Friday, May 20, 2011

foreclosure - HSBC affidavits "inherently untrusworthy" - business-record exception not established

HSBC v. Murphy - Maine Supreme Judicial Court - May 19, 2011

Because we determine that the affidavits submitted by HSBC are inherently untrustworthy and, therefore, do not establish the foundation for admission of the attached documents as business records pursuant to M.R. Evid. 803(6), we vacate the judgment without reaching the substantive issues raised.

HSBC’s statement of material facts was supported by record references to an affidavit of John Gonzalez, who was identified in the affidavit as a Foreclosure Manager at HSBC. In its statement of material facts, HSBC asserted that it was the “holder of the Note and Mortgage” by virtue of the assignment from MERS and through “endorsement and delivery of the aforesaid Note from Calusa.” However, there was no endorsement on the face of, or appended to, the copy of the note attached to the Gonzalez affidavit or the complaint.

In residential mortgage foreclosure actions, certain minimum facts must be included in a mortgage holder’s statement of material facts on summary judgment.. . . We have repeatedly emphasized “the importance of applying summary judgment rules strictly in the context of residential mortgage foreclosures.” . . . We have also repeatedly emphasized that a party’s assertion of material facts must be supported by record references to evidence that is of a quality that would be admissible at trial. . . . This qualitative requirement is particularly important in connection with mortgage foreclosures where the affidavits submitted in support of summary judgment are commonly signed by individuals who claim to be custodians of the lender’s business records. Thus, the information supplied by the affidavits is largely derivative because it is drawn from a business’s records, and not from the affiant’s personal observation of events.

It is, perhaps, stating the obvious that an affidavit of a custodian of business records must demonstrate that the affiant meets the requirements of M.R. Evid. 803(6)7 governing the admission of records of regularly conducted business. A business’s records kept in the course of its regularly conducted business may be admissible notwithstanding the hearsay rule if the necessary foundation is established “by the testimony of the custodian or other qualified witness.” M.R. Evid. 803(6). “A qualified witness is one who was intimately involved in the daily operation of the [business] and whose testimony showed the firsthand nature of his knowledge.”. . . The foundation that the custodian or qualified witness must establish is four-fold:

(1) the record was made at or near the time of the events reflected in the record by, or from information transmitted by, a person with personal knowledge of the events recorded therein;

(2) the record was kept in the course of a regularly conducted business;

(3) it was the regular practice of the business to make records of the type involved; and

(4) no lack of trustworthiness is indicated from the source of information from which the record was made or the method or circumstances under which the record was prepared.

In this case, the affidavits submitted by HSBC contain serious irregularities that make them inherently untrustworthy [noting discrepancies in dates, etc.]. . . .Because the information contained in the affidavits, and the business records attached to them, are not of a quality that would be admissible at trial, the court erred by granting a summary judgment.