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Florida Court Finds for Bank in Major Foreclosure Case

Ruling could have affected thousands of cases in Florida

Bank accused of false papers can drop foreclosure, reopen using other papers

reuters.comFebruary 10, 2013

By Jessica Dye

Florida's highest court has ruled a homeowner cannot re-open a voluntarily dismissed foreclosure case despite allegations that the bank falsified documents, giving a win to banks in a closely watched ruling that could have affected thousands of cases in a state hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

The Florida Supreme Court had been asked to decide whether banks accused of using fraudulent documents to file foreclosure lawsuits could dismiss the cases, and then later re-file them with different paperwork.

The case involves a foreclosure brought against homeowner Roman Pino in 2008 by Bank of New York Mellon Corp, the trustee for the security that owned his loan. The mortgage was serviced by Bank of America.

Pino asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the documents filed by the bank and its attorneys had been fraudulently backdated. The case stems from the robo-signing scandal, in which banks and law firms allegedly signed off on foreclosure documents without verifying their accuracy.

The documents in Pino's case had been signed by an employee of the now-defunct David Stern law firm, one of the biggest foreclosure law firms in the country.

Before the court could rule, BNY Mellon voluntarily dismissed the case. The foreclosure was later re-filed, using different documents. Pino's lawyer asked the court to re-open the first case, saying the bank should not have been allowed to bring the same case when it committed fraud the first time around.

Before the case reached the Florida Supreme Court, Pino and BNY Mellon reached a confidential settlement. The high court decided to hear the case anyway to address what it said was a key policy question that has vexed courts across the state - whether or not voluntary dismissals can be reversed when there is an allegation of fraud.

On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court decided that it could not, unless the plaintiff - in this case, the bank - had obtained some kind of affirmative relief, and the dismissal had kept the fraud from being remedied by the court.

However, the court acknowledged the "multiple abuses that can occur from fraudulent pleadings," and asked Florida's bar association to review civil litigation rules to determine if changes should be made to address the issue.

A lawyer for Pino, Amanda Lundergan of the Ice Firm, said she believed the ruling "will have the unintended effect of encouraging underhanded tactics" by plaintiffs in foreclosure and other cases.

A spokesman for BNY Mellon, Kevin Heine, declined to comment. Bank of America did not immediately return a request for comment Friday evening.

The case has been closely watched by banks and homeowners. An unfavorable ruling for the banks could have exposed them to severe financial liability in the state.


Back to February 2013 Archive

CFLA was founded by the Nation's Leading Foreclosure Defense Attorneys back in 2007 to serve the Foreclosure Defense Industry and fight pervasive Bank Fraud. Since opening our virtual doors, CFLA has rapidly expanded to become the premier online legal destination for small businesses and consumers. But as the company continues to grow, we're careful to hold true to our original vision. For us, putting the law within reach of millions of people is more than just a novel idea—it's the founding principle, just ask Andrew P. Lehman, J.D.. With convenient locations in Houston and Los Angeles, you can contact Our National Account Specialist and General Manager / Member Damion W. Emholtz at 888-758-2352 for a free Mortgage Fraud Analysis or to obtain samples of work product, including cutting edge Bloomberg Securitization Audits, Litigation Support, Quiet Title Packages, and for more information about our Nationally Accredited and U.S. Department of Education Approved "Mortgage Securitization Analyst Training Certification" Classes (3 days) 24 hours for approved CLE & MCLE Credit (Now Available Online).

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