Many New York homeowners have difficulty making their monthly mortgage payments. Oftentimes a homeowner will seek to refinance his or her mortgage—or mortgages—just to try and stay afloat. It is important to remember that a mortgage is a contract, and like any legal document, especially one involving real estate, you should always receive proper advice before signing on the dotted line.
Court Rejects Lawsuit from Woman Who Claimed Mortgage Forgery
Recently a federal appeals court declined to reconsider a case involving a Rockland County homeowner who claimed she was the victim of mortgage fraud. The plaintiff had purchased the home in 2000 with a mortgage. By 2004 she was in default of the mortgage and the lender moved to foreclose on the property. At that point, the plaintiff sought a refinancing loan from a second lender.
Exactly what happened next was the focus of subsequent litigation. In December 2004, the plaintiff met with a representative of the second lender at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. At this meeting, this plaintiff signed some documents. The plaintiff later testified she thought she was providing “specimen signatures” to help prove her identity as a precursor to obtaining a loan. The lender, however, said she actually signed a new mortgage loan. When the plaintiff failed to make any payments on said loan, the second lender began its own foreclosure proceedings.
The plaintiff then sued the lender and related parties in federal court, accusing them of forging her signature and in effect fabricating the second mortgage loan. At trial, the defendants provided 34 documents related to the mortgage. A jury determined this was sufficient proof of the loan and ruled in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff then appealed to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking a new trial.
The Court of Appeals upheld the jury's verdict. The main question on appeal was whether the trial judge improperly admitted certain evidence. For instance, the plaintiff specifically challenged the admission of the 34 loan-related documents on the grounds that 31 were photocopies and not originals. The appeals court said these photocopies were properly “authenticated” as evidence. Among other reasons, the court noted a handwriting expert “testified that, in his opinion, the signatures on the documents were [the plaintiff's], and that the signatures did not appear to have been forged mechanically or added to the documents digitally.”