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Poindexter v. Mercedes-Benz Credit Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

July 7, 2015

VIRGINIA M. POINDEXTER, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
MERCEDES-BENZ CREDIT CORPORATION, a/k/a Mercedes-Benz Financial, Defendant - Appellee

Argued May 12, 2015

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. (1:13-cv-01200-CMH-TCB). Claude M. Hilton, Senior. District Judge.

Joanna Lee Faust, CAMERON MCEVOY, PLLC, Fairfax, Virginia, for Appellant.

Frank Joseph Mastro, SCHLOSSBERG & MASTRO, Hagerstown, Maryland, for Appellee.

Before WILKINSON, AGEE, and WYNN, Circuit Judges. Judge Agee wrote the opinion, in which Judge Wilkinson and Judge Wynn joined.

OPINION

AGEE, Circuit Judge:

Virginia M. Poindexter appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation (" MBCC" ) on her claims arising from MBCC's failure to timely release a lien placed on her residence after she satisfied her underlying debt obligation. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the district court's judgment.

I.

In April 2001, Poindexter purchased an Audi sedan from HBL, Inc., an automobile dealer in northern Virginia. She originally entered into a retail installment contract with HBL, but HBL then assigned the contract to MBCC.

Soon after the assignment, MBCC offered Poindexter the opportunity to participate in its Home Owner's Choice program. Under that program, Poindexter would grant MBCC a lien against her Potomac Falls residence by a deed of trust as security for the outstanding automobile loan. MBCC marketed the program as a way for borrowers to make the interest paid on the loan deductible for federal tax purposes. Unless the loan was structured as a mortgage loan, this interest would not be deductible.

Poindexter voluntarily chose to participate in the program. In so doing, she signed a Servicing Disclosure Statement acknowledging that the " mortgage loan" would be covered by the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (" RESPA" ), with MBCC acting as " servicer." (J.A. 96-97.) Consistent with this arrangement, Poindexter executed a Deed of Trust in favor of MBCC, which was properly recorded in the land records of the Loudoun County, Virginia Circuit Court. The Deed of Trust contained a covenant in which MBCC promised to release the lien " [u]pon payment of all sums secured by [it]." (J.A. 10.)

In the spring of 2004, Poindexter traded in her Audi as part of a transaction with HBL to lease a Mercedes-Benz sedan. Her obligation to make further payments related to the Audi ended at that time. For reasons not fully explained in the record, however, MBCC did not record a certificate of satisfaction releasing the Deed of Trust.

Poindexter discovered that the unreleased Deed of Trust remained a lien against her residence in May 2013, when she and her husband attempted to refinance their existing mortgage. Almost immediately, Poindexter's husband and her attorney contacted MBCC on her behalf to demand that MBCC file a certificate of satisfaction to release the lien.[1] Although MBCC remained in discussions with Poindexter and never refused to record a certificate of satisfaction, it also did not timely fulfill Poindexter's demand. The lender Poindexter had approached to refinance her home denied her application.

Soon thereafter, in September 2013, Poindexter filed a complaint against MBCC in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Complaint alleged six causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) slander of title; (3) violation of RESPA; (4) violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (" VCPA" ); (5) violation of Virginia Code § 55-66.3; and (6) declaratory judgment. She sought to have a certificate of satisfaction recorded and claimed $95,000 in damages, as she alleged that MBCC's actions had, among other things, prevented her from securing a better interest rate during her mortgage refinancing.

Several weeks later, MBCC recorded a certificate of satisfaction that released the lien of the Deed of Trust against Poindexter's residence. MBCC then moved for summary judgment on all of the claims, arguing they were time-barred. Furthermore, MBCC contended that Poindexter had, at least as to some of her claims, failed to demonstrate facts that would support all of their elements.

As discussed in greater detail in context below, the district court granted summary judgment to MBCC as to all claims, often providing multiple grounds for doing so.

Poindexter noted a timely appeal, and we have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

II.

We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the district court. Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor & City of Balt.,721 F.3d 264, 283 (4th Cir. 2013) (en banc). Summary judgment is appropriate if " 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). In addition to construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Poindexter, the non-movant, we ...


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