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Baker v. Roundpoint Mortgage Servicing Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

June 19, 2019

DARRIN BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
ROUNDPOINT MORTGAGE SERVICING CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

          Lee H. Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge

         In May 2018, Darrin Baker sued Roundpoint Mortgage Servicing Corporation in state court over a foreclosure dispute. (Docket Entry No. 1-1). Seeking a temporary restraining order, damages, and attorney's fees, Baker alleged contract breach, wrongful foreclosure, and Texas Debt Collection Act and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act violations. (Id. at 8-14). Roundpoint removed. (Docket Entry No. 1). The court held an initial conference and issued a scheduling and docket control order that set a dispositive-motion briefing schedule. (Docket Entry Nos. 18, 19). Roundpoint timely moved for summary judgment in May 2019. (Docket Entry No. 21). Baker has not responded or cross-moved for summary judgment, though his deadline to do so has passed.

         After a careful review of the motion, record evidence, and the applicable law, the court grants summary judgment for Roundpoint and separately enters final judgment. The reasons are explained in detail below.

         I. Background

         In August 2014, Baker obtained a $264, 093 home-mortgage loan from Cornerstone Home Lending, Inc. (Docket Entry Nos. 21-2, 21-3). His promissory note required him to make payments of $1, 299.18 on the first day of each month for 30 years. (Docket Entry No. 21-2 at 1). The note stated that if Baker made a late payment, Cornerstone could collect a late fee totaling four percent of the overdue amount. (Id. at 2). If Baker defaulted “by failing to pay in full any monthly payment, ” Cornerstone could demand immediate payment of the unpaid loan balance. (Id.). The deed of trust also required Baker to make timely payments under the note. (Docket Entry No. 21-3 at 2). If Baker missed payments and did not repay the overdue amounts, even after receiving notice and an opportunity to reinstate the loan, Cornerstone had the right to sell Baker's home. (Id. at 4-7).

         In November 2014, Cornerstone gave Roundpoint the right to collect payments under the mortgage. (Docket Entry No. 21-4). In April 2018, Cornerstone assigned the note and deed to Roundpoint. (Docket Entry No. 21-5). These transactions were recorded in Fort Bend County's public records.

         Baker stopped making loan payments in May 2017. (Docket Entry No. 21-1 at 2). After Hurricane Harvey hit Greater Houston, Roundpoint granted Baker's request for a temporary forbearance, outlining the terms in a September 2017 letter. (Docket Entry No. 21-6). Even though Baker complied with the forbearance agreement, he failed to make his December 2017 loan payment. (Docket Entry No. 21-1 at 2). Baker made a payment in January 2018, but it did not bring the loan current. (Id.).

         Baker applied for loan modifications in April 2018 and January 2019. (Docket Entry No. 21-8 at 1; Docket Entry No. 21-10 at 1). Roundpoint denied the applications, explaining that his “earned income [was] not sufficient to repay the total amount due.” (Id.). A total of $58, 876.71 is required to reinstate the loan. (Docket Entry No. 21-7).

         In May 2018, Baker sued Roundpoint in the 268th Judicial District Court of Fort Bend County on the same day that it denied his first loan-modification application. (Docket Entry No. 1-1 at 5). Roundpoint removed, and the court delayed holding an initial conference or entering a scheduling and docket control order based on the parties' settlement negotiations. (See Docket Entry Nos. 1, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16). The parties did not resolve the case, and Roundpoint moved for summary judgment in May 2019. (Docket Entry No. 21).

         II. The Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

         “Summary judgment is appropriate only when ‘the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Shepherd on Behalf of Estate of Shepherd v. City of Shreveport, 920 F.3d 278, 282-83 (5th Cir. 2019) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). “A material fact is one that might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, ” and “a fact issue is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Renwick v. PNK Lake Charles, L.L.C., 901 F.3d 605, 611 (5th Cir. 2018) (quotations and citations omitted). The moving party “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, ” and identifying the record evidence “which it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         “Where the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial, ‘the movant may merely point to the absence of evidence and thereby shift to the non-movant the burden of demonstrating that there is an issue of material fact warranting trial.”” Kim v. Hospira, Inc., 709 Fed.Appx. 287, 288 (5th Cir. 2018) (alteration omitted) (quoting Nola Spice Designs, L.L.C. v. Haydel Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015)). The moving party must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but it need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's case. Austin v. Kroger Tex., L.P., 864 F.3d 326, 335 (5th Cir. 2017). “If the moving party fails to meet [its] initial burden, the motion must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant's response.” Pioneer Expl., L.L.C. v. Steadfast Ins. Co., 767 F.3d 503, 511 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Kee v. City of Rowlett, 247 F.3d 206, 210 (5th Cir. 2001)).

         “When the moving party has met its Rule 56(c) burden, the nonmoving party cannot survive a summary judgment motion by resting on the mere allegations of its pleadings.” Duffie v. United States, 600 F.3d 362, 371 (5th Cir. 2010). The nonmovant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate “the precise manner in which” that evidence supports that party's claim. Willis v. Cleco Corp., 749 F.3d 314, 317 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Forsyth v. Barr, 19 F.3d 1527, 1537 (5th Cir. 1994)). “A party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence.” Lamb v. Ashford Place Apartments L.L.C., 914 F.3d 940, 946 (5th Cir. 2019) (quotation omitted). “A failure on the part of the nonmoving party to offer proof concerning an essential element of its case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial and mandates a finding that no genuine issue of fact exists.” Adams v. Travelers Indem. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2006). Because Baker failed to respond to Roundpoint's motion, the issue is “whether the facts presented by [Roundpoint] create an appropriate basis to enter summary judgment against the plaintiff[s].” Id.

         III. ...


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