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Stockdick Land Co. v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

December 19, 2019

STOCKDICK LAND COMPANY, STEPHEN N. RINER, AND WADE A. RINER, Appellants
v.
DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS INDENTURE TRUSTEE, AND CARRINGTON MORTGAGE SERVICES, LLC, Appellees and DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS INDENTURE TRUSTEE, Appellant
v.
STOCKDICK LAND COMPANY, STEPHEN N. RINER, AND WADE A. RINER, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 80th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2008-60974A

          Panel consists of Justices Wise, Zimmerer, and Spain.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KEN WISE, JUSTICE

         This case involves a long-running dispute stemming from a tax foreclosure sale of a residential property. Each party appeals the trial court's take-nothing judgment following their motions for summary judgment on opposing parties' claims. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Most of the history of this case is adequately conveyed in Deutche Bank National Trust Co. v. Stockdick Land Co., 367 S.W.3d 308, 309-311 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, pet. denied) (op. on reh'g). We briefly reiterate some of the pertinent facts in this opinion.

         In 2006, Gordon and Susan Wittenberg refinanced a mortgage with New Century Mortgage Corporation. New Century pooled the Wittenberg mortgage with others and securitized the pool in a trust. Deutche Bank National Trust Company served as a trustee and custodian of documents while New Century acted as the servicer.

         In 2007, Stockdick Land Company purchased the home at a tax foreclosure sale ordered by the 80th District Court-the trial court in this appeal. The Wittenbergs tried to redeem the property from Stockdick through, in part, a promissory note to Stockdick. Also in 2007, New Century went bankrupt. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC acquired New Century's servicing business and assets, including servicing rights related to the trust. New Century authorized John Alkire, an executive vice president of Carrington, to execute documents on behalf of New Century related to Carrington's new servicing rights.

         In 2008, Deutche Bank sued Stockdick for a declaratory judgment in the 215th District Court, seeking to establish that the lien on the property had been revived by redemption.[1] In 2009, the 215th District Court rendered a final summary judgment in Stockdick's favor, and this court ultimately affirmed the judgment in the prior appeal because the redemption failed.

         After the 215th District Court signed its final judgment, the court allowed Deutche Bank, over Stockdick's objection, to supplement its petition with a new claim for excess proceeds from the tax sale. The court severed the new claim from the declaratory judgment action into Cause No. 2008-60974A and transferred the case to the 80th District Court.

         Following the severance and transfer, Deutche Bank added Stockdick's principals-Stephen and Wade Riner-as defendants. Stockdick and the Riners (collectively, the Stockdick parties) filed claims against Deutche Bank and Carrington (collectively, the Bank parties) for common law fraud and statutory fraud, among other claims. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 12.002 (relating to fraud in real estate transactions).

         Over the course of several years, the litigants filed motions for summary judgment on the opposing side's claims, amended motions for summary judgment, amended pleadings, and supplemental evidence. Ultimately, the trial court rendered a judgment dismissing each side's claims and denying the Bank parties' motion for attorney's fees and sanctions. Deutche Bank, Carrington, Stockdick, and the Riners all appealed.

         II. Deutche Bank's Appeal[2]

         Deutche Bank contends that the trial court erred by granting the Stockdick parties' motion for summary judgment on Deutche Bank's claim for the excess proceeds. The Stockdick parties contend that this court should affirm the summary judgment because Deutche Bank does not challenge on appeal at least one of the grounds urged in the summary judgment motion. We agree with the Stockdick parties.

         In their motion for summary judgment, the Stockdick parties first addressed the preclusive effect of the 2007 judgment in the 80th District Court. Then, they argued, under a separate heading regarding the 2009 judgment in the 215th District Court, "Deutche Bank's claims are also barred by res judicata, judicial estoppel, and collateral estoppel, because of the final take nothing judgment entered on April 20, 2009 in Cause No. 2008-60974 . . . . After that final judgment was entered, Deutche Bank filed a new petition in Cause No. 2008-60974 which was severed into this case. The April 20, 2009 take nothing judgment in Cause No. 2008-60974 bars Deutsche Bank from re-litigating any claims arising out of the same transaction the subject of Cause No. 2008-60974 or that could have been litigated in that case prior to the April 20, 2009 judgment."

         In its brief on appeal, Deutche Bank does not address this argument. Deutche Bank focuses solely on whether the 80th District Court's 2007 disbursement order precluded the claim for excess proceeds.

         An appellant must challenge all possible grounds upon which a summary judgment could have been granted, whether properly or improperly. See, e.g., FinServ Cas. Corp. v. Transamerica Life Ins., 523 S.W.3d 129, 139 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, pet. denied). "If the appellant fails to challenge all grounds on which the judgment may have been granted, the appellate court must uphold the summary judgment." Heritage Gulf Coast Props. v. Sandalwood Apartments Inc., 416 S.W.3d 642, 653 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2013, no pet.); see also Williamson v. State Farm Lloyds, 76 S.W.3d 64, 67 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2002, no pet.).

         Because Deutche Bank does not challenge all grounds upon which the summary judgment may have been granted-in particular, that the 2009 judgment bars Deutche Bank's claim under the defense of res judicata-we must uphold the summary judgment. See ...


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