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U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Cepeda

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

November 8, 2017

U.S. Bank, N.A., as trustee for the MASTR Asset Backed Securities Trust 2006-FREI, appellant,
v.
Raymond Cepeda, respondent, et al., defendants. Index No. 18931/07

          Argued - September 29, 2017

         D53813 C/htr

          Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP, Rochester, NY (KaterinaKramarchyk and Yimell Suarez Abreu of counsel), for appellant.

          JOHN M. LEVENTHAL, J.P. LEONARD B. AUSTIN JEFFREY A. COHEN VALERIE BRATHWAITE NELSON, JJ.

          DECISION & ORDER

         Appeal from an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (William R. LaMarca, J.), entered October 22, 2009. The order granted the motion of the defendant Raymond Cepeda pursuant to CPLR 5015(a)(4) to vacate a judgment of foreclosure and sale of that court entered September 25, 2006, upon his failure to appear or answer the complaint, and, sua sponte, in effect, directed the dismissal of the complaint.

         ORDERED that the notice of appeal from so much of the order as, sua sponte, in effect, directed the dismissal of the complaint is deemed to be an application for leave to appeal from that portion of the order, and leave to appeal is granted (see CPLR 5701[c]); and it is further, ORDERED that the order is reversed, on the law, with costs, and the motion of the defendant Raymond Cepeda pursuant to CPLR 5015(a)(4) to vacate the judgment of foreclosure and sale is denied.

         The plaintiff commenced this action to foreclose a mortgage. The defendant Raymond Cepeda (hereinafter the homeowner) failed to appear or answer the complaint. A judgment of foreclosure and sale was subsequently entered upon his default in answering. The homeowner moved pursuant to CPLR 5015(a)(4) to vacate the judgment of foreclosure and sale for lack of personal jurisdiction. The homeowner asserted that the plaintiff did not exercise due diligence in attempting to make personal service on him before resorting to affix and mail service pursuant to CPLR 308(4). The Supreme Court granted the homeowner's motion, vacated the judgment of foreclosure and sale and, sua sponte, in effect, directed the dismissal of the complaint. We reverse.

         Service pursuant to CPLR 308(4) may be used only where personal service under CPLR 308(1) and (2) cannot be made with "due diligence" (CPLR 308[4]; see Deutsche Bank Natl. Trust Co. v White, 110 A.D.3d 759, 759-760; Estate of Waterman v Jones, 46 A.D.3d 63, 65). The term "due diligence, " which is not defined by statute, has been interpreted and applied on a case-by-case basis (see Estate of Waterman v Jones, 46 A.D.3d at 66).

         Here, the affidavit of the process server demonstrated that three visits were made to the homeowner's residence, each on different days and at different times of the day. The process server also described in detail his unsuccessful attempt to obtain an employment address for the homeowner, including interviewing a neighbor. Under these circumstances, the Supreme Court improperly concluded that the due diligence requirement was not satisfied (see Lasalle Bank N.A. v Hudson, 139 A.D.3d 811, 811; Wells Fargo Bank, NA v Besemer, 131 A.D.3d 1047, 1048; JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v Baldi, 128 A.D.3d 777, 777-778; Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v Cherot, 102 A.D.3d 768; JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v Szajna, 72 A.D.3d 902; Lemberger v Khan, 18 A.D.3d 447, 447-448).

         Accordingly, the Supreme Court should not have granted the homeowner's motion pursuant to CPLR 5015(a)(4) to vacate the judgment of foreclosure and sale.

         Furthermore, "[a] court's power to dismiss a complaint, sua sponte, is to be used sparingly and only when extraordinary circumstances exist to warrant dismissal" (U.S. Bank, N.A. v Emmanuel,83 A.D.3d 1047, 1048; see Downey Sav. & LoanAssn., F.A. v Trujillo, 142 A.D.3d 1040, 1042). Given the lack of any extraordinary circumstances present in this case, the sua sponte dismissal of the complaint was improper (see Downey Sav. & Loan Assn., F.A. v Trujillo, 142 A.D.3d at 1042; Deutsche Bank Natl. Trust Co. v Rauf,139 A.D.3d 789, 790; Deutsche Bank Natl. Trust Co. v Ramharrack, ...


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