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Ramos v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA

Supreme Court of Virginia

April 16, 2015

Edwin M. Ramos, et al., Appellants,
v.
Wells Fargo Bank, NA, et al., Appellees

Upon an appeal from a judgment rendered by the Circuit Court of Fairfax County. Circuit Court No. CL2013-10944.

For RAMOS, EDWIN M., GILL, EVELYN S.

For BROWN, CHRISTOPHER EDWIN, (ESQ.), CARTER, JESSICA MICHELLE, (ESQ.).

For WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., ALG TRUSTEES, LLC, POTOMAC RELOCATION SERVICES.

For ZINSNER, MARY CATHERINE, (ESQ.), REZA, SYED MOHSIN, (ESQ.), HARRISON, KRISTYN NICOLA, (ESQ.), ROBINSON, DEAN LEE, (ESQ.), ELSBERG, DAVID DONALD, (ESQ.), SOMERVILLE, GEORGE ARNOLD, (ESQ.).

OPINION

Page 492

Upon consideration of the record, briefs, and argument of counsel, the Court is of the opinion that the circuit court did not err in sustaining a demurrer to the second amended complaint of appellants, Edwin M. Ramos and Evelyn S. Gill, against appellees, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (" Wells Fargo" ), ALG Trustee, LLC (" ALG" ) and Potomac Relocation Services, LLC (" Potomac" ). Therefore, the Court will affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

Appellants filed this action challenging the foreclosure sale of their residence. They claimed that Wells Fargo wrongfully initiated the foreclosure under the deed of trust securing the promissory note for their loan to purchase the property. After their original and first amended complaints were dismissed on demurrers, with leave to amend, appellants filed the second amended complaint asserting a single claim for breach of contract.

Appellants allege in the second amended complaint as follows: The loan to purchase their residence was insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Certain federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (" HUD" ) regulations were incorporated into the accompanying purchase money deed of trust, including 24 C.F.R. § 203.604. This regulation sets forth requirements for the acceleration of a loan and subsequent foreclosure in the event of a borrower's payment default. According to the appellants, after it received the assignment of appellants' loan, Wells Fargo failed to comply with this regulation by not having, or attempting to have, a " face-to-face meeting" with appellants following their payment default. Because this meeting was a condition precedent to foreclosing on their property, appellants theorized that Wells Fargo's " authority to call a default had not accrued" and thus the foreclosure it initiated was unlawful. Furthermore, while Potomac was the highest bidder at the foreclosure sale, settlement on the sale had not yet taken place. ALG, as the substitute trustee, could therefore refund Potomac's security deposit and release Potomac from its purchase. Based on these allegations of a breach of contract, appellants asked for compensatory damages and rescission of the foreclosure sale.

Wells Fargo filed a demurrer to the second amended complaint, asserting that appellants did not state a cause of action for breach of contract because, among other things, they

Page 493

(i) failed to identify the injury caused by any contractual breach; (ii) failed to allege any specific damages incurred and to include an ad damnum clause stating the amount of damages sought; and (iii) failed to allege facts indicating that the foreclosure sale was unconscionable, a product of fraud, or otherwise voidable, thus negating rescission as an equitable remedy. The circuit court sustained the demurrer and dismissed the second amended complaint with prejudice. On appeal, appellants argue that the circuit court erred in this ruling.

In reviewing a circuit court's decision sustaining a demurrer, we address the same issue that the circuit court addressed: whether the facts alleged in a complaint are legally sufficient to state a cause of action upon which the requested relief may be granted. Assurance Data, Inc. v. Malyevac, 286 Va. 137, 143, 747 S.E.2d 804, 807 (2013); Dunn, McCormack & MacPherson v. Connolly, 281 Va. 553, 557, 708 S.E.2d 867, 869 (2011)). Like the circuit court, we accept as true all facts properly pleaded and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from those facts. Assurance Data, 286 Va. at 143, 747 S.E.2d at 807; Concerned Taxpayers v. County of Brunswick, 249 Va. 320, 323, 455 S.E.2d 712, 713 (1995). A demurrer, however, does not admit the correctness of the pleader's legal conclusions. Murayama 1997 Trust v. NISC Holdings, LLC, 284 Va. 234, 245, 727 S.E.2d 80, 86 (2012); Arogas, Inc. v. Frederick Cnty. Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 280 Va. 221, 224, 698 S.E.2d 908, 910 (2010). Because this presents an issue of law, we review the circuit court's decision de novo. Assurance Data, 286 Va. at 143, 747 S.E.2d 808; Dunn, McCormack & MacPherson, 281 Va. at 557, 708 S.E.2d at 869.

" The elements of a breach of contract action are (1) a legally enforceable obligation of a defendant to a plaintiff; (2) the defendant's violation or breach of that obligation; and (3) injury or damage to the plaintiff caused by the breach of obligation." Fila ...


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