Archive for February, 2016

18
Feb

The recent decision in Orcilla v. Big Sur, Inc. (Feb. 11, 2016) __ Cal. App.4th __ continues the litigation fallout from the second depression (referred to in other parts of the country as the Great Recession).  In Orcilla v. Big Sur, the lender completed a nonjudicial foreclosure on the plaintiff’s residence.  The borrower sued to set aside the sale.  As discussed below, the court of appeal allowed the case to go forward based on a novel theory – unconscionability.

According to the court, “The Orcillas’ first claim is a cause of action to set aside the trustee’s sale.  The elements of an equitable cause of action to set aside a foreclosure sale are: (1) the trustee caused an illegal, fraudulent, or willfully oppressive sale of real property pursuant to a power of sale in a deed of trust; (2) the party attacking the sale was prejudiced or harmed; and (3) in cases where the trustor challenges the sale, the trustor tendered the amount of the secured indebtedness or was excused from tendering.”

Fresno real estate lawyer

Here are the basic facts regarding the loan.  “On May 9, 2006, Teodora obtained a $525,000 real property loan from Quick Loan.  She alone executed an adjustable rate note …  The Note further provided that Teodora’s initial monthly payments would be in the amount of $4,220.49. (In 2005 and 2006, Teodora’s monthly income was less than $3,000 and Virgilio [her husband] did not work.)”

The court framed plaintiff’s argument as follows: “The Orcillas allege the loan from Quick Loan was unconscionable because the loan payments exceeded their income; they have limited education and English proficiency; they did not understand the details of the transaction; and the loan documents were on standard, pre-printed forms in English.

“They allege the 2008 loan modification agreement also was unconscionable because the loan payments exceeded their income; they have limited education and English proficiency; and the loan documents were on standard, pre-printed forms in English.”

In a critical finding, the court stated “The Orcillas maintain that the disparity between the monthly loan payments and their income indicates that the loan and loan modification were overly harsh and one-sided.  We agree that the allegation that the monthly loan payments exceeded the couple’s income by more than $1,000 is sufficient to allege substantive unconscionability.”

Having started on the bridge to unconscionability, the court further held that plaintiffs were not required to plead tender of the past due amount to the lender.  “The Orcillas … allege the debt is invalid because the original loan and loan modification were unconscionable.  As discussed above, the allegations in the second amended complaint are sufficient to allege those agreements were unconscionable and thus unenforceable.”  Based thereon, court allowed the lawsuit to proceed.

This seems to be a peculiar decision.  Case law has long held that there is no fiduciary relationship between the lender and the borrower.  Rather, the relationship is considered to be an arms-length transaction.

By allowing a claim of unconscionability to creep in, the court suggests that the underlying loan and/or the modification could be demonstrated to be unconscionable.

The court cannot be suggesting that the borrowers do not owe the lender for their loan.  How does the court intend to rewrite the loan to render it “conscionable”?  The decision does not say, which provides little guidance to the trial judge.

Orcilla v. Big Sur, Inc. (Feb. 11, 2016) __ Cal. App.4th __

Category : Case law | Real Property | Blog
9
Feb

Karl Llewellyn was one of the leading lights of American jurisprudence from the 1930s through the 1950s.  Not only was he the dean of Columbia Law School, he participated in the drafting of Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code, and was active in efforts to promote its enactment in the different states.

Add this: Llewellyn was a clear thinker and a gifted writer, and a lawyer through to his core.  At his death, he left an unpublished manuscript, The Theory Of Rules.  Here are some excerpts, as true today as the day they were written:

Karl_Llewellyn

“Any lawyer dealing with any problem is looking for a rule of law to cover it, and any lawyer recognizes as a rule (allegedly or actually positive) a formula setting forth in general terms a type of fact-situation and laying down a legal consequence therefor.”

Right – That’s what we do.  We look for rules to cover a fact pattern.

“The concept fits not only the speech-usage but the working practices of the profession … Side by side with this functional attribute sits another: rules of law are rules with the function of accomplishing control by language communication.”

Right again – Rules achieve their results by the use of language.

“Unless the language of a purported rule of law is clear enough to mean roughly similar things to different officials about what to do with [roughly similar] states of fact, that purported rule fails … to the extent to which its meaning varies.”

And now a word about what law schools teach to aspiring lawyers:

“That I wrote such an observation implies … that I am judging the bad [rules] by the good ones, seeing their defects against the pattern of what we can do.

“And that our best ones are not the general run is simple to demonstrate.  First, if they
were, it would verge on the criminal to give so large a portion of our law curricula over to study of how to deal with not-so-clear rules.”

And now, Llewellyn shows his skills: “There is a touch of weaseling in this proposed division, in that recognition is itself a concept of fact; but the weasel is one capable of muzzling, with care.”

Karl N. Llewellyn, The Theory of Rules, edited and with an introduction by Frederick Schauer (Univ. of Chicago Press 2011)

Category : Legal Education | Blog