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Hawkins v. Kurland

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 12, 2013

HAZEL HAWKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
SARI KURLAND, Defendant

HAZEL HAWKINS, Plaintiff, Pro se, Washington, DC.

For HAZEL HAWKINS, Plaintiff: Olekanma Arnnette Ekekwe-Kauffman, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF OLEKANMA A. EKEKWE PC, Washington, DC.

For SARI KURLAND, Defendant: Sari Karson Kurland, LEAD ATTORNEY, THE LAW OFFICE OF SARI K. KURLAND, LLC, Rockville, MD.

OPINION

Page 116

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Hazel Hawkins has filed suit against defendant Sari Kurland alleging that defendant breached her duty of care as plaintiff's attorney in her representation of plaintiff in bankruptcy proceedings. (Complaint, Jun. 2, 2010 [ECF No. 1] (" Compl." ) ¶ ¶ 42-44.) Defendant has moved for summary judgment, arguing that the doctrine of res judicata bars plaintiff from bringing suit, or, in the alternative, that she is entitled to judgment on the merits. (Defendant's Memorandum in

Page 117

Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, Nov. 24, 2010 [ECF No. 16] (" Mot." ) at 9-18.) [1] For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant dismissal of this action based on the doctrine of res judicata.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff financed the purchase of her home in 1995 by borrowing approximately $77,000 secured by a deed of trust to SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. (" SunTrust" ). (Compl. ¶ 6.) In 2002, plaintiff lost her job at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and was still having difficulty finding employment in 2005. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 7-8.) Plaintiff borrowed an additional $7,356.74 from Madison Esquire and Company, LLC (" Madison" ), secured by a second deed of trust on her home. ( Id. ¶ 8.) In early 2006, plaintiff was still unemployed and was in arrears on both trusts. ( Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff then retained defendant in April 2006 to file for bankruptcy and to attempt to save her home. ( Id. ¶ 12.)

Defendant subsequently filed several Chapter 13 plans on behalf of plaintiff, the fourth and last of which was filed on October 5, 2006. ( Id. ¶ 21.) This plan provided that plaintiff would pay directly to SunTrust and Madison upon refinancing of her property. ( Id. ) After the filing of the fourth plan, plaintiff continued to pay monthly payments to SunTrust but not to Madison, and Madison filed a Motion for Relief from Stay in the bankruptcy case, which was unopposed by defendant. (Plaintiffs Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Jun. 3, 2013 [ECF No. 38] (" Opp'n" ) at 6.) The parties dispute whether defendant had advised plaintiff not to make these payments to Madison; however, in the hearing regarding the disgorgement of defendant's fees, the Bankruptcy Court found that there " was no affirmative advice to the Debtor not to pay the second deed of trust." ( See id.; see also Transcript of Hearing on Motion to Disgorge Fees, Jun. 21, 2013 [ECF No. 39-1] (" Tr." ) at 42, 78.) Because plaintiff was not making her payments to Madison, the Bankruptcy Court granted Madison's Motion for Relief from Stay in the bankruptcy proceedings. (Opp'n at 6.)

On December 6, 2006, [2] Madison notified plaintiff of a pay-off amount of $20,234.36 to avoid foreclosure. ( Id. at 7.) Defendant introduced plaintiff to Charles Crawford and advised plaintiff that Crawford and his company, Superior Mortgage Group LLC (" Superior" ), could assist her with refinancing the home. ( Id. ) On March 13, 2007, plaintiff signed an application to borrow $159,250 from Superior, in exchange for a sale of the property with an option to repurchase. ( Id. ) On March 20, 2007, plaintiff and Crawford executed two documents, entitled " Standard Purchase and Sales Agreement" and " Option to purchase real estate." ( Id. ) The former document provided that plaintiff would sell the property to Crawford for $199,900, and that " seller shall remit $46,000 to the buyer ...


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