Illinois Federal Court Denies Motion to Reconsider Claims Against Title Insurer

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently denied plaintiff James Stewart’s (“Stewart”) motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of his breach of contract and Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (“ICFA”) claims against the defendant title insurance company. See Stewart v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17810 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 2022). Stewart brought his claims based on a home mortgage he obtained from Washington Mutual in 2007, at which time he obtained a title policy from Defendant. At the height of the financial crisis, Stewart’s loan was sold to Freddie Mac, then resold to JP Morgan Chase (“Chase”).  Plaintiff refinanced his loan with Chase in 2011.  Plaintiff made mortgage payments until 2016, and Chase filed foreclosure in 2018. To make matters worse for Plaintiff, he learned in 2019 that, in 1974, title to his property had been placed in an express trust, “ultimately making Stewart’s title of the home defective.” In 2019, Plaintiff made a claim to Defendant, who denied the claim because he had not suffered any loss.  Plaintiff then brought this action alleging both that Defendant breached the policy, as well as that the 2011 refinancing with Chase was improper because Chase did not own the loan, and that Defendant was somehow complicit in this improper refinancing. 

Plaintiff’s ICFA claim was premised on Defendant’s purported fraud during the refinancing of his loan.  The Court originally dismissed the claim because the statute of limitations for an action under the ICFA is three years, but Plaintiff had not brought his claim until seven years after the alleged fraud. In reconsidering the claim, the Court also addressed the merits of Plaintiff’s ICFA claim, which were not originally considered since the claim was dismissed on SOL grounds. The claim would require a pleading of (1) a deceptive act or practice by the defendant; (2) defendant's intent that the plaintiff rely on the deception; (3) that the deception occurred in the course of trade or commerce; and (4) the consumer fraud proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury. The Court agreed with Defendant’s argument that Plaintiff had not pleaded that Defendant intended reliance on any alleged deception, or that Plaintiff had been injured, and also found that any pleading amendment to plead those elements would be futile, as Plaintiff had already filed four complaints in the matter. As such, the Court denied reconsideration of this claim.

Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim was based on Defendant’s denial of his 2019 title insurance claim. The Court had originally granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim for failure to state a claim, as Plaintiff’s only claimed injury was future speculative damages, which the Court found was not sufficient to plead a plausible breach of contract claim.  Plaintiff’s argument on reconsideration included speculative dollar figures involved in a potential sale of the property, which the Court held was merely “a rehash of argument that court previously considered.”  As such, the Court declined to further reconsider the breach of contract claim.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com, Michael Crowley at mcrowley@riker.com, Desiree McDonald at dmcdonald@riker.com, or Kevin Hakansson at khakansson@riker.com