LASALLE BANK NAT. ASS'N v. SLEUTEL No. 01-10487.
289 F.3d 837 (2002)
LaSALLE BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, As Trustee in trust for Holders of the Prudential Securities Secured Financing Corporation— Commercial Pass Through Certificates Series 1995-C1, Plaintiff-Counter Defendant-Appellee, v. John A. SLEUTEL, Defendant-Counter Claimant-Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
May 13, 2002.
Charles Stephen Kelley (argued), Hutson Brit Smelley, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, Houston, TX, for LaSalle Bank Nat. Ass'n.
Gary Michael Bellair (argued), H. Grady Terrill, III, Craig, Terrill & Hale, Lubbock, TX, for Sleutel.
Before JOLLY, JONES and BARKSDALE, Circuit Judges.
E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge:
The defendant, John A. Sleutel, appeals the district court's entry of a deficiency judgment against him. This judgment arose from the default on a promissory note, on which Sleutel was the guarantor. The district court also granted plaintiff LaSalle Bank National Association's motion for summary judgment on Sleutel's offset defense and his counterclaim. We AFFIRM.
On March 30, 1995, Midland Loan Services, L.P., loaned Frontier Properties, L.L.C., $1.575 million for the purchase of a senior assisted-living facility (the "Facility") in Lubbock, Texas. John Sleutel, in his capacity as an authorized representative of Frontier, executed a promissory note (the "Note") and mortgage which granted Midland a security interest in the Facility. Sleutel, with the assistance of counsel, negotiated and executed an absolute personal guaranty agreement (the "Guaranty") to obtain the loan. Midland assigned the Note and Guaranty to KC Funding Corporation, and KC Funding later assigned the Note and Guaranty to the trust for which LaSalle acts as Trustee.
In August 1999, Frontier defaulted. LaSalle demanded payment under the Note and Guaranty. In October 1999, LaSalle accelerated the debt according to the terms of the Note, and again demanded payment. In November 1999, LaSalle filed this lawsuit against Sleutel for breach of the Guaranty and sought recovery of all amounts due under the Note. On February 1, 2000, LaSalle foreclosed on the Facility. In a non-judicial foreclosure sale,
In response to the suit on the Guaranty, Sleutel raised the right of offset under Texas Property Code § 51.003 as an affirmative defense, alleging that the foreclosure price was below the fair market value of the Facility and that he was entitled to an offset in the amount of the deficiency. Sleutel also alleged a counterclaim for conversion predicated on § 51.003's right of offset. LaSalle moved for summary judgment on the ground that Sleutel waived the right of offset in the Guaranty Agreement.
The district court granted partial summary judgment and dismissed Sleutel's affirmative defense and counterclaim. On March 5, 2001, the district court conducted a bench trial and rendered a judgment for LaSalle in the amount of $1,072,471.68. This judgment included "prepayment consideration" of $254,380.50. Sleutel timely appealed the district court's summary judgment and final judgment.
We first consider whether Sleutel can waive any right of offset that he has under Texas law. The district court granted summary judgment to LaSalle on this issue, finding that Sleutel had validly waived any right of offset that Texas law provides. We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Rogers v. Int'l Marine Terminals, Inc., 87 F.3d 755, 758 (5th Cir.1996).
The question presented involves the interpretation of a Texas statute. We apply the statutory analysis that a Texas court would apply. McNeil v. Time Ins. Co., 205 F.3d 179, 183 (5th Cir.2000). "In Texas, the cardinal rule of statutory construction is to ascertain the `legislature's intent,' and to give effect to that intent. The duty of the court is to construe a statute as written and ascertain the legislature's intent from the language of the act." Id. (citing Union Bankers Ins. Co. v. Shelton, 889 S.W.2d 278, 280 (Tex.1994); Morrison v. Chan, 699 S.W.2d 205, 208 (Tex.1985)).
In 1991, the Texas Legislature adopted Tex. Prop.Code § 51.003 ("Section 51.003"), the "Deficiency Judgment" statute. Section 51.003 sets forth the requirements for obtaining a deficiency judgment following a non-judicial foreclosure sale. Unlike the "Anti-Deficiency" statutes of other jurisdictions, Texas's deficiency judgment statute does not prohibit a lender from obtaining a deficiency judgment. Instead, the statute provides a right of offset as follows:
Tex. Prop.Code § 51.003.
Although the statute provides a right of offset, here there is no dispute that the Guaranty agreement contains an express waiver of the rights of offset to the extent allowed by law. The Guaranty agreement provides:
Despite this language, Sleutel contends that the waiver of rights is ineffective because the "applicable [Texas] law" does not allow waiver of the rights provided by § 51.003. Thus, Sleutel presents to us the question whether a guarantor may contractually waive any right of offset provided by § 51.003.
There are few Texas cases interpreting § 51.003, and no cases regarding waiver of § 51.003's right of offset. Sleutel's argument rests on public policy. Sleutel contends that the Texas Legislature intended to protect the public from abusive lending practices by enacting § 51.003. Allowing contractual waiver of rights provided by § 51.003 would frustrate the public policy goals of the statute, according to Sleutel. Sleutel points to cases from Texas and other jurisdictions to support the blanket proposition that the law protects individual debtors against abuses by creditors.
Although § 51.003 does not address waiver, other provisions of the Texas Property Code do address waiver and specifically prevent waiver of those provisions, in all or in some situations.
The issue in this appeal is specifically limited to waiver of any offset rights by a guarantor.
Further, the cases Sleutel cites which hold that anti-deficiency judgment statutes may not be waived (or may not be waived in certain circumstances) differ from the present case. Those cases involved statutes which prevented the mortgagee,
We hold therefore that Sleutel, as a guarantor, could waive any right of offset he may have under § 51.003 — and, of course, he did.
The final question we address is whether LaSalle is entitled to prepayment consideration under the terms of the Note. Sleutel contends that the district court improperly awarded LaSalle prepayment consideration. Sleutel argues that prepayment consideration is not due until the lender receives full tender of the outstanding debt. This argument is based on the language of paragraph 5(e) of the Note:
The outstanding debt at the time of the foreclosure sale was $1,723,283.20. Because LaSalle received, at most, $1.7 million from the foreclosure sale (the highest possible fair market value of the property), Sleutel contends that "full tender" of the debt was not made, and the prepayment consideration is not due.
We need not decide if the sale of the property via foreclosure was full tender of a "voluntary prepayment." Under the terms of the Note, prepayment consideration may be accelerated along with the debt after an event of default. Paragraph 7 of the Note provides:
According to LaSalle, the reference to "applicable Prepayment Consideration" is necessary because prepayment consideration did not apply in years nine through maturity of the Note. The Note confirms that prepayment consideration is due only in years one through nine of the Note. There is no dispute that Frontier Properties defaulted on the Note within the first nine years. Under the terms of paragraph 7, LaSalle could demand payment of all the debt, including prepayment consideration, after an event of default. Paragraph 7 is independent of paragraph 5(e), and imposes its own requirements. Therefore, whether or not Sleutel made a "voluntary prepayment" here is irrelevant. Sleutel is liable for the prepayment consideration due to the default on the Note within the first nine years of the Note's execution.
We hold therefore that prepayment consideration was properly accelerated and is due under the terms of the Note.
In sum, we hold that Sleutel, as a guarantor, can waive any right of offset that he may have under § 51.003. Further, we hold that prepayment consideration by Sleutel is due under the terms of the Note. The judgment of the district court is
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