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Haley v. Beneficial Financial I Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

June 28, 2019

GORDON DEAN HALEY AND ANTON SCOTT HALEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS INDEPENDENT CO-EXECUTORS OF THE ESTATE OF MARGARET L. HALEY, Appellants,
v.
BENEFICIAL FINANCIAL I INC., SUCCESSOR BY MERGER TO BENEFICIAL TEXAS, INC., Appellee.

          On appeal from the 94th District Court of Nueces County, Texas.

          Before Justices Benavides, Hinojosa, and Perkes

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GREGORY T. PERKES, JUSTICE.

         Proceeding pro se, appellants Gordon Dean Haley and Anton Scott Haley, individually and as independent co-executors of the estate of Margaret L. Haley, appeal from a summary judgment granted in favor of appellee Beneficial Financial I Inc., successor by merger to Beneficial Texas, Inc. (Beneficial), on Beneficial's suit for judicial foreclosure. In what we construe as three main issues, the Haleys argue on appeal that: (1) the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because there was a pending probate proceeding in county court; (2) Beneficial failed to conclusively establish its right to judicial foreclosure; and (3) the Haleys raised genuine issues of fact on their affirmative defenses under the Texas Constitution. We affirm.[1]

         I. Background

         On May 25, 2006, Bennie Spencer Haley and Margaret L. Haley obtained a home-equity loan secured by their homestead, commonly known as 4910 Lavaca Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas 78411 (the Property).[2] On October 8, 2006, Bennie died, and Margaret became the sole owner of the Property. When Margaret died in May 2011, the Haleys opened an independent administration of their mother's estate in Nueces County Court at Law No. 4. In September 2011, Margaret's last will and testament was admitted to probate and the Haleys were appointed as the independent co-executors. Under the will, the Haleys inherited the Property.

         It is undisputed that the last payment on the note was made in June 2011, the month after Margaret died. In March 2015, Beneficial filed suit for judicial foreclosure in the district court.[3] The Haleys, initially proceeding pro se, each filed an answer containing a general denial, specific denials, and affirmative defenses. Anton's answer also included counterclaims for violations of the "State and Federal Truth in Lending Acts" and "State and Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act."

         In August 2016, Beneficial moved for traditional summary judgment on its foreclosure claim and no-evidence summary judgment on Anton's counterclaims. According to Beneficial's live pleading filed eight months prior, the administration of Margaret's estate was still open at that time, and there is nothing in the record to indicate when or if it was closed.

         The Haleys, represented by counsel at this point, filed a joint response to the combined motion for summary judgment arguing: (1) Beneficial lacked standing because it was not the owner of the note; (2) the copy of the promissory note produced by Beneficial was inadmissible because it was not the "original ink-signed paper promissory note;" (3) the affidavit by Beneficial's custodian of records was inadmissible because it was internally inconsistent and not based on personal knowledge; (4) as a result of the inadmissible affidavit, the attached business records were not properly authenticated; and (5) the business records were otherwise not admissible because they contained internal inconsistencies. They subsequently filed a joint sur-response repeating these issues.

         While the combined motion was pending, [4] and after they had filed their response and sur-response, the Haleys filed joint first and second supplemental answers, attaching affidavits and other documents in support of their affirmative defenses under the Texas Constitution. The summary judgment hearing was held thirty-nine days after the Haleys filed their second supplemental answer. The trial court granted Beneficial's combined motions for summary judgment and this appeal ensued.[5]

         II. Standard of Review

         A party moving for traditional summary judgment must establish there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c). We review summary judgment de novo. Rogers v. RREF II CB Acquisitions, LLC, 533 S.W.3d 419, 425 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg 2016, no pet.) (citing Tex. Mun. Power Agency v. Pub. Util. Comm'n of Tex., 253 S.W.3d 184, 192 (Tex. 2007)). We take as true all evidence favorable to the non-movant, indulge every reasonable inference, and resolve any doubts in the non-movant's favor. Id. at 426 (citing Sw. Elec. Power Co. v. Grant, 73 S.W.3d 211, 215 (Tex. 2002)).

         III. Analysis

         A.The trial court's subject-matter ...


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