United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
WALTER L. STATEN, et al., Plaintiffs,
D.R. HORTON, INC. BIRMINGHAM, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
The court has before it the January 8, 2018 motion for
summary judgment filed by Defendant D.R. Horton,
Inc.-Birmingham (“DRH”). (Doc. 22). Pursuant to
the court's initial order and the January 26, 2018 order,
the motion was under submission as of February 19, 2018.
(Docs. 15, 25). After consideration of the briefs and
evidence, the motion is due to be granted for the following
STATEMENT OF FACTS
an Alabama corporation engaged in the homebuilding business.
(Doc. 23-37 at 2). DRH constructed a spec home located at
9318 Doss Ferry Lane in Kimberly Alabama. (Id. at
3). In July 2015, DRH reduced the asking price for the home
to $209, 900.00 because the house had been on the market for
a certain period of time and had not sold. (Id.). On
August 8, 2015, Plaintiffs Walter L. Staten and Sandra
Staten, an African-American married couple, executed a
purchase agreement to buy the home from DRH for the asking
price. (Id.; Doc. 23-1 at 12; Doc. 23-35 at 22; Doc.
23-11 at 1-10). DRH accepted the agreement on August 11,
2015. (Doc. 23-11 at 9-10).
purchase agreement was conditioned on the Statens obtaining a
loan in the principal amount of the purchase price.
(Id. at 1). Further, the agreement required the
Statens to provide DRH with written evidence of loan approval
within twenty-one days of DRH's acceptance of the
agreement. (Id. at 2). The Statens sought financing
through DHI Mortgage Company, Ltd. (“DHI
Mortgage”), and Mr. Staten also sought financing
through Regions Mortgage. (Doc. 23-18 at 1-4; Doc. 23-35 at
24, 30; Doc. 23-36 at 1).
DHI Mortgage's investigation of the loan application,
questions arose regarding the income and credit worthiness of
the Statens. (Doc. 23-35 at 26; Doc. 23-37 at 31). DHI
Mortgage obtained credit reports on the Statens from EGS
Credit Services. (Id.). The credit scores showed no
credit for Mrs. Staten and also showed that Mr. Staten did
not have sufficient credit to sustain the loan. (Doc. 23-35
at 42; Doc. 23-36 at 2). Specifically, Mr. Staten's
report stated that the Experian score was affected, among
other factors, by the “number of accounts with
delinquency” and that both the Equifax and TransUnion
scores were impacted, among other factors, by
“derogatory public record or collection filed.”
(Doc. 23-31 at 1-2). Mrs. Staten's report stated her
credit score was “not available from the consumer
reporting agency because they may not have enough information
about [her] credit history to calculate a
score.” (Doc. 23-34 at 1).
mid-August 2015, the Statens were aware of the issues
regarding their ability to receive a loan from DHI Mortgage,
and Mrs. Staten informed DRH they were going to see if their
bank would loan them more money. (Doc. 23-35 at 25-26; Doc.
23-37 at 34). Mr. Staten applied for a VA mortgage through
Regions Mortgage in the full amount of the purchase price.
(Doc. 23-38 at 14-24). The Statens remained in communication
with DRH throughout the loan process. (Doc. 23-37 at 33-38).
August 29, 2018, DHI Mortgage sent letters to both Mr. Staten
and Mrs. Staten stating, “[W]e are unable to provide
you financing at this time based on your current credit
profile.” (Doc. 23-14 at 1; Doc. 23-15 at 1). DHI
Mortgage also issued credit denial, termination or change
notices showing the Statens' request for credit was
denied. (Doc. 23-16 at 1-3; Doc. 23-17 at 1-3). The addresses
on both the letters and the notices from DHI Mortgage
contained the wrong address. (Doc. 23-35 at 26-27). The
Statens never lived at the address contained on the
documents, and Mrs. Staten testified she did not receive any
of the documents or know they existed until the lawsuit.
(Id.). Mr. Staten did, however, own the property
where the documents were mailed. (Id. at 31).
August 26, 2015, Regions sent a letter to Mr. Staten advising
him of the denial of his credit application. (Doc. 23-19 at
1-2). Mrs. Staten testified she did not know about the
decision from Regions. (Doc. 23-35 at 38). On August 31,
2015, Regions notified DRH it did not approve the loan to Mr.
Staten “due to credit.” (Doc. 23-37 at 40).
the Statens were unable to obtain financing as required by
the purchase agreement, DRH sent them a letter with a
termination and release agreement on October 1, 2015. (Doc.
23-22 at 1-3; Doc. 23-35 at 36; Doc. 23-37 at 4). The letter
asked the Statens to sign and return the termination and
release agreement to DRH within five business days. (Doc.
23-22 at 1). The agreement stated DRH would refund the
earnest money deposited under the purchase agreement and
required both Mr and Mrs. Staten's signatures.
(Id. at 2). When the Statens did not sign the
termination and release agreement, DRH sent additional copies
of the termination and release agreement to them in early
January 2016. The Statens refused to sign the agreement.
(Doc. 23-37 at 5).
both DHI Mortgage and Regions denied the Statens applications
for credit to purchase the home, DRH renewed its attempts to
sell the home. (Id.). DRH again reduced the price
and eventually sold the home to a Caucasian individual who
qualified for financing. (Id.).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which
it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to
go beyond the pleadings and by his own affidavits, or by the
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, designate specific facts showing there is a genuine
issue for trial. See Id. at 324.
substantive law identifies which facts are material and which
are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the
facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of
the non-movant. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta,
2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine
“if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at ...