HOUSTON -- A plaintiff failed to convince the Texas First District Court of Appeals to reverse a $5,000 sanction against her in her foreclosure battle with Wells Fargo on March 19.
Adrienne Gallien appealed the Harris County District Court's ruling for the sanctions. They were ordered after she failed to uphold her part of a settlement agreement and dismiss her case against Wells Fargo, despite the bank ceasing foreclosure activity on her property. The appeals court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
Justice Richard Hightower authored the opinion. Justices Russell Lloyd and Peter Kelly concurred.
Gallien raised issues concerning the sanction in the appeal. She suggested her “activity” in court “may not form the basis of the sanctions award. The appeals court disagreed with her first issue and pointed out Wells Fargo brought an affidavit from its attorney as proof that Gallien’s filings were “groundless, brought in bad faith, and brought for the purposes of harassment,” since they were filed after the settlement agreement, according to the opinion.
Gallien even said in her brief that she didn’t ignore the lower court’s advice to drop the appeal. The appeals court said this is enough to prove the lower court was correct when it ordered sanctions, especially for less than half the amount Wells Fargo wanted.
Gallien also argued that the settlement agreement is irrelevant as it allegedly doesn’t follow the requirements in the civil practice and remedies code chapter 154 and Rule of Civil Procedure 11, according to the lawsuit. Gallien failed to display which statute in this regulation applies to her case, or how the settlement doesn’t comply with Rule 11.
Despite Gallien’s third argument that the settlement is ineffective because Wells Fargo’s representative didn’t sign in person or by proxy, the appeals court noted, “Gallien cites no authorities to support this contention” as the bank’s attorney signed the settlement.
Gallien also reportedly attempted to imply that she involuntarily signed the settlement, by adding quotations around the word “voluntary.” Yet the appeals court said she failed to show that she signed it involuntarily. Gallien then argued that she did give objections during a hearing on Wells Fargo’s request to withdraw the property from the court registry. Although she proved she objected to something, she failed to provide proof of the actual nature of the objection.
Even though Gallien said making a payment of judgment doesn’t moot the right to an appeal, the court argued, “There is no such clear expression here – Gallien’s entering into the settlement agreement reveals the opposite, that she intended for the suit to end.”
The appeals court also shut down her argument that the lower court didn’t have jurisdiction to order sanctions since the current appeal was pending. This argument also failed as Gallien didn’t bring up an actual jurisdictional bar that would block the trial court’s action.
Wells Fargo initially wanted to foreclose on the property in question. Court documents say a man named Cristobal Niño and his wife, deceased, were original owners of the note and deed of trust. Gallien had a general warranty did from the late couple and requested to discharge the amount that was owed. Gallien sued after talks with Wells Fargo fell short.
Still, they were able to come to a settlement agreement that required Gallien to pay an agreed amount of money to Wells Fargo and withdraw her lawsuit. Wells Fargo, in turn, would have to unhand the property lien. Everyone held up to their part of the negotiation, except Gallien who failed to withdraw her lawsuit, even though Wells Fargo said it wouldn’t attempt to foreclose the property.
Wells Fargo responded with a motion that would enforce the settlement agreement for sanctions. The lower court greenlighted the order, dismissed Gallien’s claims and enacted sanctions for $5,000. Gallien then appealed on many grounds but the sanctions argument was the only issue that made it to appeals court.