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Chevy Chase Funding, LLC v. Walsh

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

July 5, 2018

CHEVY CHASE FUNDING, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY F. WALSH, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this suit, Plaintiff Chevy Chase Funding, LLC (“Chevy Chase”) has sued Defendants Timothy F. Walsh, as Trustee for the Berwyn Road Historic Preservation and Conservation Trust (the “Berwyn Road Trust”), Gregory J. Walsh and Christina Walsh (the “Walshes”), and Branch Banking and Trust Co. (“BB&T”) over a mortgage that the Walshes took out on their property. See ECF No. 1. Chevy Chase seeks an order from the Court either amending the contracts between the parties, or declaring that Chevy Chase has a first-priority lien on the Walshes' property. Id. at 6-7. The Clerk submitted entries of default against the Walshes for failure to answer the Complaint. ECF No. 24, ECF No. 34. Now pending before the Court is Chevy Chase's Motion for Default Judgment, ECF No. 36, and the Walshes' Motion Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) For Leave to File An Answer Later Than The 21 Days Required Due To Excusable Neglect (“Motion for Extension of Time”), ECF No. 37. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Chevy Chase's motion, ECF No. 36, is granted and the Walshes' motion, ECF No. 37, is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         The parties dispute the property rights of a piece of real property, 5012 Berwyn Road, College Park, Maryland 20740 (the “Property”). ECF No. 1 ¶ 1. On January 12, 2004, Gregory and Christina Walsh purchased the Property for $206, 000. The entire purchase was funded with two purchase loans from Impac Funding Corp. d/b/a Impac Lending Group (“Impac”). Id. ¶¶ 9- 10. One loan was for $164, 800, and the other was for $41, 200; both loans were secured by Deeds of Trust, which were recorded in the Land Records for Prince George's County. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.

         On June 28, 2004, Gregory, Christina and Timothy Walsh (as trustee) (collectively, the “Walshes”) recorded a deed purporting to transfer the Property from Gregory and Christina to the Berwyn Road Trust for no consideration. Id. ¶ 13. The deed certified that Gregory and Christina are the sole beneficiaries of the Berwyn Road Trust, which is a revocable trust. Id. ¶ 14.

         On October 1, 2004, Gregory and Christina borrowed $212, 000 from Chevy Chase Bank, FSB, whose terms and conditions were set forth in a promissory note (together, the “Subject Loan” and “Subject Note”). Id. ¶ 18. To secure the loan, they executed a deed of trust (the “Subject DOT”) in which they purported to grant the Property as security for the Subject Loan; at closing, they signed an affidavit declaring that they were the owners of the Property. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Gregory and Christina used the proceeds of the Subject Loan to pay off the Impac loans, which were released on October 26, 2004, and December 13, 2004. Id. ¶ 23. Chevy Chase is the owner of the Subject Loan and beneficiary of the Subject DOT. Id. ¶ 24.

         Chevy Chase commenced this action on June 2, 2016. ECF No. 1. Gregory and Christina Walsh submitted a Motion to Dismiss on July 27, 2016, ECF No. 7, which the Court denied on March 7, 2017, ECF No. 20. The Court instructed the Walshes to file their Answer to the Complaint within 21 days. ECF No. 20. The Walshes failed to file an Answer, and the Clerk entered an order of default against Timothy Walsh on June 7, 2017, ECF No. 24, and against Christina and Gregory Walsh on November 1, 2017, ECF No. 34. Chevy Chase filed the now-pending Motion for Default Judgment on November 14, 2017, ECF No. 36, and the Walshes filed the now-pending Motion for Extension of Time on December 27, 2017, ECF No. 37.

         Chevy Chase argues that it is entitled to default judgment in its favor because the Walshes have not filed an Answer to their Complaint. ECF No. 36. The Court addresses the Walshes' motion first, as granting the Walshes' motion would render Chevy Chase's motion moot.

         II. Motion for Extension of Time to Answer

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that a court “may, for good cause” extend the time for a party to file a briefing “on motion made after the time has expired if the party failed to act because of excusable neglect.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b). “Excusable neglect is not easily demonstrated.” Martinez v. United States, 578 Fed. App'x. 192, 194 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Indeed, “‘[a] district court should find excusable neglect only in the extraordinary cases where injustice would otherwise result.'” Ward v. Branch Banking & Trust Co., No. ELH-13-1968, 2016 WL 4492706, at *5 (D. Md. Aug. 25, 2016) (quoting Thompson v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 76 F.3d 530, 534 (4th Cir. 1996)) (emphasis in Thompson). The Supreme Court articulated the standard for “excusable neglect” in Pioneer Inv. Serv. Co. v. Brunswick Assoc. Ltd. P'ship, identifying four factors for courts to consider, including “[1] the danger of prejudice to the [non-movant], [2] the length of the delay and its potential impact on judicial proceedings, [3] the reason for the delay, including whether it was within the reasonable control of the movant, and [4] whether the movant acted in good faith.” 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993); see also Thompson, 76 F.3d at 533. “The most important factor considered by a court is the reason for the delay.” Rothenberg v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., No. CCB-08-173, 2008 WL 687033, *1 (D. Md. Feb. 29, 2008) (citing Thompson, 76 F.3d at 534); see also United States v. Munoz, 605 F.3d 359, 372 (6th Cir. 2010) (noting that “the Pioneer factors do not carry equal weight; the excuse given for the late filing must have the greatest import”) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         In their Motion for Extension of Time, ECF No. 37, the Walshes argue that the Court should allow them to file a late Answer because Gregory Walsh has “a heavy work schedule as a NASA engineer and [he] cannot always take time away from work activities to do legal research and prepare pleadings, ” and that his wife, Christina, “also works and does not have the time and experience for legal research and legal document preparation.” ECF No. 37 at 1-2.[2] The Walshes further urge that they are “not experienced nor are [they] trained at the level of an attorney.” ECF No. 37 at 2.[3]

         In response, Chevy Chase points out that nine months have passed since the Walshes' Answer was due. ECF No. 39 at 1. Chevy Chase further points out that in that same period of time during which the Walshes claim they were too preoccupied with work to file legal briefings, they in fact filed twenty documents in six open cases. Id. at 3. Chevy Chase argues that the Walshes were not unaware that they had missed their deadline to file an Answer, because Chevy Chase told them so when it filed a request for default in this case in May 2017, ECF No. 23. The Walshes did not respond to that request.

         This is not a situation where inexperienced litigants missed a deadline that they were unaware of by a few days for reasons outside of their control. Instead, the Walshes, who are serial litigants, have never filed their Answer, which was due on March 28, 2017. ECF No. 20, ECF No. 23. They were expressly made aware of the deadline by the Court on March 7, 2017, ECF No. 20, and were informed by Chevy Chase that they had missed the deadline on May 19, 2017, ECF No. 23. The Walshes did not seek an extension or attempt to justify their delay until December 27, 2017. ECF No. 37. The Walshes' only excuse is that their work schedules do not permit them the ability to take the time to file legal pleadings. As discussed above, this has not prevented them, however, from filing twenty documents in six open cases between March and December 2017. The Court finds that the Walshes have not demonstrated excusable neglect in failing to submit an Answer, and denies their Motion for Extension of Time.

         III. Default ...


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