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Provident Savings Bank v. Popovich

December 11, 1995






Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 91 C 490--Robert L. Miller, Jr., Judge.

Before KANNE and ROVNER, Circuit Judges, and SHABAZ, District Judge. *fn*

ROVNER, Circuit Judge.



In August 1989, Marine Partners Ltd., Inc., a corporation of which Nick Popovich was President and sole shareholder, purchased a marine vessel for the price of $340,000. The corporation made a $100,000 down payment and borrowed the remaining $240,000 from Yegen Marine, in whose favor it executed a note on August 31, 1989. The note promised monthly payments of $2800. On the same date, Yegen assigned its interest in the note to Provident Savings Bank, and on September 1, Marine Partners executed a mortgage on the vessel in favor of Provident. All of these documents were signed by Popovich in his capacity as president of Marine Partners. Finally, on September 7, 1989, Popovich executed a personal guaranty on the note that provided:

FOR VALUE RECEIVED, the undersigned . . . hereby guarantee(s) to YEGEN ASSOCIATES, INC., Yegen Marine Division . . . its endorsees or assigns, the prompt payment of the loan evidenced by a Promissory Note dated 8-31, 1989, by Marine Partners Limited, Inc. . . .

Sometime after these documents had been executed, Marine Partners assigned all of its rights and interest in the vessel to Popovich.

On February 10, 1992, Provident sued Marine Partners and Popovich, alleging that it had received no payments on the note since July 1990. Popovich defended the suit pro se, and the district court entered a default judgment against the partnership and the vessel in the amount of $297,297. After the vessel was sold to Provident at a United States Marshal's sale for $50,000, Provident moved for summary judgment against Popovich for the remaining deficiency of $246,367. Still proceeding pro se, Popovich did not contest his personal liability for the deficiency. Instead, he focused exclusively on whether the offset amount should be based on the foreclosure sale price or on the fair market value of the vessel. Finding for Provident on that issue, the district court entered a judgment against Popovich for the full $246,367. Provident then moved for attorney's fees, which were provided for in both the note and the mortgage, *fn1 and the district court granted its motion.

After these judgments had been entered, Popovich retained counsel and filed a motion for relief from judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(2), (3) and (6), which respectively provide for relief on the grounds of "newly discovered evidence," "fraud . . . misrepresentation, or other misconduct," and "any other reason justifying relief from the operation of judgment." It was in his Rule 60(b) motion that Popovich asserted for the first time that he was not personally liable under the note and mortgage. Yet because Rule 60(b) does not provide a forum for reviving issues that were not raised prior to the entry of judgment (see Anderson v. Flexel, Inc., 47 F.3d 243, 247 (7th Cir. 1995) (collecting cases)), the merits of this issue were still not before the district court. Instead, the court's ruling on Popovich's Rule 60(b) motion was limited to whether Popovich had established any of the asserted grounds for relief under the rule. Finding that he had not, the district court denied Popovich's motion. Popovich now appeals the court's ruling as to subsections (3) and (6) of Rule 60(b). He also appeals the district court's award of attorneys' fees to Provident, asserting again that he should not be held personally liable for any promises contained in the note or mortgage. We affirm on both issues.

Rule 60(b)

Relief under Rule 60(b) is an extraordinary remedy that is to be granted only in exceptional circumstances. Camp v. Gregory, 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 27708, at *9-10 (7th Cir. Oct. 2, 1995); Mares v. Busby, 34 F.3d 533, 535 (7th Cir. 1994); Dickerson v. Bd. of Educ., 32 F.3d 1114, 1116 (7th Cir. 1994). In addition, we review a district court's denial of relief under Rule 60(b) for an abuse of discretion, and we will reverse only if we conclude that no reasonable person could agree with the district court's determination. United States v. Indoor Cultivation Equip. from High Tech Indoor Garden Supply, 55 F.3d 1311, 1313 (7th Cir. 1995); Mares, 34 F.3d at 535. Because we are limited to the question of whether a district court's Rule 60(b) determination involved an abuse of discretion, we do not review the merits of the underlying judgment, and our review is far narrower than it would be on direct appeal. Lee v. Village of River Forest, 936 F.2d 976, 979 (7th Cir. 1991). We emphasize this limitation here because of Popovich's persistent but belated focus on the merits of the personal liability issue.

Rule 60(b)(3)

Rule 60(b)(3) provides for relief from judgment on the grounds of "fraud . . . , misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party . . . ." To obtain relief under this subsection, a party must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that:

(1) the party maintained a meritorious claim at trial; and (2) because of the fraud, misrepresentation or misconduct of the adverse party; (3) the party was prevented from fully and fairly presenting its case at trial. ...

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