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Branch v. Bank of America, N.A.

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

December 19, 2013

ANN BRANCH, et al., Plaintiffs,
BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Defendant.


PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

This Memorandum Opinion disposes of Defendant Bank of America, N.A.'s ("BANA") Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 45, and supporting Memorandum, ECF No. 45-1; Plaintiffs Ann Branch ("Ann") and Paul Branch's ("Paul") Opposition, ECF No. 49; and Defendants' Reply, ECF No. 50.

Having reviewed the filings, I find that a hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court considers the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 585-86 (U.S. 2009); George & Co., LLC v. Imagination Entm't Ltd., 575 F.3d 383, 391-92 (4th Cir. 2009); Dean v. Martinez, 336 F.Supp.2d 477, 480 (D. Md. 2004). Unless otherwise stated, this background is composed of undisputed facts. Where a dispute exists, I consider the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Ricci, 557 U.S. at 585-86; George & Co., 575 F.3d at 391-92; Dean, 336 F.Supp.2d at 480.

Plaintiffs Ann and Paul Branch were married until December 3, 2010, when they were granted a Judgment of Absolute Divorce by the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. Paul Aff. ¶ 2, ECF No. 49-2; Ann Aff. ¶ 2, ECF No. 49-3; J. of Absolute Divorce ("Divorce J."), Branch v. Branch, No. CAD09-21574 (Md. Cir. Ct. Dec. 3, 2010), Pls.' Opp'n. Ex. 7, ECF No. 49-6. Prior to the divorce, in February 3, 2007, Ann Branch and Defendant entered into a "Bank of America Equity Maximizer Agreement and Disclosure Statement" (the "Line of Credit"), Pls.' Opp'n Ex. 1, ECF No. 49-4, with a limit of $200, 000. Ann intended to use this line of credit to refinance an existing loan in the amount of $135, 289.74, and did not inform Paul about the loan. Ann Aff. ¶ 3-4.[1] Around the date that the Line of Credit was executed, Ann received a check from Defendant in the amount of $135, 289.74. Id. ¶ 6.

The loan was to be secured by a Deed of Trust on Plaintiffs' marital home, located at 9911 Pittman Avenue, Upper Marlboro, Maryland (the "Marital Home"). Plaintiffs assert that Paul never was aware of or executed the Deed of Trust or signed any related documents before a notary. Paul Aff. ¶ 7-8. It is undisputed, however, that Paul's notarized signature appears on at least one version of the Deed of Trust. See Deed of Trust, Pls.' Opp'n Ex. 3, ECF No. 49-5. Accordingly, Plaintiffs claim that Paul's signature had been forged on the Deed of Trust and therefore he should not be bound by its terms. See Compl., ECF No. 2. According to Paul, he did not become aware that his signature appeared on the Deed of Trust until January 11, 2011, when he attempted to refinance a mortgage on the Marital Home. Paul Aff. ¶ 9.

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on October 11, 2011, Civil Non-Domestic Case Information Rept., ECF No. 2-1, asserting four counts: Count I: "Declaration and Injunction to determine the rights pursuant to the [Line of Credit]"; Count II: Breach of Contract; Count III: Reformation; and Count IV: Fraud. Compl. Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446 by Notice of Removal filed on December 22, 2011. ECF No. 1. Defendant initially moved for summary judgment on January 14, 2013, see Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., but that motion was denied without prejudice after I resolved a discovery dispute between the parties by sanctioning Plaintiffs and ordering that additional discovery be produced to Defendant. See Mem. Op., ECF No. 40. Defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment on May 7, 2013. Defs.' Mot. The motion now has been briefed fully and it is ripe for consideration.


Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986). Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact reasonably could find for the party opposing summary judgment. Id. "[U]nder Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, as amended in 2010, facts in support of or opposition to a motion for summary judgment need not be in admissible form; the requirement is that the party identify facts that could be put in admissible form." Mallik v. Sebelius, ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2013 WL 4559516, at *12 (D. Md. Aug. 28, 2013) (citing Niagara Transformer Corp. v. Baldwin Techs., Inc., No. DKC-11-3415, 2013 WL 2919705, at *1 n.1 (D. Md. June 12, 2013)).

A "genuine" dispute of material fact is one where the conflicting evidence creates "fair doubt"; wholly speculative assertions do not create "fair doubt." Cox v. Cnty. of Prince William, 249 F.3d 295, 299 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Miskin v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 669, 671 (D. Md. 1999). The substantive law governing the case determines what is material. See Hoovan-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001). A fact that is not of consequence to the case, or is not relevant in light of the governing law, is not material. Id .; see Fed.R.Evid. 401 (defining relevance).


A. Statute of Limitations

Defendant's primary argument appears to be that all of Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of limitations. "Under Maryland law, the statute of limitations for contract and fraud claims is three years unless otherwise specified." United States v. Allen-Williams, No. JFM-11-1001, 2011 WL 4985817, at *4 (D. Md. Oct. 19, 2011) (citing Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101). However, "Maryland also recognizes the discovery rule' in all civil actions. Under the discovery rule, the cause of action accrues when the claimant in fact knew or reasonably should have known of the wrong.'" Virtual Physical ...

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