United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS TRUSTEE FOR J.P. MORGAN MORTGAGE ACQUISITION TRUST 2007-CH4, ASSET BACKED PASS-THROUGH CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2007-CH4, Plaintiff,
JACQUELINE R. BIRCHFIELD, DONALD BIRCHFIELD, and EASTMAN CREDIT UNION, Defendants.
civil matter is before the Court on plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment [Doc. 17], defendant Eastman Credit
Union's (“ECU”) Cross Motion for Summary
Judgment [Doc. 20], and defendants Donald Birchfield and
Jacqueline Birchfield's (“the Birchfields”)
Cross Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 24]. The parties each
responded to these motions [Docs. 22, 23, 25, 28, 29]. For
the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant
plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and deny
defendants' cross motions.
2006, Herbert and Mary Miller conveyed real property located
at 351 Lyons Road, Bluff City, Tennessee 37618 (“the
property”) to the Birchfields pursuant to a warranty
deed (“the warranty deed”), which was recorded in
the Sullivan County Register's Office in book 2467C, page
330 [Doc. 18 p. 2; Doc. 21 p. 1]. The warranty deed
identified three tracts of land that make up 351 Lyons
Road-Tract I, Tract II, and Tract III-and included the metes
and bounds descriptions of each tract [Doc. 1-1 pp. 31-32;
Doc. 18 p. 2; Doc. 21 p. 2]. In order to finance this
purchase, the Birchfields obtained a purchase money loan from
Chase Bank in the amount of $229, 600.00, by which they
mortgaged the entire property, and Ms. Birchfield executed a
promissory note as evidence of said debt [Doc. 18 p. 2; Doc.
23 p. 1]. To secure repayment of the loan and note, the
Birchfields executed a purchase money deed of trust,
conveying the property to a Chase Bank trustee, and the deed
of trust was recorded on November 3, 2006, in book 2467C,
page 333 (“first deed of trust”)
[Id.]. The Birchfields simultaneously obtained a
second loan, in the amount of $57, 400.00, and executed a
second deed of trust conveying the property to the same Chase
Bank trustee (“second deed of trust”)
[Id.; Doc. 18-2]. The second deed of trust was also
recorded on November 3, 2006, in book 2467C, page 352 [Doc.
18 p. 2].
Bank assigned the first deed of trust to plaintiff on
September 22, 2011 [Doc. 18-3], and this assignment was
recorded on October 14, 2011 [Doc. 18 p. 3; Doc. 21 p. 3].
Plaintiff appointed Wilson and Associates PLLC (“Wilson
& Associates”) as the successor trustee for the
first deed of trust [Doc. 18-4]. The Birchfields defaulted on
their loan and first deed of trust, and Wilson &
Associates conducted a non-judicial foreclosure sale of the
property on March 8, 2013 [Doc. 18 p. 3; Doc. 21 p. 3].
Plaintiff purchased the property at the foreclosure sale, and
Wilson & Associates conveyed the property to plaintiff
pursuant to a trustee's deed, which was recorded on March
20, 2013, in book 3071, page 2379 (“trustee's
deed”) [Doc. 18 p. 3; Doc. 18-1; Doc. 21 p.
first and second deeds of trust (collectively, “deeds
of trust”), as well as the trustee's deed, include
descriptions of Tract I and Tract II, but they do not
specifically reference Tract III-which encompasses the
Birchfields' home-or list its metes and bounds
description [Doc. 18 p. 3; Doc. 21 p. 2; Doc. 23 p. 2].
Additionally, while the deeds of trust and the trustee's
deed include the same description of Tract I as the warranty
deed, they do not include the same description of Tract II
[Doc. 21 p. 4; compare Doc. 18-1 pp. 4-5,
with Doc. 18-1 pp. 26-28]. They instead appear to
cite the metes and bounds descriptions from an unrecorded
survey prepared in 1994, which contains property to the north
of the Birchfields' property that they did not own [Doc.
23 p. 2]. The description in the deeds of trust includes the
0.53-acre tract from Tract II in the warranty deed, but it
does not include the 0.38 acres from Tract III of the
warranty deed [Id.]. The deeds of trust and the
trustee's deed do, however, list the address of all three
tracts, 351 Lyons Road, Bluff City, Tennessee 37618, and
contain a derivation clause, stating that the included
property was the same property conveyed to the Birchfields by
warranty deed [Doc. 18 p. 3; Doc. 18-1 pp. 26, 28, 36].
ECU holds two judgment liens against all of the
Birchfields' property, recorded on June 17 and 21, 2010,
and August 11, 2011 [Doc. 18 p. 3; Doc. 21 p. 4]. ECU claims
that it possesses the first and second priority liens against
Tract III because the deeds of trust and plaintiff's
trustee deed do not encompass Tract III [Doc. 21 p. 4]. The
Birchfields also contend that ECU possesses a first priority
lien on the “property that was omitted in the deed of
trust” [Doc. 23 p. 2]. Thus, plaintiff brings the
instant action, seeking to rescind the foreclosure and
trustee's deed so that it may reform the deeds of trust
“to reflect the intended and correct property
descriptions in order that [p]laintiff's first position
lien may be retained and clear title conveyed” [Doc. 18
Standard of Review
judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure is proper “if the movant shows that 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). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that
no genuine issues of material fact exist. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986); Moore v.
Philip Morris Cos., 8 F.3d 335, 339 (6th Cir. 1993). All
facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 301 F.3d
937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002).
“[o]nce the moving party presents evidence sufficient
to support a motion under Rule 56, the nonmoving party is not
entitled to a trial merely on the basis of
allegations.” Curtis Through Curtis v. Universal
Match Corp., 778 F.Supp. 1421, 1423 (E.D. Tenn. 1991)
(citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317). To establish a
genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element,
the nonmoving party must point to evidence in the record upon
which a reasonable finder of fact could find in its favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it
must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law. Id.
Court's function at the point of summary judgment is
limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been
presented to make the issue of fact a proper question for the
factfinder. Id. at 250. The Court does not weigh the
evidence or determine the truth of the matter. Id.
at 249. Nor does the Court search the record “to
establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material
fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886
F.2d 1472, 1479- 80 (6th Cir. 1989). Thus, “the inquiry
performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether
there is a need for a trial-whether, in other words, there
are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved
only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be
resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 250.
the three remaining parties in this matter move for summary
judgment, arguing that no genuine issue of material fact
exists [Docs. 17, 20, 24]. Plaintiff argues that Tract III
was not included in the deeds of trust and trustee's deed
due to mutual mistake and that no third party would be
prejudiced by reformation of the deeds on this basis.
Alternatively, plaintiff contends that the Court should
impose an equitable lien on Tract III. The Birchfields appear
to agree that a mistake was made in omitting Tract III, but
they argue that the deeds may not be reformed because the
mistake was unilaterally made by plaintiff and because a
third party, defendant ECU, would be prejudiced. ECU contends
that the parties did not intend the deeds of trust to
encompass Tract III. Alternatively, if the Court determines
that failure to include Tract III was a mistake, ECU asserts
that the deeds cannot be reformed because the mistake
occurred due to plaintiff's negligence and because ECU
would suffer prejudice.
Sufficiency of Description in Deeds of Trust and
order for a deed to be valid, it “must designate the
land intended to be conveyed with reasonable
certainty.” ABN AMRO Mortg. Grp. v. S. Sec. Fed.
Credit Union, 372 S.W.3d 121, 128 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2011)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
“Generally, any description in a conveyance of the
property is sufficient if it identifies the property, or if
it affords the means of identification, as by extrinsic
evidence. Courts are reluctant to declare instruments void
for an uncertain description and will look to attendant facts
to make them certain.” Id. at 127. Thus,
courts “will declare a deed void for uncertainty of
description only where, after resorting to oral proof or
after relying upon other extrinsic or external proof or
evidence, that which was intended by the instrument remains a
mere matter of conjecture, or where the description cannot be
made applicable to but one definite tract.”
parol evidence “is admissible to show the location and
boundaries of the tract, ” if the deed itself
“shows that some particular tract was intended.”
Dobson v. Litton, 45 Tenn. 616, 619 (1868). Even if
the introduction of parol proof would create uncertainty as
to what tract of land the deed was meant to convey, this does
not bar the introduction of such evidence if there was
“no uncertainty upon the face of the deed.”
Id. In sum, as submitted by the Tennessee Supreme
Court, “Where an instrument is so drawn that, upon its
face, it refers necessarily to some existing tract of land,
and its terms can be applied to that one tract only, parol
evidence may be employed to show where the tract so mentioned
is located.” Id. at 620.
extrinsic evidence must not “add to, enlarge, or in any
way change the description contained in the conveyance, and
the writing itself must furnish the hinge or hook on which to
hang the aid thus afforded.” ABN, 372 S.W.3d
at 127. Upon a showing of mutual mistake, however, a court
may consider parol evidence that contradicts or varies the
terms of the written instrument. See In re Miller,
286 B.R. 334, 340 (Bankr.E.D.Tenn. 1999) (“In the case
of mutual mistake which is asserted in the present case,
parol evidence is admissible.”); McMillin v. Great
S. Corp., 480 S.W.2d 152, 155 (Tenn. 1972) (noting that
parol evidence may be used to contradict or vary the terms of
a written instrument upon a showing of fraud or mutual
mistake); GRW Enters. v. Davis, 797 ...