JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION v.
ANTHEA MENDEZ et al., SC 19481
Judicial District of Hartford
Foreclosure; Whether General Statutes § 52-212 or General Statutes § 49-15 Governs Motion to Open Judgment of Foreclosure by Sale Rendered Following Default. The plaintiff brought this action seeking to foreclose a mortgage on property owned by the defendant, Anthea Mendez. The defendant was defaulted for failure to appear, and the trial court rendered a judgment of foreclosure by sale. The plaintiff was the successful bidder at the foreclosure sale. Before the court approved the sale, the defendant moved to open the judgment of foreclosure. She claimed that her motion to open was governed by General Statutes § 49-15, which provides that, until title vests in an encumbrancer, the trial court has discretion to open a judgment of strict foreclosure “for cause shown.” The trial court denied the motion to open, ruling that, because the judgment sought to be opened was not a judgment of strict foreclosure, § 49-15 did not apply and General Statutes § 52-212 was the applicable statute. Section 52-212, which applies to judgments rendered upon default or nonsuit, provides a more stringent test for opening a judgment than that set forth in § 49-15. Specifically, it requires a defaulted defendant to establish that a good defense existed at the time the judgment was rendered and that the defendant was prevented from making that defense by “mistake, accident or other reasonable cause.” In denying the motion to open, the trial court ruled that neither prong of § 52-212 was satisfied, that the defendant’s delay in responding to the foreclosure action was due to her own inattention to the matter, and that that inattention was not a reason to open the judgment. The defendant appeals, claiming that § 52-212 does not apply to a mortgage foreclosure action because a foreclosure action is an equitable proceeding and not a civil action. The defendant also claims that § 52-212 does not apply to interlocutory judgments or orders, and that a judgment of foreclosure by sale is interlocutory in nature because it does not extinguish the mortgagor’s equity of redemption. Finally, the defendant contends that the application of § 52-212 to judgments of foreclosure by sale is arbitrary and frustrates the court's ability to do equity and that the legislative history of § 49-15, although sparse, indicates that the legislature intended that that statute apply to all foreclosure judgments.