BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION v. SLAVINSKI

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.

U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, etc., respondent, v. Barbara Ann SLAVINSKI, appellant, et al., defendant.

Decided: November 30, 2010

JOSEPH COVELLO, J.P., ANITA R. FLORIO, RANDALL T. ENG, and CHERYL E. CHAMBERS, JJ. Scott A. Rosenberg, P.C., Westbury, N.Y. (Kenneth J. Pagliughi of counsel), for appellant. Hogan & Hartson LLP, New York, N.Y. (David Dunn, Allison J. Schoenthal, and Jessica L. Ellsworth of counsel), for respondent.

In an action to foreclose a mortgage, the defendant Barbara Ann Slavinski appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (McCabe, J.), entered March 31, 2009, which denied her motion to vacate a judgment of foreclosure and sale of the same court dated June 12, 2007, entered upon her default in appearing or answering the complaint, and to set aside the foreclosure sale.

ORDERED that the order is affirmed, with costs.

 Contrary to the appellant's contention, her communications with the plaintiff's attorneys did not constitute an informal appearance in this action.   The record indicates that the appellant contacted the plaintiff's attorneys to request information pertaining to the sums necessary to pay off or reinstate her mortgage loan, and to seek a loan modification based on financial hardship.   These contacts did not constitute a “pro se attempt to participate” (Meyer v. A & B Am., 160 A.D.2d 688, 688, 553 N.Y.S.2d 462;  see General Elec. Credit Corp. v. Zemrus, 115 A.D.2d 953, 953, 497 N.Y.S.2d 530) in the foreclosure action (cf. Thomas v. Callahan, 222 A.D.2d 1070, 635 N.Y.S.2d 883;  Cohen v. Ryan, 34 A.D.2d 789, 311 N.Y.S.2d 644).   In any event, even if the appellant's communications with the plaintiff's attorneys could be deemed an appearance, she nevertheless defaulted in this action by failing to serve an answer.

 Furthermore, the Supreme Court properly denied the appellant's motion to vacate her default pursuant to CPLR 5015(a)(1).   A defendant seeking to vacate a default judgment pursuant to CPLR 5015(a)(1) must show both a reasonable excuse for the default and the existence of a potentially meritorious defense (see Taddeo–Amendola v. 970 Assets, LLC, 72 A.D.3d 677, 897 N.Y.S.2d 642;  Perfect Care, Inc. v. Ultracare Supplies, Inc., 71 A.D.3d 752, 753, 895 N.Y.S.2d 748;  Zarzuela v. Castanos, 71 A.D.3d 880, 895 N.Y.S.2d 857;  Bank of N.Y. v. Segui, 42 A.D.3d 555, 840 N.Y.S.2d 408;  Dave Sandel, Inc. v. Specialized Indus. Servs. Corp., 35 A.D.3d 790, 791, 826 N.Y.S.2d 735).   The appellant's contentions that she “did not know [she] was suppose[d] to file an answer to this action,” and that she did not understand the “court's process,” do not constitute reasonable excuses for her default (see Dorrer v. Berry, 37 A.D.3d 519, 520, 830 N.Y.S.2d 277;  Voss Dental Lab v. Surgitex, Inc., 210 A.D.2d 985, 621 N.Y.S.2d 1000;  People v. Scudds, 195 A.D.2d 778, 779, 600 N.Y.S.2d 379;  General Elec. Tech. Servs. Co. v. Perez, 156 A.D.2d 781, 783, 549 N.Y.S.2d 203).   The appellant also failed to demonstrate the existence of a potentially meritorious defense to foreclosure based on fraud (see Deutsche Bank Natl. Trust Co. v. Sinclair, 68 A.D.3d 914, 891 N.Y.S.2d 445;  McMorrow v. Dime Sav. Bank of Williamsburgh, 48 A.D.3d 646, 647–648, 852 N.Y.S.2d 345;  Deutsche Bank Natl. Trust Co. v. Campbell, 26 Misc.3d 1206[A], 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 52678 [U], 2009 WL 5213682 ) or alleged violations of the Truth in Lending Act (15 USC § 1601 et seq.), the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (12 USC § 2601 et seq.), the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (15 USC § 1639), and General Business Law § 349 (see Beach v. Ocwen Fed. Bank, 523 U.S. 410, 118 S.Ct. 1408, 140 L.Ed.2d 566;  U.S. Bank N.A. v. Pia, 73 A.D.3d 752, 901 N.Y.S.2d 104;  Fremont Inv. & Loan v. Haley, 23 Misc.3d 1138[A], 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 51186[U], 2009 WL 1636915;  Fremont Inv. & Loan v. Laroc, 21 Misc.3d 1124[A], 2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 52166[U], 2008 WL 4764809 ).

Finally, the appellant failed to demonstrate that the invocation of a court's inherent power to vacate a judgment in the interest of substantial justice is warranted in this case (see Woodson v. Mendon Leasing Corp., 100 N.Y.2d 62, 760 N.Y.S.2d 727, 790 N.E.2d 1156;  Katz v. Marra, 74 A.D.3d 888, 905 N.Y.S.2d 204).

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