affirm summary adjudication of the causes of action for breach of oral contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and rescission, and affirm the judgment in favor of DSL and FCI because Ragland is no longer pursuing claims against them.

Page 3:   On April 13, Ragland spoke with a Downey Savings representative named John about modifying her loan.  John told Ragland her loan was not “behind” but he would work with her to modify it. He told Ragland not to make the April 2008 loan payment because “the worst thing that’s going to happen is you are going to have a late fee, we will get this done for you.” 

Page 4:   In late April 2008, Downey Savings sent Ragland a notice that her loan payment was delinquent.

Page 5:   In May 2008, a withdrawal was made from Ragland’s checking account and transmitted to Downey Savings as the May 2008 loan payment. Downey Savings refused to accept the payment.

On May 5, 2008, Downey Savings sent Ragland a letter entitled “Notice of Intent to Foreclose” (some capitalization omitted). According to the letter, the amount required to reinstate the loan was $5,487.80.

Page 6:   On July 18, 2008, Downey Savings instructed DSL, the trustee under the deed of trust, to initiate foreclosure proceedings on Ragland’s home. DSL assigned its agent, FCI, to take the actions necessary to foreclose the deed of trust on Ragland’s home. 

Ragland attempted to make payments on her loan in September, October, and November 2008 through transfers from her checking account. Downey Savings rejected the payments.

On October 30, 2008, FCI recorded a notice of trustee’s sale, stating the foreclosure sale of Ragland’s home would be held on November 20. Ragland filed this lawsuit against Downey Savings on November 7, 2008.

Page 14:   “On or about April 29, 2008, Downey [Savings] represented to Plaintiff that Downey [Savings] could modify Plaintiff’s current loan during the time that the legal department was investigating the fraud allegation on Plaintiff’s loan. However, in order to do a modification of Plaintiff’s loan, Plaintiff would have to be in arrears on her current loan. Downey[ Savings]’s representative then told Plaintiff not to pay April’s mortgage payment. Upon . . . Downey[ Savings]’s representations Plaintiff did not pay April’s mortgage payment. Thereafter, Downey [Savings] informed Plaintiff that Downey [Savings] could not accept any further mortgage payments from Plaintiff until the legal department investigated the alleged fraud on the initial mortgage.”

Page 16:   Defendants argue Ragland’s reliance was not justified because she was told her loan was in the foreclosure department and nobody at Downey Savings ever told her she could stop making loan payments. The evidence presented by Ragland created a triable issue of fact whether her reliance was justified.

The trial court granted summary judgment against Ragland on the ground she suffered no damages because, on the date of the foreclosure sale, she could not reinstate the loan by tendering $24,804.57—the amount Downey Savings claimed was due and owing. The evidence created at the very least a triable issue of fact on damages.

Page 17:   Defendants ask, if Ragland could have made all of the past due monthly loan payments, why did she not offer to pay them? The question is rhetorical: If she had offered to pay the past due monthly loan payments, Downey Savings certainly would have rejected the offer, just as now Defendants vigorously argue a tender must be unconditional and offer payment of additional fees.

Page 19:   Defendants argue U.S. Bank was entitled to summary adjudication of the fraud cause of action because no evidence was presented of “a misrepresentation, reliance or damages.” As explained in part I. of the Discussion on negligent misrepresentation, Ragland presented evidence in opposition to the motion for summary judgment that was sufficient to create triable issues as to misrepresentation, reliance, and damages.

Defendants do not argue lack of evidence of elements two (knowledge of falsity) and three (intent to deceive) and did not seek summary adjudication of the fraud cause of action on the ground of lack of evidence of either of those elements.3 Since Ragland submitted evidence creating triable issues of misrepresentation, reliance, and damages, summary adjudication of the fraud cause of action is reversed.

Page 20:   In their summary judgment motion, Defendants argued section 2924g(d) does not create a private right of action and is preempted by federal law. Although Defendants do not make those arguments on appeal, we address, due to their significance, the issues whether section 2924g(d) creates a private right of action and whether it is preempted by federal law. Following the reasoning of Mabry v. Superior Court (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 208 (Mabry), we conclude section 2924g(d) creates a private right of action and is not preempted.

In Mabry, supra, 185 Cal.App.4th at page 214, our colleagues concluded Civil Code section 2923.5 may be enforced by private right of action. Section 2923.5 requires a lender to contact the borrower in person or by telephone before a notice of
default may be filed to “‘assess’” the borrower’s financial situation and “‘explore’” options to prevent foreclosure. (Mabry, supra, at pp. 213-214.) Section 2923.5, though not expressly creating a private right of action, impliedly created one because there was no administrative mechanism to enforce the statute, a private remedy furthered the purpose of the statute and was necessary for it to be effective, and California courts do not favor constructions of statutes that render them advisory only. (Mabry, supra, at p. 218.)

Page 23:   In the fifth cause of action, Ragland alleged that in December 2008, Defendants intentionally caused her severe emotional distress by selling her home in a foreclosure sale.

Defendants argue Ragland cannot recover emotional distress damages— either intentionally or negligently inflicted—because she suffered property damage at most as result of their actions.

Page 24:   The elements of a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress are (1) the defendant engages in extreme and outrageous conduct with the intent to cause, or with reckless disregard for the probability of causing, emotional distress; (2) the plaintiff suffers extreme or severe emotional distress; and (3) the defendant’s extreme and outrageous conduct was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s extreme or severe emotional distress. (Potter v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. (1993) 6 Cal.4th 965, 1001.) “Outrageous conduct” is conduct that is intentional or reckless and so extreme as to exceed all bounds of decency in a civilized community. (Ibid.) The defendant’s conduct must be directed to the plaintiff, but malicious or evil purpose is not essential to liability. (Ibid.) Whether conduct is outrageous is usually a question of fact. (Spinks v. Equity Residential Briarwood Apartments (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 1004, 1045 (Spinks).)

Ragland argues Downey Savings engaged in outrageous conduct by inducing her to skip the April loan payment, refusing later to accept loan payments, and selling her home at foreclosure.

Page 25:   This argument assumes Downey Savings had the right to foreclose, an issue at the heart of the case. Ragland created triable issues of fact on her causes of action for negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and violation of section 2924g(d). Defendants do not argue Downey Savings would have had the right to foreclose if any of those causes of action were meritorious. Ragland’s treatment by Downey Savings, if proven, was at least  as bad as the conduct of the defendants in Spinks and was so extreme as to exceed all bounds of decency in our society.

Page 30:   The judgment in favor of DSL and FCI, and summary adjudication of the causes of action for breach of oral contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and rescission are affirmed. Ragland may seek leave to amend in the trial court, as explained in this opinion. In all other respects, the judgment is reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. Ragland shall recover costs incurred on appeal.

http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/G045580.PDF