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Town of Camden v. Goldsmith

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

November 20, 2019

THE TOWN OF CAMDEN, a Municipal corporation of the State of Delaware, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES EDWARD GOLDSMITH, II, Defendant.

          Submitted: September 25, 2019

         Upon Defendants' Motion to Set Aside the Monition Sale DENIED.

          ORDER

          Noel Eason Primos Judge.

         On this the 20th day of November, 2019, having considered Defendant James Goldsmith's (hereinafter "Mr. Goldsmith") Motion to Set Aside the Monition Sale and the Town of Camden's (hereinafter "the Town") Response; the evidence, testimony, and arguments of the parties presented at the hearing held on September 11, 2019; and the supplemental letters filed by the parties on September 25, 2019, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         I. Factual Background

         Mr. Goldsmith purchased his home at 404 Commons Lane in Camden, Delaware (hereinafter "the Property") in 1985. On October 16, 2018, the Sheriff of Kent County (hereinafter "the Sheriff) posted a Monition Notice declaring that Mr. Goldsmith owed $2, 383.07 in taxes to the Town and $150.00 in monition costs. On December 27, 2018, the Sheriff posted notice that a monition sale of the property would occur on January 29, 2019. Mr. Goldsmith did not contact the Town between the time of receiving the Monition Notice and receiving notice of the sale.

         On January 15, 2019, Mr. Goldsmith's wife, Sherri Goldsmith (hereinafter "Mrs. Goldsmith")[1], spoke on the telephone with the Town's attorney, William W. Pepper, Sr., Esquire (hereinafter "Mr. Pepper"). Mr. Pepper informed Mrs. Goldsmith of the amount that Mr. Goldsmith would have to pay the Town in order to stop the monition sale. At no point did Mr. Pepper tell Mrs. Goldsmith that the sale had been cancelled.[2]

         On January 25, 2019, Mrs. Goldsmith proceeded to the Town office and submitted a cashier's check, payable to "The Town of Camden," in the amount of $2, 383.07, to the Town's Clerk, Jamie Fenske (hereinafter "Ms. Fenske"). Mrs. Goldsmith also provided a $212.00 cash payment to the Town. Mrs. Goldsmith testified at the hearing that after she submitted these payments to Ms. Fenske, Ms. Fenske called Mr. Pepper and put him on speakerphone and that Mr. Pepper stated that the house would not be sold. Ms. Fenske testified that she informed Mrs. Goldsmith that Mr. Goldsmith still owed money to the Town, and that at no point did she tell Mrs. Goldsmith that the sale had been cancelled.

         On January 25, 2019, Ms. Fenske sent an e-mail to "pitpen68@hotmail.com," directing the recipient to "see attached."[3] The e-mail attachment was a copy of the Monition Vendex.[4] On January 28, 2019, Ms. Fenske forwarded the January 25 e- mail to Mrs. Goldsmith, because the first e-mail had been sent to "an old email."[5]Mrs. Goldsmith replied that she was "working on coming up with the difference. Who do I need to make the bank check out to?"[6] On January 30, 2019, Mrs. Goldsmith e-mailed Ms. Fenske to inquire as to whether there was a "drop box" in which she could place her payment.[7] On February 1, 2019, Ms. Fenske e-mailed Mrs. Goldsmith, telling her that she should contact the Sheriff because Mr. Goldsmith owed "additional fees."[8] At no point during the e-mail exchange did Ms. Fenske indicate that the sale had been cancelled, nor did Mrs. Goldsmith question whether the sale was scheduled to proceed. Furthermore, Mrs. Goldsmith testified at the hearing that she did not pay the outstanding fees prior to the sale because she had "other things going on" and she "forgot."

         On January 25, 2019, at 5:11 p.m., Frances Gauthier, Esquire (hereinafter "Ms. Gauthier"), of the Legal Services Corporation of Delaware e-mailed Mr. Pepper informing him that her office was representing Mr. and Mrs. Goldsmith.[9]Ms. Gauthier indicated that she was aware that her purported clients had paid the outstanding taxes earlier that day, and asked Mr. Pepper to remove the Property from the January 29 Sheriffs sale list and give Mr. and Mrs. Goldsmith more time to pay the additional fees, which Ms. Gauthier believed to be $150.[10] On January 28, Mr. Pepper responded that he had "passed [her] request along" to the Town and attached a copy of the Monition Vendex, informing her that "[t]he vendex is attached" showing the "actual amount now owed."[11] Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Gauthier asked whether "the execution costs" were Sheriffs fees, and if there was a "reduction in execution costs if the sale [were] cancelled."[12] Later that day, Mr. Pepper wrote that the Town was "moving forward with the sale.[13] However, based on communications between Ms. Fenske and Mrs. Goldsmith, "it seem[ed]" to Mr. Pepper that the matter would "be resolved before the sale." [14] Mr. Pepper never wrote that the sale was cancelled, nor did Ms. Gauthier indicate that she thought it had been cancelled.

         On January 29, 2019, the Sheriffs sale took place, and DB Capital Investments, LLC, purchased the Property for $60, 000. The sale was confirmed on February 22, 2019, and the right of redemption expired on April 23, 2019. Mr. Goldsmith did not redeem the Property. The deed was recorded on May 24, 2019.

         II. Discussion

         In a case where a property owner is attempting to set aside a monition sale, the reviewing court will "only consider challenges that strike at the heart of the [c]ourt's jurisdiction in the first instance."[15] Upon review, the court must balance the constitutional principles of due process and fundamental fairness with the purpose of confirmation, which is to provide the purchaser with assurance of absolute title to the property.[16] The party seeking to set aside the monition sale bears the burden of establishing a basis for relief.[17]

         A. The Court Rejects Mr. Goldsmith's Arguments of Misrepresentation and Inadequate Sale Price.

         Mr. Goldsmith argues in his Motion that the "misrepresentation and misconduct" of Mr. Pepper and Ms. Fenske led him to believe that the monition sale had been cancelled, and that it was for this reason that he failed to pay the amount he owed to the Town.[18] However, the evidence does not support this proposition. Indeed, the conduct of the Goldsmiths themselves demonstrated that the sale had not been cancelled.

         Mr. Pepper and Ms. Fenske testified that they never told Mr. or Mrs. Goldsmith that the Monition Sale had been cancelled, and the Court finds their testimony credible. Additionally, in the e-mail exchange between Ms. Fenske and Mrs. Goldsmith, Mrs. Goldsmith was notified of the outstanding balance and made indications that she wished to pay it.[19] Further, in the e-mail exchange between Mr. Pepper and Ms. Gauthier, Mr. Pepper provided the Monition Vendex and told Ms. Gauthier on January 28 that the Town was "moving forward with the sale."[20] If Ms. Gauthier was acting as the attorney for Mr. and Mrs. Goldsmith, her knowledge that the sale had not been cancelled was imputed to her clients.[21] However, even if Ms. Gauthier was not acting as the Goldsmiths' attorney, Mr. Goldsmith has failed to explain to the Court why Ms. Gauthier, after being informed by Mrs. Goldsmith that she (Mrs. Goldsmith) had made the January 25 payment, would be asking Mr. Pepper to cancel the sale if Mr. Pepper and Ms. Fenske had informed Mrs. Goldsmith at the time she made the payment that the sale had been cancelled?[22]

         Mr. Goldsmith also argues that the monition sale should be set aside because the Property sold for an amount far less than its worth. However, Mr. Goldsmith failed to provide competent evidence to support this contention. Furthermore, this argument was raised after the sale was confirmed.[23] Therefore, this argument is rejected.

         B. The Court Rejects Mr. Goldsmith's Supplemental Argument ...


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