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Adams v. Santander Bank, N.A.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 11, 2018

Christine Adams et al.
Santander Bank, N.A.

          Providence County Superior Court, PC 14-622 Maureen Keough Associate Justice.

          For Plaintiff: Corey J. Allard, Esq.

          For Defendant: Matthew A. Kane, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.



         The plaintiffs, Christine Adams and George J. Adams, Jr., appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court in favor of the defendant, Santander Bank, N.A.[1] This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not summarily be decided. After considering the parties' written and oral arguments, and after reviewing the record, we conclude that cause has not been shown and that this case may be decided without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.


         Facts and Travel

         On February 19, 2013, Santander conducted a foreclosure sale on property located in Pawtucket. According to a complaint filed in February 2014, that property was owned by Christine Adams. In that complaint, Christine Adams sued Santander, alleging that she was the owner of the property and that Santander had improperly foreclosed on it. The complaint also alleged that plaintiff had filed for bankruptcy in advance of Santander's scheduled foreclosure sale, which, she alleged, should have operated to stay the sale.[2] The plaintiff also moved for and obtained a temporary restraining order enjoining Santander from selling or transferring the Pawtucket property.[3]

         Several months later, plaintiff amended her complaint. In addition to reasserting her claim that Santander improperly foreclosed on her property during the pendency of her bankruptcy, plaintiff alleged that Santander had failed to comply with the notice requirements set forth in G.L. 1956 §§ 34-27-4(a) and 34-27-4(b) before it conducted the February 19 sale. Respectively, she asserted that § 34-27-4(a) required Santander to give notice of the foreclosure sale by publication "at least once per week for three consecutive weeks" and that § 34-27-4(b) required Santander to give her proper notice by certified mail within thirty days of the publication of the foreclosure sale. In plaintiff's view, Santander did neither.

         In September 2014, plaintiff amended her complaint for a second and final time. This time, she narrowed the focus of the lawsuit against Santander. She dropped her claim that Santander improperly held the foreclosure sale while her bankruptcy case was pending. That left but a single claim: that Santander did not comply with the notice provisions set forth in §§ 34-27-4(a) and 34-27-4(b). However, in addition to narrowing the focus of the complaint, plaintiff also added a second plaintiff, her father, George Adams. As noted in the motion to amend, it was George, [4] not Christine, who was "the individual with whom Santander executed a mortgage" on the Pawtucket property.[5]

         In July 2016, Santander moved for summary judgment and filed a detailed memorandum, attached to which were thirty exhibits documenting George's default on the promissory note that was secured by the mortgage on the Pawtucket property, as well as Santander's efforts to foreclose on that property. Included in those exhibits were three documents of particular relevance: a letter dated November 16, 2012, sent by certified mail to George at the address of the Pawtucket property; a letter sent on the same date to Christine by certified mail to the address of the Pawtucket property; and an affidavit of Santander's foreclosure counsel stating that notice of the foreclosure sale had been published in The Providence Journal on December 18, 2012, December 25, 2012, and January 1, 2013. Based on the evidence it proffered, Santander argued that it had complied with the statutory notice provisions of §§ 34-27-4(a) and 34-27-4(b) before the February 19, 2013 sale.

         In response, counsel for plaintiffs filed a one-page memorandum in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. In that document, plaintiffs' counsel cited two reasons for opposing the motion. First, he wrote, "the [p]laintiffs state that there remain genuine issues of material fact such that [Santander] is not entitled to [s]ummary [j]udgment, as a matter of law." He did not, however, elaborate on or even identify the material facts that he claimed were in dispute. Second, he averred "that discovery is ongoing, " and that forthcoming depositions of Santander's employees would "call into question the validity of the mortgage document * * *." The record reveals that, aside from filing that cursory memorandum in opposition to Santander's motion, there were no documents, depositions, or affidavits produced to counter Santander's evidence of its compliance with §§ 34-27-4(a) and 34-27-4(b).

         Therefore, it should come as no surprise that, after a hearing in December 2016, a justice of the Superior Court granted Santander's motion, and judgment entered shortly ...

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