Appellate Judges

CitiMortgage Violated the Loan Modification Agreement Sayeth Judge Ho for the Fifth Circuit Panel

CitiMortgage offered no reason why favoring the monthly deadlines and ignoring the grace period would do the least damage to the text of TPP.

Burbridge v. CitiMortgage, Inc.

(4:19-cv-00647)

District Court, E.D. Texas, Judge Amos Mazzant

JUN 16, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 17, 2022

Judge Mazzant Affirms Former Creditor Rights Attorney with Dykema and Now Magistrate Judge Christine Nowak’s Judgment for CitiMortgage

Representing CitiMortgage is sanctioned former BDF Hopkins counsel J.D. Milks along with that woman owned business run by Shelley Hopkins in Austin, Texas. For the homeowner is former BDF Hopkins counsel Jason LeBoeuf, who would then work for Vilt and Associates for a short time before going out on his own and taking this client with him.

Shelley Hopkins was counsel for CitiMortgage at the 5th Cir, registering herself in April 2021 which is a major deviation from Mark Hopkins attending to all appeals at the 5th Circuit. LeBoeuf represented the homeowner.

U.S. District Court
Eastern District of TEXAS [LIVE] (Sherman)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 4:19-cv-00647-ALM-CAN

Burbridge v. CitiMortgage, Inc.
Assigned to: District Judge Amos L. Mazzant, III
Referred to: Magistrate Judge Christine A. Nowak

Case in other court:  5ca, 21-40309
219th Judicial District Court, Collin County, Texa, 219-04142-2019

Cause: 28:1446 Notice of Removal

Date Filed: 09/06/2019
Date Terminated: 01/11/2021
Jury Demand: None
Nature of Suit: 220 Real Property: Foreclosure
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
Mediator
Jay C Zeleskey
Zeleskey Mediations
8117 Preston Road
Suite 300
Dallas, TX 75225
214-706-9080
Plaintiff
Brian Burbridge represented by Jason A LeBoeuf
Vilt & Associates, P.C.
2435 North Central Expressway, Suite 1200
Richardson, TX 75080
214.206.7423
Fax: 214.730.5944
Email: Jason@leboeuflawfirm.com
LEAD ATTORNEY
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICEDRobert C Vilt
Vilt and Associates PC
5177 Richmond Avenue Suite 1142
Houston, TX 77056
713-840-7570
Fax: 713-877-1827
Email: clay@viltlaw.com
TERMINATED: 08/14/2020
LEAD ATTORNEYRobert Clayton Vilt
Vilt and Associates
5177 Richmond Avenue
Suite 1230
Houston, TX 77056
713/840-7570
Fax: 17138771827
Email: clay@viltlaw.com
TERMINATED: 08/14/2020
V.
Defendant
CitiMortgage, Inc. represented by John David Milks
Slocumb Law Firm
1910 Pacific Avenue
Ste 15700
Dallas, TX 75201
817-657-9346
Fax: 888-853-2247
Email: jmilks@slocumblaw.com
TERMINATED: 01/22/2020
LEAD ATTORNEYShelley Luan Hopkins
Hopkins Law PLLC – Austin
3 Lakeway Centre Ct
Suite 110
Austin, TX 78734
512-600-4320
Email: shelley@hopkinslawtexas.com
LEAD ATTORNEY
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICEDCrystal Gee Gibson
Barrett Daffin Frappier Turner & Engel, LLP – Addison
4004 Belt Line Road, Suite 100
Addison, TX 75001
972-340-7901
Fax: 972-341-0734
Email: crystalr@bdfgroup.com
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
01/11/2021 48 FINAL JUDGMENT. It is therefore ORDERED that Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by District Judge Amos L. Mazzant, III on 1/11/2021. (baf, ) (Entered: 01/11/2021)
02/08/2021 49 MOTION for New Trial by Brian Burbridge. (LeBoeuf, Jason) (Entered: 02/08/2021)
02/22/2021 50 Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 49 MOTION for New Trial by CitiMortgage, Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Hopkins, Shelley) (Entered: 02/22/2021)
02/22/2021 51 ORDER – granting 50 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response re 49 MOTION for New Trial . Responses due by 3/1/2021. Signed by Magistrate Judge Christine A. Nowak on 2/22/2021. (baf, ) (Entered: 02/23/2021)
02/25/2021 52 RESPONSE in Opposition re 49 MOTION for New Trial filed by CitiMortgage, Inc.. (Hopkins, Shelley) (Entered: 02/25/2021)
03/17/2021 53 ORDER. It is therefore ORDERED that Plaintiff Brian Burbridge’s Motion for New Trial (Dkt. 49 ) is DENIED. Signed by District Judge Amos L. Mazzant, III on 3/17/2021. (baf, ) (Entered: 03/17/2021)
04/16/2021 54 NOTICE OF APPEAL as to 47 Memorandum & Opinion,,, Order Adopting Report and Recommendations,, 48 Judgment by Brian Burbridge. Filing fee $ 505, receipt number 0540-8362123. Appeal Record due by 4/30/2021. (LeBoeuf, Jason) (Entered: 04/16/2021)
05/11/2021 55 NO TRANSCRIPT NEEDED TRANSCRIPT REQUEST by Brian Burbridge for proceedings held on 1/11/2021 before Judge Amos L. Mazzant, (LeBoeuf, Jason) Modified on 5/12/2021 (ljw, ). (Entered: 05/11/2021)

 


 

PACER Service Center
Transaction Receipt
06/17/2022 11:55:13
General Docket
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeals Docket #: 21-40309 Docketed: 04/19/2021
Termed: 06/16/2022
Nature of Suit: 3220 Foreclosure
Burbridge v. CitiMortgage
Appeal From: Eastern District of Texas, Sherman
Fee Status: Fee Paid
Case Type Information:
     1) Private Civil Federal
     2) Private
     3)
Originating Court Information:
     District: 0540-4 : 4:19-CV-647
     Originating Judge: Amos L. Mazzant, U.S. District Judge
     Date Filed: 09/06/2019
     Date NOA Filed:      Date Rec’d COA:
     04/16/2021      04/16/2021
Prior Cases:
     None
Current Cases:
     None
Panel Assignment:      Not available

 

Brian Burbridge
Plaintiff – Appellant
Jason A. LeBoeuf
Direct: 214-206-7423
Email: jason@leboeuflawfirm.com
Fax: 214-730-5944
[COR LD NTC Retained]
LeBoeuf Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
Suite 200
675 Town Square Boulevard
Garland, TX 75040
v.
CitiMortgage, Incorporated
Defendant – Appellee
Shelley Luan Hopkins
Direct: 512-600-4323
Email: shelley@hopkinslawtexas.com
[COR LD NTC Retained]
Hopkins Law, P.L.L.C.
Suite 110
3 Lakeway Centre Court
Austin, TX 78734

Brian Burbridge,

Plaintiff – Appellant

v.

CitiMortgage, Incorporated,

Defendant – Appellee

04/19/2021  Open Document
1 pg, 110.37 KB
PRIVATE CIVIL FEDERAL CASE docketed. NOA filed by Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge [21-40309] (ABT) [Entered: 04/19/2021 12:28 PM]
04/26/2021  Open Document
4 pg, 126.2 KB
INITIAL CASE CHECK by Attorney Advisor complete, Action: Case OK to Process. [9558986-2] Initial AA Check Due satisfied.. Transcript order due on 05/11/2021 for Appellant Brian Burbridge [21-40309] (CAG) [Entered: 04/26/2021 11:33 AM]
04/30/2021  Open Document
1 pg, 154.81 KB
APPEARANCE FORM received from Ms. Shelley Luan Hopkins for CitiMortgage, Incorporated for the court’s review. Lead Counsel? Yes. [21-40309] (Shelley Luan Hopkins ) [Entered: 04/30/2021 03:55 PM]
05/03/2021 APPEARANCE FORM FILED by Attorney Shelley Luan Hopkins for Appellee CitiMortgage, Incorporated in 21-40309 [21-40309] (CAG) [Entered: 05/03/2021 12:20 PM]
05/11/2021  Open Document
1 pg, 147.35 KB
APPEARANCE FORM received from Mr. Jason A. LeBoeuf for Mr. Brian Burbridge for the court’s review. Lead Counsel? Yes. [21-40309] (Jason A. LeBoeuf ) [Entered: 05/11/2021 04:24 PM]
05/11/2021  Open Document
2 pg, 161.24 KB
TRANSCRIPT ORDER received from Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge advising transcript unnecessary for appeal purposes. Transcript Order ddl satisfied [21-40309]
REVIEWED AND/OR EDITED – The original text prior to review appeared as follows: TRANSCRIPT ORDER received from Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge advising transcript unnecessary for appeal purposes. Date of Service: 05/11/2021 via email – Attorney for Appellee: Hopkins; Attorney for Appellant: LeBoeuf [21-40309] (Jason A. LeBoeuf ) [Entered: 05/11/2021 04:36 PM]
05/11/2021 ELECTRONIC RECORD ON APPEAL REQUESTED from District Court for 4:19-CV-647. Electronic ROA due on 05/26/2021. [21-40309] (ABT) [Entered: 05/11/2021 05:12 PM]
05/12/2021 APPEARANCE FORM FILED by Attorney Jason A. LeBoeuf for Appellant Brian Burbridge in 21-40309 [21-40309] (ABT) [Entered: 05/12/2021 01:30 PM]
05/14/2021 ELECTRONIC RECORD ON APPEAL FILED. Admitted Exhibits on File in District Court? No. Video/Audio Exhibits on File in District Court? No Electronic ROA deadline satisfied. [21-40309] (DDL) [Entered: 05/14/2021 10:38 AM]
05/14/2021  Open Document
4 pg, 126.13 KB
BRIEFING NOTICE ISSUED A/Pet’s Brief Due on 06/23/2021 for Appellant Brian Burbridge. [21-40309] (DDL) [Entered: 05/14/2021 10:39 AM]
06/23/2021  Open Document
1 pg, 64.34 KB
UNOPPOSED LEVEL 1 EXTENSION REQUESTED by Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge for filing Appellant’s Brief until 07/23/2021 [21-40309] (Jason A. LeBoeuf ) [Entered: 06/23/2021 07:24 PM]
06/24/2021 EXTENSION RECEIVED for Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge. Extension Granted to and including 07/23/2021. A/Pet’s Brief deadline updated to 07/23/2021 for Appellant Brian Burbridge [21-40309] (CAG) [Entered: 06/24/2021 08:36 AM]
07/23/2021  Open Document
20 pg, 264.75 KB
APPELLANT’S BRIEF FILED
A/Pet’s Brief deadline satisfied. Appellee’s Brief due on 08/23/2021 for Appellee CitiMortgage, Incorporated [21-40309]
REVIEWED AND/OR EDITED – The original text prior to review appeared as follows: APPELLANT’S BRIEF FILED by Mr. Brian Burbridge. Date of service: 07/23/2021 via email – Attorney for Appellee: Hopkins; Attorney for Appellant: LeBoeuf [21-40309] (Jason A. LeBoeuf ) [Entered: 07/23/2021 08:37 PM]
07/23/2021  Open Document
23 pg, 928.27 KB
RECORD EXCERPTS FILED. [21-40309]
REVIEWED AND/OR EDITED – The original text prior to review appeared as follows: RECORD EXCERPTS FILED by Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge. Date of service: 07/23/2021 via email – Attorney for Appellee: Hopkins; Attorney for Appellant: LeBoeuf [21-40309] (Jason A. LeBoeuf ) [Entered: 07/23/2021 08:39 PM]
08/18/2021  Open Document
4 pg, 129.98 KB
UNOPPOSED MOTION filed by Appellee CitiMortgage, Incorporated to extend time to file brief of appellee until 09/22/2021 [9646205-2]. Date of service: 08/18/2021 via email – Attorney for Appellee: Hopkins; Attorney for Appellant: LeBoeuf [21-40309] (Shelley Luan Hopkins ) [Entered: 08/18/2021 01:12 PM]
08/18/2021  Open Document
1 pg, 74.23 KB
CLERK ORDER granting Motion to extend time to file appellee’s brief filed by Appellee CitiMortgage, Incorporated [9646205-2] Appellee’s Brief due on 09/22/2021 for Appellee CitiMortgage, Incorporated [21-40309] (SDH) [Entered: 08/18/2021 04:00 PM]
09/20/2021  Open Document
35 pg, 587.18 KB
APPELLEE’S BRIEF FILED E/Res’s Brief deadline satisfied. Reply Brief due on 10/12/2021 for Appellant Brian Burbridge [21-40309] REVIEWED AND/OR EDITED – The original text prior to review appeared as follows: APPELLEE’S BRIEF FILED by CitiMortgage, Incorporated. Date of service: 09/20/2021 via email – Attorney for Appellee: Hopkins; Attorney for Appellant: LeBoeuf [21-40309] (Shelley Luan Hopkins ) [Entered: 09/20/2021 03:22 PM]
10/19/2021 BRIEFING COMPLETE.Reply Brief deadline canceled [21-40309] (CAG) [Entered: 10/19/2021 12:32 PM]
10/27/2021  Open Document
1 pg, 91.09 KB
PAPER COPIES REQUESTED for the Appellant Brief filed by Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge in 21-40309 [9626591-2], Record Excerpts filed by Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge in 21-40309 [9626592-2], Appellee Brief filed by Appellee CitiMortgage, Incorporated in 21-40309 [9668720-2]. Paper Copies of Brief due on 11/01/2021 for Appellant Brian Burbridge and Appellee CitiMortgage, Incorporated.. Paper Copies of Record Excerpts due on 11/01/2021 for Appellant Brian Burbridge. [21-40309] (CAG) [Entered: 10/27/2021 10:55 AM]
11/01/2021 Paper copies of Appellee Brief filed by Appellee CitiMortgage, Incorporated in 21-40309 received. Paper copies match electronic version of document? Yes # of Copies Provided: 7. Paper Copies of Brief due deadline satisfied. [21-40309] (CMB) [Entered: 11/02/2021 08:34 AM]
11/02/2021 Paper copies of Record Excerpts filed by Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge in 21-40309 received. Paper copies match electronic version of document? Yes # of Copies Provided: 4. Paper Copies of Record Excerpts due deadline satisfied. [21-40309] (SDH) [Entered: 11/05/2021 03:44 PM]
11/02/2021 Paper copies of Appellant Brief filed by Appellant Mr. Brian Burbridge in 21-40309 received. Paper copies match electronic version of document? Yes # of Copies Provided: 7. Paper Copies of Brief due deadline satisfied. [21-40309] (SDH) [Entered: 11/05/2021 03:48 PM]
06/16/2022  Open Document
9 pg, 227.38 KB
PUBLISHED OPINION FILED. [21-40309 Reversed and Remanded] Judge: CDK , Judge: JEG , Judge: JCH. Mandate issue date is 07/08/2022 [21-40309] (NFD) [Entered: 06/16/2022 09:44 AM]
06/16/2022  Open Document
1 pg, 58.78 KB
JUDGMENT ENTERED AND FILED. Costs Taxed Against: Defendant – Appellee. [21-40309] (NFD) [Entered: 06/16/2022 09:48 AM]

Burbridge v. CitiMortgage (5th Cir., Pub.)

JUN 16, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 17, 2022

Before King, Graves, and Ho, Circuit Judges.

James C. Ho, Circuit Judge:

We construe contracts as we do statutes—in a manner faithful to the text.

So if a contract includes a grace period, we enforce the grace period.

If a lender sets a deadline for payment, but allows the borrower to make that payment anytime “in the month in which it is due,” then the borrower may make that payment anytime in the month in which it is due.

That’s exactly what CitiMortgage offered the borrower here—a deadline accompanied by a grace period.

Yet CitiMortgage nevertheless contends that we should ignore the grace period.

Notably, this is not the first time CitiMortgage has presented this atextual plea to a federal court.

It did so in at least one previous case, involving the same language in a nearly identical loan agreement.

The court there rejected the argument and faithfully enforced the grace period—as fidelity to text requires.

See Blankenchip v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 2016 WL 4494465 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 26, 2016).

Yet CitiMortgage did not disclose that ruling in these proceedings, either before the district court or on appeal.

Respect for text means that we must respect the grace period.

The district court reached the contrary conclusion. Accordingly, we reverse.

I.

Approximately ten years after receiving a home loan from CitiMortgage, Brian Burbridge experienced financial difficulties and defaulted on his loan. So Burbridge applied for a loan modification.

In response, CitiMortgage mailed Burbridge an offer to participate in a Trial Period Plan (“TPP”).

The TPP provided that “[t]he terms of this offer are accepted and the terms of your [TPP] are effective on the day you make your first trial period payment, provided you have paid it on or before the last day of [January 2019].”

Burbridge effectively accepted the terms of the TPP when he made the first trial period payment of $1,293.66 by January 18, 2019.

The TPP also spelled out exactly what Burbridge needed to do to successfully complete the trial period.

It stated that, “[i]f you successfully complete the [TPP] by making the required payments, you will receive a permanent modification with an interest rate of 6.375% which will be fixed for 480 months from the date the modification is effective.”

It explained that, “[t]o successfully complete the [TPP],” Burbridge must make three monthly payments of $1,293.66 by January 1, February 1, and March 1.

It also made clear that “TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.”

And in bold lettering, the TPP promised that “we will not conduct a foreclosure sale” so long as Burbridge satisfied these terms.

The TPP also included language specifying that Burbridge’s payments would be deemed timely so long as they were made within the month when due.

It stated that, “[i]f you do not make the specified trial period payments in full in the month when due, you will not qualify for a permanent modification.”

Directly below the specified deadlines, it stated in bold lettering:

“We must receive each payment in the month in which it is due.”

And elsewhere it made clear that “[i]f you fail to make the first trial period payment during the month in which it is due, this offer will be revoked and foreclosure proceedings may continue.”

In addition, the TPP included a provision expressly contemplating that Burbridge might make multiple payments within the same month.

It stated that CitiMortgage “may hold the trial period payments in an account until sufficient funds are in the account to pay each of [Burbridge’s] monthly trial period payment obligations.”

The parties do not dispute that Burbridge made weekly payments of roughly $350 beginning on December 14, 2018 and ending on March 29, 2019.

Consequently, each of Burbridge’s three aggregate payments of $1,293.66 were completed “in the month in which it [wa]s due,” albeit not by the first day of each month.

(In fact, Burbridge altogether paid $270 over what the TPP required.)

But despite the fact that Burbridge made his final payment in compliance with the stated time period, CitiMortgage sent him a letter informing him that he was “ineligible” for the loan modification because he failed to comply with the terms of the TPP.

CitiMortgage then posted Burbridge’s property for foreclosure.

Burbridge filed suit against CitiMortgage in state court, asserting claims for, inter alia, breach of contract.

CitiMortgage removed to federal court.

The district court granted summary judgment to CitiMortgage. It declined to give force to the grace period provisions and accordingly concluded that Burbridge failed to comply with the TPP’s payment deadlines. Burbridge timely appealed.

II.

“This court reviews a district court’s grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standards as the district court.”

Johnson v. World Alliance Fin. Corp., 830 F.3d 192, 195 (5th Cir. 2016).

Summary judgment is granted when “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

A genuine dispute of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

To establish a breach of contract claim, Texas law requires Burbridge to show:

“(1) the existence of a valid contract;

(2) performance or tendered performance by the plaintiff;

(3) breach of the contract by the defendant;

and

(4) damages sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the breach.”

Smith Int’l, Inc. v. Egle Grp., LLC, 490 F.3d 380, 387 (5th Cir. 2007).

CitiMortgage contends that the TPP is not a valid binding contract.

But the text of the TPP makes clear that CitiMortgage intended to be bound by the terms of the TPP upon Burbridge’s performance:

“If you successfully complete the [TPP] by making the required payments, you will receive a permanent modification with an interest rate of 6.375% which will be fixed for 480 months from the date the modification is effective.”

Elsewhere the TPP stated:

“If you make your new payments timely we will not conduct a foreclosure sale.”

And it expressly defined the terms of acceptance:

“The terms of this offer are accepted and the terms of your [TPP] are effective on the day you make your first trial period payment, provided you have paid it on or before the last day of [January 2019].”

Accordingly, we have no difficulty concluding that an enforceable contract was created on January 18, 2019, when Burbridge completed the first trial period payment of $1,293.66.

Alternatively, CitiMortgage argues that Burbridge failed to comply with the TPP’s requirement that he make payments “in a timely manner.”

As CitiMortgage contends, the TPP establishes monthly payment deadlines of January 1, February 1, and March 1, 2019, and Burbridge did not meet these deadlines.

But the TPP also establishes a grace period.

It accepts payment so long as it is made “in the month in which it is due.”

Neither the TPP nor the parties use the term “grace period” to describe this language.

But that is plainly what the text contemplates.

And no one disputes that Burbridge’s payments comply with the governing grace periods.

CitiMortgage responds that we should ignore the grace period because it irreconcilably conflicts with the monthly deadlines set forth in the TPP, as well as the express statement that “time is of the essence.”

But we see no conflict.

Grace periods are common features of contracts.

They are based on a simple premise:

In the real world, there are deadlines, and there are deadlines.

Some deadlines cannot be missed, while other deadlines operate more as flexible guidelines than rigid mandates.

See, e.g., Lindsey v. Bio-Med. Applications of La., L.L.C., 9 F.4th 317, 321 (5th Cir. 2021)

(“As anyone who has ever worked in an office environment can attest, there are real deadlines and hortatory ones—and everyone understands the difference between the two.”).

Grace periods facilitate contractual relationships by making clear which deadlines are aspirational and which are mission-critical.

So the grace period at issue here presents no conflict with the TPP’s stated deadlines.

To the contrary, grace periods and deadlines co- exist by design.

Nor do we see any conflict between the grace period and the statement that “time is of the essence.”

That statement simply conveys that timing is important to the lender, so borrowers should expect that the lender will rigorously enforce compliance with the stated grace periods.

And even if CitiMortgage could establish an irreconcilable conflict between the grace period and the stated monthly deadlines, it would still need to articulate a theory as to why we should favor one set of provisions over the other.

When different provisions of a legal text cannot be reconciled, we must decide which text to enforce and which to ignore.

In such cases, “conflict with at least some text is unavoidable.”

Greenbrier Hosp., L.L.C. v. Azar, 974 F.3d 546, 547 (5th Cir. 2020).

So “respect for text requires that ‘judges must do the least damage they can.’”

Id. (quoting Herrmann v. Cencom Cable Assocs., 978 F.2d 978, 983 (7th Cir. 1992)).

CitiMortgage has offered no reason why favoring the monthly deadlines and ignoring the grace period would “do the least damage” to the text of the TPP.

Id.

That’s fatal to CitiMortgage’s position in this case.

Because “if we are truly unable to discern which provision should control, the proper resolution is to apply the unintelligibility canon and to deny effect to both provisions.”

Id. (cleaned up).

That is, we would ignore the monthly deadlines as well as the grace period—and thus reverse accordingly.

* * *
Burbridge met his obligations under the TPP by making timely payments.

CitiMortgage, by contrast, violated its obligations by refusing to grant the permanent loan modification and instead proceeding with foreclosure.

Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

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CitiMortgage Violated the Loan Modification Agreement Sayeth Judge Ho for the Fifth Circuit Panel
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