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Schumacher v. Gleason

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Worcester

January 17, 2019

John C. SCHUMACHER, Individually and as Executor[1]

          File Date: January 23, 2019


          Jane E. Mulqueen, Justice

          John C. Schumacher (plaintiff or Schumacher) brings this action for slander of title (count I); abuse of process (count II); quiet title (count III); trespass (count IV); and prima facie tort (count V) against the defendant, Michael Gleason (defendant), a bona fide purchaser of property once owned by the plaintiff. The matter before the court is the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment is ALLOWED.


          By a quitclaim deed dated September 19, 2002, Edna H. Schumacher conveyed the property located at 1204 Main Street, Clinton, MA (the property) to herself and plaintiff as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Edna Schumacher acquired the property by a deed from Ingrid E. Jergensen dated November 12, 1943, and recorded in the Worcester Registry of Deeds (Registry). According to the legal description of the property found in the abovementioned-mentioned deeds, the property was originally bounded on the southerly side by a man-made pond known as Fuller’s Mill Pond. At some point between 1964 and 1974, however, the pond was destroyed by the Clinton Department of Public Works. All that remains is the stream that was dammed to create the pond.

          Edna Schumacher died on March 6, 2004. Upon her death, plaintiff became the sole owner of the property. On May 24, 2004, plaintiff granted a mortgage to Union Federal Bank of Indianapolis (mortgage) to secure a loan in the amount of $ 232, 000 evidenced by a note of the same date. Thereafter, ownership of the mortgage passed through various entities and various assignments of the mortgage were recorded.

          On October 23, 2009, U.S. Bank National Association (U.S. Bank) foreclosed on the mortgage and was the successful bidder at the foreclosure sale. On March 8, 2010, U.S. Bank recorded in the Registry a foreclosure deed conveying the property to itself.

          U.S. Bank then commenced a post-foreclosure eviction action (summary process action) in the Worcester Housing Court (Housing Court). Plaintiff responded to the eviction complaint and advanced counterclaims, asserting that the foreclosure was invalid.

          U.S. Bank filed a motion for summary judgment and to dismiss counterclaims. The plaintiff opposed the motion. In a ruling dated July 6, 2010, the Housing Court judge stated that plaintiff’s arguments called into question the validity of the foreclosure sale, a matter outside the jurisdiction of the Housing Court. The summary process action was continued for sixty days to allow the plaintiff to obtain an order in his favor from an appropriate court. On September 8, 2010, the plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in Superior Court alleging that the foreclosure was unlawful.[2] On October 1, 2010, because the plaintiff had not obtained a Superior Court order in his favor regarding the foreclosure, the Housing Court judge held a hearing on U.S. Bank’s summary judgment motion and motion to dismiss counterclaims. Finding that there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to U.S. Bank’s right of superior possession, the Housing Court denied the summary judgment motion.

          On April 30, 2012, the plaintiff executed a written waiver of his right to trial by jury. On May 25, 2012, the Housing Court entered judgment for possession in favor of U.S. Bank, indicating that "[n]o credible defenses were presented" and "[U.S. Bank] enjoys a superior right of possession." The plaintiff appealed and the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) transferred the case on its own motion. U.S. Bank National Ass’n v. Schumacher, 467 Mass. 421, 422 (2014).

          After the SJC rendered its decision on March 12, 2014, the plaintiff moved for relief from judgment in the Housing Court, raising issues related to the chain of assignments.[3] That motion was denied and the Housing Court issued an execution for possession on May 23, 2014. On December 9, 2015, the Appeals Court affirmed the Housing Court’s orders issuing the execution and denying the plaintiff’s motion for relief from judgment. U.S. Bank National Ass’n v. Schumacher, 88 Mass.App.Ct. 1116 (2015). The plaintiff then filed a motion for rehearing in the Appeals Court and sought further appellate review at the SJC, but such relief was denied. A second motion for relief from judgment in the Housing Court was filed and denied without a hearing on April 12, 2016, because it was "repetitive and redundant."

          Meanwhile, on February 11, 2015, the plaintiff executed and recorded with the Registry a document entitled "Affidavit of Lawful Possession 1204 Main Street, Clinton, MA (also known as 2 Main Street, Lancaster, MA)." On September 8, 2015, U.S. Bank conveyed the property to the defendant pursuant to a quitclaim deed recorded in the Registry. On June 21, 2016, the defendant commissioned a survey entitled "Plan of Land 1204 Main Street, Clinton, MA." The plan was recorded in the Registry and shows the southern boundary line of the property as the thread of Goodridge Brook, which is the stream that remained after the pond was destroyed. On December 30, 2016, the plaintiff recorded in the Registry an affidavit entitled "Affidavit of Clarification of Title and Inapplicability of Chapter 141 of the Laws of 2015 under Chap 183 Sect 5B Worcester, MA."

          On September 15, 2017, the plaintiff commenced the pending action. The defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment as to all counts of the complaint.[4] The defendant asserts that judgment should enter in his favor as to all claims challenging the validity of the foreclosure by U.S. Bank, because res judicata bars such claims. The plaintiff, however, argues that because the Housing Court only granted possession and not title, there remains a genuine issue as to whether the defendant validly holds title. In addition, the plaintiff claims that, even if the property was validly foreclosed upon, the ...

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