January 19, 2011
DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, AS TRUSTEE FOR WAMU SERIES 2007-HEI TRUST, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
TRACEY T. WILSON, HIS/HER HEIRS, DEVISEES AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES, AND HIS, HER, THEIR OR ANY OF THEIR SUCCESSORS IN RIGHT, TITLE AND INTEREST AND WILLIS J. WILSON, HIS/HER HEIRS, DEVISEES AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES, AND HIS, HER, THEIR OR ANY OF THEIR SUCCESSORS IN RIGHT, TITLE AND INTEREST, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. F-28203-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 3, 2010 - Decided Before Judges Carchman and Messano.
Defendants Tracey T. Wilson and Willis J. Wilson appeal from a final judgment of foreclosure in favor of plaintiff Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee for WaMu Series 2007-HE1 Trust. While plaintiff submitted a supplemental affidavit to the trial judge allegedly confirming the assignment of the original mortgage to the named plaintiff, it failed to comply with N.J.R.E. 803(c)(6), and the affidavit should not have been considered.
These are the relevant facts. Plaintiff filed a foreclosure action against defendants. Defendants filed a response, which was accepted as an answer and challenged, among other things, the bona fides of a later assignment of the mortgage. In response, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, but the judge denied relief pending further information regarding the assignment. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a supplemental affidavit, executed by Janine Timmons, a manager of Washington Mutual Bank, attesting to the accuracy of facts "based on our computerized business records maintained in the ordinary course." She claimed that the note and mortgage had been executed by defendants on December 14, 2006, and the note and mortgage had been sold to plaintiff on January 16, 2007; moreover, an assignment of mortgage was executed on October 31, 2007, two weeks after the filing of the foreclosure complaint on October 18, 2007.*fn1
After receiving the supplemental affidavit, the motion judge struck defendants' answer and permitted the foreclosure matter to proceed by default. Thereafter, a judgment was entered, and this appeal followed.*fn2
On appeal, defendants assert that plaintiff's affidavit regarding the assignment was hearsay and violates the Best
Evidence Rule. In addition, defendants claim that they were denied discovery and finally, plaintiff was not a holder in due course.
Although defendants cite N.J.R.E. 803(c)(6), and claim that these were not valid business records, we have more fundamental concern about the substance of the Timmons affidavit. The affidavit makes reference to unidentified computerized business records supporting the verification of the facts attested to, but nothing more is set forth regarding the records other than that conclusory statement.
Recently, the Supreme Court reiterated the relevant factors that must be established by a proponent of documents pursuant to N.J.R.E. 803(c)(6). In New Jersey Div. of Youth and Fam. Servs. v. M.C. III, 201 N.J. 328 (2010), Justice Wallace, speaking for the Court, observed:
Under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, a party seeking to admit a hearsay statement pursuant to this rule must demonstrate that "the writing [was] made in the regular course of business," the writing was "prepared within a short time of the act, condition or event being described," and "the source of the information and the method and circumstances of the preparation of the writing must justify allowing it into evidence." State v. Matulewicz, 101 N.J. 27, 29 (1985) (citation omitted). [(Id. at 347).]
The affidavit submitted by Timmons falls far short of meeting this threshold showing. Nothing in her affidavit indicates any of the elements identified in either the rule or M.C.
Additional considerations are cause for concern. N.J.R.E. 1002 mandates that, "To prove the content of a writing or photograph, the original writing or photograph is required except as otherwise provided in these rules or by statute."*fn3
Here, reference is made to computerized records, yet the record before the trial court or on appeal is devoid of any copies of such records to support the attestations of Timmons. See N.J.R.E. 1001(c) and Fed. Ev. Rule 1001(c) (requiring "original" computer data in the form of printouts or other readable output). Most important, no discovery was permitted to defendants. In such instance, plaintiff should not be allowed to "cut corners" to avoid meeting its burden.
We are satisfied that plaintiff failed to meet its burden to establish the bona fides of the alleged assignment to permit plaintiff to proceed on its foreclosure complaint. We take particular note of the fact that plaintiff has not responded to the appeal so that we are unable to have the benefit of its position on the issues raised by defendants.
We conclude that the appropriate course of action is a remand to the Chancery Division to resolve the issue of the bona fides of the assignment. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We do not retain jurisdiction.
Reversed and remanded.