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Jpmorgan Chase Bank N.A. v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

June 20, 2019

JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATES, as Successor by Merger to Chase Home Finance LLC, Successor by Merger to Illinois Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SHELDON V. JONES and ZATAUNIA TAITT, Defendants Zataunia Taitt, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 2011 CH 21623 The Honorable Gerald V. Cleary, Judge, presiding.

          JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice McBride and Justice Reyes concurred in the judgment.

          OPINION

          GORDON JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Eight years ago, on June 16, 2011, plaintiff, JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association (Chase), filed a complaint against defendants, Sheldon V. Jones and Zataunia Taitt, husband and wife, to foreclose a mortgage. On January 23, 2017, summary judgment was granted in favor of Chase, and the trial court entered an order of judgment and foreclosure.

         ¶ 2 On this appeal, Taitt is the sole appellant, representing herself pro se; and she raises a number of claims including a lack of personal jurisdiction over her and a lack of standing by Chase. For the following reasons, we do not find her claims persuasive and affirm.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 The subject property is an owner-occupied single-family home in Homewood, Illinois, which was mortgaged on June 23, 2001, by defendants Sheldon V. Jones and Zataunia Taitt, also known as Zataunia R. Jones. The original mortgagee was First Home Mortgage, with an address in Melville, New York, and it recorded the mortgage in Cook County on July 10, 2011. The original indebtedness was for $164, 125.

         ¶ 5 On June 16, 2011, Chase filed a complaint alleging that defendants had not paid the monthly installments for November 1, 2009, through June 16, 2011, or almost two years, and that the balance then due was $156, 978.09, plus interest. The June 23, 2001, mortgage and note, bearing the signatures of both defendants, was attached as an exhibit to Chase's complaint.

         ¶ 6 On July 15, 2011, Taitt, signing as "Zataunia R. Taitt-Jones" and acting pro se, filed an "Appearance and Jury Demand," with her home address given as the subject property. On the same day, the trial court also granted her application to proceed as an indigent person, without payment of fees, costs, or charges. In her application, she stated that she was 40 years old, that she had been unemployed since June 4, 2002, and that her last job was as a mail handler for the United States Post Office.

         ¶ 7 On August 10, 2011, Taitt filed a "Verified Answer to Complaint to Foreclose Mortgage." In the answer, she admitted, among other things, the date and original amount of the mortgage and that she and defendant Jones had executed the note and were the mortgagors. She stated that she had insufficient knowledge to admit or deny the paragraph in Chase's complaint that alleged "[m]ortgagors have not paid the monthly installments of principal, taxes, interest and insurance for 11/01/2009, through the present." Under "[o]ther affirmative matter" in her answer, she alleged: "No assignment is attached to the Complaint."

         ¶ 8 Chase later filed an "Assignment of Mortgage," dated August 29, 2001, in which First Home Mortgage assigned the mortgage on the subject property to Chase.

         ¶ 9 On September 2, 2011, Chase filed an affidavit from a process server, dated July 6, 2011, averring that he served defendant Taitt on June 18, 2011, by leaving a copy of the summons and complaint at the subject property with her son, who appeared to be age 25. The attached summons stated that it included: "Important Information for Homeowners in Foreclosure. How to Save Your Property-Please read-Do not ignore." The summons included a "Notice to Homeowners" that included information concerning "Free Help to Homeowners in Foreclosure." Chase's attorney also filed an "Affidavit to Allow Service by Publication," averring that, upon diligent inquiry, he could not ascertain the whereabouts of defendant Jones.

         ¶ 10 On July 11, 2014, an attorney filed an additional appearance on behalf of Taitt but moved to withdraw on October 23, 2015. In the motion to withdraw, he stated that he had filed an answer with defenses, discovery requests, and a reply to Chase's motion to strike Taitt's affirmative defense. The trial court's order, dated December 1, 2015, granted the attorney's motion to withdraw.

         ¶ 11 On January 29, 2016, Chase moved for judgment of foreclosure and later amended its foreclosure motion to add a motion for summary judgment. As part of its motion, Chase included a copy of the "Assignment of Mortgage," dated August 29, 2001, in which First Home Mortgage assigned the mortgage on the subject property to Chase. The trial court set a briefing schedule, which was extended several times, and Taitt filed a response on December 2, 2016.

         ¶ 12 On January 23, 2017, the trial court granted summary judgment to Chase and entered a judgment of foreclosure, as well as an order of default, against defendant Sheldon V. Jones. The appellate record contains several notices of sale, with proof of mailing. The notices were (1) filed March 13, 2017, for sale on April 25, 2017; (2) filed May 18, 2017, for sale on June 16, 2017; (3) filed February 23, 2018, for sale on March 26, 2018; and (4) filed May 8, 2018, for sale on June 7, 2018. For each notice, there is a form entitled "Proof of Mailing Notice of Sale," that states that the notice was served on Taitt at her address at the subject property "by depositing the same in the U.S. mail *** with the proper postage prepaid." The forms state that they were signed by an "office clerk," named Jon-nel Allen, under penalty of perjury. On June 5, 2018, Taitt filed a motion to stay the sale on June 7. On June 6, 2018, ...


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