Nicholas Malfitano Aug. 19, 2015, 1:37pm


PHILADELPHIA – On June 2, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania a lower court decision that originally granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of defendants Mortgage I.T., Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems and CitiMortgage, Inc.

Judges John T. Bender, Cheryl Lynn Allen and Sallie Updyke Mundy decided this matter, as Mundy wrote the Court’s opinion to vacate that of the Chester Court of Common Pleas.

The subject action concerned a dispute over a residential mortgage which began in January 2011, when Leslie-Eve Orman and her husband, Thomas Orman, filed an Action to Quiet Title and reform the mortgage in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Mortgage I.T. and others, in effect, by removing the mortgage as a lien on the title.

The defendants then filed a motion to dismiss the Ormans’ complaint, pursuant to federal law, due to a lack of inclusion of CitiMortgage as a defendant. On March 30, 2012, in a detailed opinion that reviewed all of the documents and allegations, the federal court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

One month later, Orman filed the subject litigation in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, against identical defendants and raising similar issues as in the prior federal case – and did obtain a default judgment from the trial court on June 18, 2012. On Aug. 9, 2012, Mortgage I.T. filed a petition to open the default judgment, which was granted by the trial court on Oct. 2, 2012.

Orman then filed various document requests and amended complaints, in addition to a motion for summary judgment. These were responded to by CitiMortgage, which filed answers to each of the requests in addition to its own motion for summary judgment.

On June 12, 2014, the trial court entered an order granting Citi’s motion for summary judgment and entering judgment in favor of the defendants.

The Chester County Court of Common Pleas concluded Orman failed to join an indispensable party, her husband Thomas Orman, to the action. The trial court further concluded that plaintiff's entire lawsuit is barred by the doctrine of res judicata and later denied Orman’s motion for reconsideration on June 26, 2014.

On July 11, 2014, Orman filed an appeal, feeling the trial court had erred when it named her husband, Thomas Orman, as an indispensable party to the lawsuit.

Mundy said trial courts utilize four criteria for determining if a party is indispensable to a law suit: “1) Do absent parties have a right or an interest related to the claim? 2) If so, what is the nature of that right or interest? 3) Is that right or interest essential to the merits of the issue? 4) Can justice be afforded without violating the due process rights of absent parties?”

Using that criteria and the fact he signed the mortgage, the trial court decided Thomas Orman was an indispensable party to the litigation.

“Despite determining that Thomas Orman was an indispensable party, the trial court’s June 12, 2014 order nevertheless granted judgment in favor of all defendants, which, similar to the default judgment entered on June 18, 2012 in Appellant’s favor, is an adjudication on the merits. This was in error,” Mundy said.

Mundy said the Chester County Court of Common Pleas “lacked subject matter jurisdiction” to enter judgment of any kind, when it entered its original June 12, 2014 verdict to grant summary judgment – and therefore, also lacked subject matter jurisdiction to grant and open the default judgment.

“Based on the foregoing, we conclude the trial court correctly determined that Thomas Orman is an indispensable party to the instant action. However, we also conclude that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter judgment in favor of any party,” Mundy said. “Accordingly, the trial court’s June 18, 2012 judgment and its Oct. 2, 2012 and June 12, 2014 orders are vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions for the trial court to enter an order dismissing appellant’s complaint without prejudice, consistent with this opinion.”

The Superior Court Of Pennsylvania case 2178 EDA 2014

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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