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Johnson v. Capital City Mortgage Corp.

January 21, 1999

THEORA JOHNSON, APPELLANT,
v.
CAPITAL CITY MORTGAGE CORPORATION, APPELLEE. EDMOND JOHNSON, APPELLANT,
v.
CAPITAL CITY MORTGAGE CORPORATION, APPELLEE.



Before Steadman, Schwelb and Farrell, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steadman, Associate Judge

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Curtis E. von Kann, Trial Judge) (Hon. Richard S. Salzman, Trial Judge)

Argued November 20, 1998

In 1992, appellant Edmond Johnson, acting under a power of attorney from his wife, obtained a judgment setting aside a foreclosure upon certain real property owned by his wife. On appeal, we remanded the case so that the trial court could make an explicit finding whether the third party who purchased the property after the foreclosure sale was an indispensable party; in all other respects, we affirmed. See Capital City Corp. v. Johnson, 646 A.2d 325 (D.C. 1994). *fn1

After the remand, Johnson attempted to amend or supplement the complaint to seek damages and to name additional parties. The trial Judge handling the case on remand (Hon. Curtis E. von Kann) refused to permit any amendment, based apparently on the limited nature of the remand. *fn2 Johnson then filed, as a completely separate action, a new complaint mirroring the rejected amended complaint. The trial Judge handling this new action (Hon. Richard S. Salzman) dismissed the new complaint "without prejudice to plaintiff's right to file a motion to amend the complaint in [the remanded case]." Johnson's motion for reconsideration, pointing out that such a motion had already been denied, was summarily denied.

On appeal, Johnson asserts that the two orders cannot be reconciled and that, in a Catch-22 situation, he has been denied his right to seek relief. We think he is right at least insofar as he seeks relief for acts occurring after the date of the original judgment. Accordingly we vacate the orders appealed from and remand for consideration by a single trial Judge.

I.

The factual background prior to remand is set forth in detail in this court's opinion in Johnson I, supra, so only a brief summary of the facts underlying the prior appeal is required for an understanding of the issues arising out of the proceedings after remand. In April 1990, Capital City Corporation ("Capital City") foreclosed on a deed of trust on a piece of real property owned by Theora Johnson. At the time, this property was rented by MWM Enterprises, Inc. ("MWM"), whose principal was Corbett McClure. After the foreclosure sale, the property was purchased by Brookeville Limited Partnership ("Brookeville"). *fn3 Shortly thereafter, Brookeville sold the property to McClure.

On September 4, 1990, Edmond Johnson, under the authority granted to him by his wife in a power of attorney, sued Capital City for compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful foreclosure and for declaratory relief to void the foreclosure. After a bench trial, the trial court (Hon. John H. Suda) entered an order, dated April 27, 1992, holding that the foreclosure was void for failure to comply with statutory notice requirements, but contingent on Johnson's payment of $13,189.82 in arrears due to Capital City as of April 5, 1990. Capital City appealed the order, contending that the third party to whom the property was transferred after the foreclosure sale, MWM or McClure, was an indispensable party; that Edmond Johnson did not have standing to sue; and that the sale was properly noticed. See Johnson I, supra, 646 A.2d at 326. This court remanded the case on the issue of whether MWM or its principal, McClure, were indispensable parties to the litigation. See id. at 330-31.

After the remand, both parties reached settlement agreements with McClure in early 1995. In the agreement with Johnson, McClure released all right to title in the property and quitclaimed his interest in the property to Johnson. In the settlement with Capital City, McClure assigned Capital City whatever rights he had to the rent in the Landlord & Tenant Court registry. *fn4

Capital City scheduled another foreclosure proceeding against the Johnson property in 1995. *fn5 On May 9, 1995, Johnson filed in the remanded proceeding a motion for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and an application for preliminary injunctive relief. On May 9, 1995, Johnson also filed a motion for leave to add Brookeville and trustees James Ruppert and John Ruppert as additional parties and to file a supplemental complaint. The supplemental complaint alleged interference with property rights, slander of title, improperly collected rents from the Johnson property, and payment and satisfaction of the note held on the property; sought to enjoin Capital City's foreclosure and to obtain an accounting and money damages; and demanded a jury trial. The trial court handling the remanded case (Hon. Curtis E. von Kann) granted the TRO on May 17, 1995. On June 22, 1995, the court held a hearing both on the request for preliminary injunctive relief and to determine how the remand of Johnson I should proceed. The court found that, based on the settlement agreements, McClure had no claims to title or any other claims related to this litigation and thus was not an indispensable party. Based on this finding, the court held that the 1992 order voiding the foreclosure was in full force and effect. In support of the request for preliminary injunction, Johnson raised many of the arguments included in the supplemental complaint. The court denied the motion for preliminary injunction, stating:

"I find at this point that [Johnson] has not established a probable likelihood of success on the merits . . . that Capital City in some way engaged in a course of conduct which would excuse [Johnson] from the mortgage payments."

Capital City filed a request for the entry of an order finalizing the remand. Johnson did not oppose the request, and on July 6, 1995, the court entered an order finalizing the remand and denying, without Discussion, Johnson's motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint. *fn6 Johnson then filed a motion for clarification of the order dismissing the case, arguing that the order appeared to have been made without consideration of whether the supplemental complaint and joinder of additional parties should be allowed. Johnson asked the court to make limited findings as to whether the court considered factors in support of the motion to file a supplemental complaint, so that Johnson could know whether to proceed in a separate action. In its opposition to Johnson's motion, Capital City argued that the remand had the very limited purpose of deciding McClure's indispensability, that it had been decided, and that any causes of action against Capital City that had accrued since Judge Suda's 1992 order would have to be resolved by a new suit. The court simply denied Johnson's motion as moot, having already disposed of the remand in this case.

Johnson then filed a second suit, Johnson v. Capital City Corp., et al., CA-6484. The claims raised in the complaint tracked those Johnson sought to raise in the denied supplemental complaint. Capital City moved to dismiss the case or for summary judgment. As already set forth above, on November, 16, 1995, the trial court (Hon. Richard S. Salzman), noting that all of the issues raised related to the prior litigation, dismissed the suit without prejudice to Johnson filing a motion ...


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