The opinion of the court was delivered by: HURD
This matter is before the court pursuant to plaintiff's post trial motion for a new trial or to amend the judgment. Defendants submitted opposition papers. Oral arguments were not heard.
This matter came to trial on November 27, 1995, and a jury was selected. Prior to opening of plaintiff's case, the defendants' trial attorney made a motion in limine seeking to preclude plaintiff's use of parol evidence. The plaintiff opposed this motion.
The plaintiff sought to introduce parol evidence of events prior to the mutual exchange of general releases on December 7, 1993, to prove that, despite broad and unambiguous language, its release was intended to be very limited. The court ruled that parol evidence prior to December 7, 1993 was inadmissible to establish the intent and scope of the general release executed by the plaintiff, which the defendants relied upon as a complete defense to plaintiff's claims. Evidence of admissions or acknowledgments by the defendants subsequent to the exchange was allowed to prove a limited nature to plaintiff's general release. Apparently plaintiff had no such evidence.
Defendants' trial attorney then moved to dismiss, asserting that plaintiff could not prove its case without such parol evidence because the general release executed by the plaintiff was, in fact, a complete defense. Plaintiff did not object to defendants' motion. The court therefore granted defendants' motion and ordered entry of judgment with prejudice against plaintiff.
Plaintiff now moves the court for post-judgment relief on three bases: 1) the court erred in ruling parol evidence inadmissible; 2) the court erred in failing to consider equitable relief; and 3) the court erred in ordering judgment with prejudice. First the court will develop the pertinent facts, then discuss each propounded basis for relief in turn.
Defendants Jack and Joanne Halpin ("the Halpins" or "defendants") have had a long-standing relationship with Champlain Valley Federal Savings & Loan Association and its successor in interest, plaintiff Albany Savings Bank, FSB, ("the Bank" or "plaintiff"). The Halpins had seven or eight mortgages with the Bank, as well as other dealings. The Bank was represented by counsel in these dealings. Although the Halpins were not always represented by counsel, Mr. Halpin himself is an attorney. Furthermore, the Halpins were sophisticated in real estate dealings, having owned approximately 14 parcels of property in New York State, and approximately the same number of parcels in California, at different periods of time since 1960. The Halpins and the Bank had several disputes regarding some of the loans. The disputes which are in any way related to this action are discussed below.
The mortgage which started this dispute was for a property known as the Essex Marina or the marine base ("the marina"). The marina originally consisted of two boat sheds, a gas dock, what was known as the Cupola House, an automobile gasoline station, a wood shop, a machine shop, and a store. In June 1988, the Halpins obtained a loan from the bank in the amount of $ 234,000, secured by a mortgage on the marina.
One month later they obtained a home equity loan from the bank secured by a mortgage on an unrelated property known as the Bailey House. The purpose of this loan, which was known by the Bank, was to build new docks on an underwater easement the Halpins had obtained from the State. These new docks were built at a cost of approximately $ 100,000. Because the purpose of the loan was to build new docks, the Halpins attempted to increase the marina loan to finance the project, but the Bank required the other property as security. This loan, with an unpaid balance of $ 69,142.13 as of December 1, 1993, is one which the Bank argues is not covered by the general release at issue here.
One dispute between the Bank and the Halpins involved the Cupola House. The Halpins put the Cupola House up for sale, and received a purchase offer in June 1990. However, the Bank's appraiser advised the potential purchaser that the property was not worth the offered price. That purchaser then refused to go through with the ...