Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal invalidating the decision of a property appraiser assessing back taxes after discovering his purported clerical error in undervaluing and undertaxing a taxpayer's property, holding that the district court did not err.After discovering valuation errors, the property appraiser reassessed the taxpayer's property and sent her a bill for back taxes. The taxpayer brought this action to obtain aa judgment declaring the invalidity of the back-assessment. The trial court ruled against the taxpayer. The Second District reversed, concluding that the property had not "escaped taxation," which is a prerequisite for a property appraiser's authority to assess back taxes under Fla. Stat. 193.092(1). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 193.092(1) did not give the property appraiser authority to back-assess the taxpayer's property. View "Furst v. DeFrances" on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure case, the Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal failing to follow precedent and concluding that the term "Borrower" means something different than both the mortgage and the note define it to mean, holding that the court of appeal erred in affirming the trial court's denial of foreclosure.Petitioner's predecessor sought to foreclose on a mortgage that secured the loan. Respondents, Luisa Palmero and her children, defended against the foreclosure action by arguing that Luisa was not a co-borrower under the mortgage. The trial court ruled that Luisa was not a co-borrower but denied foreclosure based on a federal statute. The Third District held that the trial court erred by relying on the federal statute to deny foreclosure and ruled that, as a matter of law, the mortgage unambiguously defined Luisa as a "Borrower." Thus, the Third District affirmed the denial of foreclosure. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Third District erred in affirming the trial court's denial of foreclosure on the ground that, as a matter of law, Luisa was a surviving co-borrower. View "WVMF Funding v. Palmero" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted certification of a question about theUnderground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Fla. Stat. Chapter 556, and answered that the Act creates a standalone cause of action and that the cause of action sounds in negligence.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified the question of whether a member-operator has a cause of action under Fla. Stat. 556.106(2)(a)-(c) to recover damages or obtain indemnification from an excavator for payments to a third party for personal injuries related to the excavator's alleged violation of the statute. The Supreme Court answered (1) liability under the Act is subject to proof of proximate causation and to the defense of comparative fault; (2) losses recoverable under the Act can include purely economic damages, independent of personal injury or property damage; and (3) the Act does not create a cause of action for statutory indemnity. View "Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court concluded that a unilateral attorney's fee provision in a note and mortgage was made reciprocal to a borrower under Fla. Stat. 57.105(7) where the borrower prevailed in a foreclosure action in which the plaintiff bank established standing to enforce the note and mortgage at the time of trial but not at the time suit was filed, holding that the statutory conditions were met.The Fourth District Court of Appeal held that a borrower who successfully argues that the bank lacked standing at the time suit was filed could not rely on the contract to obtain attorney's fees under section 57.105(7). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the borrowers were eligible to recover reciprocal fees under the statute because the conditions in the statute's two clauses were satisfied here. View "Page v. Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal in this foreclosure case, holding that the proper predicate for admission of records into evidence under the business records exception to the hearsay rule can be laid by a qualified witness testifying to the foundational elements of the exception.Household Finance Corp III (HFC) field a foreclosure complaint against Petitioners, alleging that Petitioners defaulted under the terms of the note and mortgage. During trial, HFC moved certain documents, including the original note, mortgage, and loan payment history, into evidence. Counsel for Petitioners objected on grounds of hearsay, claiming that the witness testifying as to the foundational elements of the business records exception to the hearsay rule failed to lay a foundation upon which to testify as to the records or to authenticate he documents based on personal knowledge. The trial judge overruled the objection and admitted the records into evidence. The trial court entered final judgment of mortgage foreclosure for HFC. The Second District affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the testimony of a qualified witness confirming the presence of each foundation requirement of the business records exception constitutes a sufficient predicate for the admission of records under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. View "Jackson v. Household Finance Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the First District Court of Appeal regarding whether the circuit court presiding over a foreclosure action has continuing jurisdiction to consider a third-party purchaser's motion to recover the value of repairs and improvements made to the property he purchased at a foreclosure sale that was later vacated, holding that the circuit court had continuing jurisdiction to consider the purchaser's motion for damages.The First District concluded that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the purchaser's third-party motion for damages after it rendered the final judgment of foreclosure. The Supreme Court disagreed and quashed the First District's decision, holding that the circuit court presiding over the foreclosure action had continuing jurisdiction to consider the purchaser's motion for damages for repairs and improvements he made to the property he purchased at the foreclosure sale that was later vacated. View "Griffin v. LaSalle Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal on the question of whether a voluntary dismissal provides a basis for being considered the prevailing party for the purpose of appellate attorney fees, holding that the court of appeal improperly denied appellate attorney’s fees based on the bank’s voluntary dismissal of the appeal.Appellant, a homeowner, sought appellate attorney’s fees pursuant to Fla. Stat. 57.105(7) after a bank filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in the court of appeal. The court of appeal concluded that Appellant was not entitled to appellate attorney’s fees because she prevailed on her standing argument presented in the trial court. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) caselaw makes clear that a voluntary dismissal of an appeal renders the opposing party the prevailing party for the purpose of appellate attorney fees; and (2) Appellant was entitled to appellate attorney fees because the bank maintained its right to enforce the reverse mortgage contract in its appeal until the dismissal. View "Glass v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between the former record owners of certain real property and a subordinate lienholder over surplus funds resulting from a judicial foreclosure sale of the property, the Supreme Court held that the statutory requirement that a claim to surplus funds be filed within sixty days after the sale begins upon the clerk’s issuance of the certificate of disbursements.The crux of this dispute was whether the subordinate lien holder timely filed its claim to the surplus amount under chapter 45 of the Florida Statutes, which governs judicial sales. Specifically, the parties argued over whether the sixty-day period begins upon the public auction of the property, the clerk’s issuance of the certificate of title, or some other event. The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the subordinate lienholder’s claim was untimely because it was not filed within sixty days of the public auction. The Supreme Court quashed the Second District’s decision, holding (1) the meaning of “60 days after the sale” as used in chapter 45 in the context of claims to surplus funds is sixty days after the clerk issues the certificate of disbursements; and (2) therefore, the subordinate lienholder’s claim to the surplus was timely filed before the expiration of that sixty-day period. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Glenville" on Justia Law

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Fla. Stat. 702.06 permits an independent action at law for a deficiency judgment when the foreclosure court has expressly reserved jurisdiction to handle a deficiency claim but has not actually decided the merits of the claim.Heather Lanham’s residential property was foreclosed by final judgment that expressly reserved jurisdiction to rule on any future deficiency claim. Dyck-O’Neal, Inc., which was assigned the mortgage and note, filed a separate action at law against Lanham seeking a deficiency judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment for Lanham. The First District Court of Appeal quashed the trial court’s decision, concluding that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the suit under Fla. Stat. 702.06 because the foreclosure court previously had reserved jurisdiction to handle the deficiency claim. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that section 702.06 plainly precludes the separate action only where the foreclosure court has actually ruled on the claim. View "Dyck-O'Neal, Inc. v. Lanham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the petition of Petitioner seeking to invoke the Court’s discretionary jurisdiction based on express and direct conflict. Further, due to Petitioner’s numerous meritless and inappropriate filings in the Supreme Court pertaining to his foreclosure proceedings in the circuit court during the pendency of his petition for jurisdiction in this case, the Court sanctioned Petitioner by barring him from filing in the Court any future pro se pleadings, motions, or other requests for relief pertaining to his foreclosure proceedings. Counsel may file on Petitioner’s behalf if counsel determines that the proceeding may have merit and can be brought in good faith. View "Rivas v. Bank of New York Mellon" on Justia Law