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Ramos v. Walters

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

June 13, 2017

MIKE RAMOS, Appellant
v.
MELISSA Y. WALTERS, HUMBLE BEE MANAGEMENT, LLC, AND MELIFERA PARTNERS, LLC, Appellees

         On Appeal from the 157th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2015-27233

          Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Bland, and Huddle.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Rebeca Huddle Justice

         Appellees Melissa Walters, Humble Bee Management, LLC, and Melifera Partners, LLC placed the highest bid on a home at a foreclosure sale auction and tendered payment by cashier's checks and cash to Mike Ramos, the lienholder. But, shortly thereafter, two problems with the transaction arose: appellees discovered a second lien on the home, and the banks to which Ramos tendered the cashier's checks refused to honor them. After some wrangling, the appellees deeded the property back to Ramos.

         Ramos sued appellees over the failed transaction. Ramos's claims were tried to the bench, which entered a take-nothing judgment against Ramos, finding that appellees' deeding of the property back to Ramos in exchange for a release of claims constituted an accord and satisfaction.

         On appeal, Ramos (1) challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court's finding of accord and satisfaction, and (2) contends that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the home's title history and underlying financing and testimony of appellees' counsel regarding the parties' dispute.

         We affirm.

         Background

         Appellee Walters is a licensed real estate broker, owner, and managing partner of appellee Melifera Partners, LLC, and owner of appellee Humble Bee Management, LLC. On November 4, 2014, appellees, through their agent, Andrew Moran, placed the highest bid-$157, 500-on a home owned by Meadow Valley Interest at a foreclosure sale auction. On behalf of appellees, Moran tendered payment in the form of four cashier's checks having a combined face value of $155, 000, plus $2, 500 in cash. Although the cashier's checks initially were made payable to Melifera Partners, Moran endorsed them to be payable to Ramos, the sole owner of Meadow Valley Interest.

         Ramos presented the cashier's checks to two banks, but both refused to honor them because they were third party checks. Acting on Ramos's behalf, the foreclosing trustee, Lee Carroll, notified Walters that the checks were not honored and demanded payment of the outstanding $155, 000.

         Appellees' counsel T. Deon Warner responded by letter, challenging the validity of the foreclosure sale on the basis that the deed of trust appeared to appellees to be fraudulent. Appellees believed they were purchasing the first and only lien on the home, when, in fact, Meadow Valley Interest had bought the home from a prior owner subject to a lien, and then Meadow Valley Interest obtained a second mortgage on the home by obtaining a loan from Ramos. Although the loan documents bore the date May 5, 2014, Ramos delayed recording evidence of the second lien for months. Ramos then foreclosed on the property just a few months after making the loan and initiated the foreclosure sale. Because he suspected that the second lien on the property could be fraudulent, Warner requested additional information from Ramos and demanded that Ramos take no further action with regard to the home.

         At trial, Warner testified that he was later contacted by Scott R. Sommers, Ramos's counsel. According to Warner, Sommers suggested that appellees deed the property back to Ramos to resolve the dispute. Sommers then sent Warner an email attaching a general warranty deed for the property. Warner testified that he responded by first proposing a special warranty deed, but, after Sommers rejected the idea, Warner agreed that appellees would execute the general warranty deed.

         Warner testified that he then returned the executed general warranty deed to Sommers by email. Warner called Sommers, and Sommers informed him that he was instructed to stop work on the file while Ramos was out of town. Warner testified that he later left Sommers a voicemail to notify him that appellees would record the deed, and Walters then recorded it. In response, Ramos recorded an affidavit of non-acceptance of the deed.

         Sommers also testified at trial. According to Sommers, Ramos originally retained him to recover the purchase price appellees agreed to pay, but, after further discussion, Sommers and Ramos instead agreed to try to recover the home to settle the dispute. Sommers testified that he believed there was an actual dispute that would be resolved by deeding the property back to Ramos. Sommers also testified that he told Warner to have appellees deed the property back to Ramos to resolve the parties' dispute. Sommers testified that Ramos authorized him to send appellees' counsel the general warranty deed, and Warner returned an executed copy of the deed to him by email. Later, Sommers told Warner that Ramos instructed him to refrain from taking further action on the file.

          Ramos offered conflicting testimony at trial. Ramos testified that he did not authorize Sommers to seek a return of the property and did not agree to accept title to the property. He further testified that he did not believe there was an actual dispute between the parties. Rather, according to Ramos, Walters fabricated a baseless fraud claim to avoid having to pay the agreed-upon purchase price.

         Ramos sued appellees, asserting claims of breach of contract and warranty, conversion, violation of the Theft Liability Act, promissory estoppel, and fraud. In response, appellees asserted the affirmative defense of accord and satisfaction. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered a take-nothing judgment against Ramos. It later entered written findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting its determination that the parties had reached a valid accord and satisfaction. Ramos appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's finding of accord and satisfaction and complaining of evidentiary error.

         Sufficiency of the Evidence

         In his third issue, Ramos challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court's conclusion that there was a valid accord and satisfaction. Ramos contends that (1) the dispute underlying the alleged accord and satisfaction was not bona fide; (2) there was no agreement or clear meeting of the minds with respect to an accord and satisfaction; and (3) there was no consideration or performance by appellees.

          A.Standa ...


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