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Murphy v. Empire of America

October 12, 1984

DANIEL R. MURPHY AND SUSAN MURPHY, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
EMPIRE OF AMERICA, FSA, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from an order of the Western District of New York, Michael A. Telesca, Judge, granting summary judgment dismissing appellant's action under the Truth-In-Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq. The issue is whether the parties' execution of a contract for a loan and mortgage triggers the 3-day period within which the borrowers must exercise a right of recission or whether the period begins upon closing of the loan and mortgage. Affirmed.

Author: Mansfield

Before:

LUMBARD, MANSFIELD and KEARSE, Circuit Judges.

MANSFIELD, Circuit Judge:

Daniel R. Murphy and Susan Murphy appeal from an order of the Western District of New York entered by Judge Michael A. Telesca granting the motion of defendant Empire of America, FSA ("Empire") for summary judgment dismissing their action under the Truth-In-Lending Act ("TILA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq. The Murphys sought enforcement of their purported rescission of their agreement with Empire for a loan of $27,000 to them, reimbursement of costs and fees paid in anticipation of the consummation of the transaction, a civil statutory penalty, and reasonable attorney's fees. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1635(b), 1640. We affirm.

In the fall of 1982 the Murphys applied to Empire for a second mortgage on their home in Webster, New York, paying a $126 appraisal fee. On November 15, 1982, Empire, after reviewing the application, issued to them a commitment letter for a $27,000 loan at a 15 1/2% interest rate, to be secured by a second mortgage on the premises. The letter provided that upon the Murphys' execution and return of the letter before November 24, 1982, together with their payment of a $715 commitment fee, the commitment letter would constitute a contract, to be interpreted according to New York law, for a loan to be closed on or before December 31, 1982. In the event that the loan should not be closed the Murphys would be liable for any damages suffered by Empire. The Murphys executed the commitment letter and returned it with their $715 commitment fee to Empire on or about November 18, 1982.

On November 26, 1982, Empire furnished to the Murphys a notice of their right to cancel the transaction within three business days from the latest of (1) the date of the transaction, which was November 18, 1982, or (2) the date they received their Truth-In-Lending disclosure, which was on or before November 18, 1982, or (3) the date they received the notice of their right to cancel, which was on or before November 30, 1982. The bank's letter notice gave the Murphys the option of signing their names on signature lines under a heading "I WISH TO CANCEL" or under a statement to the effect that each "acknowledges and affirms that each of us have elected not to cancel the transaction to which the annexed Notice relates." On November 30, 1982, the Murphys elected not to cancel the transaction by signing beneath the latter statement and delivering it to Empire.

By letter dated December 23, 1982, Daniel Murphy advised Empire that he was being delayed in obtaining documentation needed to close "the second mortgage that we have committed to with your bank" and asked for an extension past the December 31, 1982 closing deadline. By letter to the bank dated January 31, 1983, however, the Murphys, who had apparently had a change of mind, purported unilaterally to "rescind and cancel the transaction with you for a second mortgage," stating that the transaction had not yet taken place. The letter referred to Truth in Lending Regulation 226.23 and requested reimbursement of $1,132 in costs. Empire refused to provide the reimbursement demanded within 20 days of its receipt of the rescission notice.

On January 31, 1984, the Murphys commenced the present action in the New York State Supreme Court, County of Monroe, from which it was removed by Empire to the Western District of New York. Their complaint alleges that under TILA, § 125(a), 15 U.S.C. § 1635(a), they had the right to rescind the transaction because there had not been a "consummation" of it as that term is used in TILA and is defined in Regulation Z, 21 C.F.R. § 226.23(d)(2), promulgated by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Judge Telesca held that consummation of the transaction had occurred at the time when the commitment contract was executed and delivered to Empire by the Murphys (i.e., on November 18, 1982), rendering ineffective their January 31, 1983, purported rescission or cancellation, which was not executed until more than three business days after both the execution and delivery of the commitment and their receipt of the disclosure and cancellation materials the TILA requires.

Discussion

Section 125(a) of TILA, 15 U.S.C. § 1635(a), provides in pertinent part:

"(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, in the case of any consumer credit transaction . . . in which a security interest . . . is or will be retained or acquired in any property which is used as the principal dwelling of the person to whom credit is extended, the obligor shall have the right to rescind the transaction until midnight of the third business day following the consummation of the transaction or the delivery of the information and rescission forms required under this section . . . whichever is later, by notifying the creditor, in accordance with regulations of the Board, of his intention to do so."

The purpose of the statute is to protect the credit consumer by giving him, in addition to his right of full disclosure, a short period (3 days after the later of the consummation of the transaction or the receipt of the required disclosure and cancellation materials) within which to change his mind and be relieved of the obligation to which he has bound himself.

Congress did not define the term "consummation of the transaction" as used in § 125(a). However, it delegated to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System the authority to promulgate regulations that would implement the legislation. See TILA § 105(a), 15 U.S.C. § 1604(a). "Absent some obvious repugnance to the statute, the Board's regulation implementing this legislation should be accepted by the courts, as should the Board's interpretation of its own regulation." Anderson Bros. Ford v. Valencia, 452 U.S. 205, 219, 68 L. Ed. 2d 783, 101 S. Ct. 2266 (1981). Indeed, "unless demonstrably irrational, Federal Reserve Board staff ...


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