January 17, 2015

The Florida Third District Court of Appeal has issued a decision which upheld a statute of limitations defense where the prior dismissal was without prejudice and where the subsequent filing was beyond the statutory period for initiating an action where the prior action claimed an acceleration of the amount due under the Note. The decision in Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Beauvais, issued December 17, 2014, sets up a conflict between two Florida appellate courts as to the use of the statute of limitations defense. The Florida 3d District Court of Appeal sits in Miami-Dade County. The 4th District Court of Appeal, which sits in Palm Beach County, previously issued a decision providing that the statute of limitations defense does not apply even with a prior acceleration and regardless of whether the prior dismissal was with or without prejudice.

The Beauvais decision distinguished the 4th DCA decision, and explained that when a prior dismissal is with prejudice, it operates as an “adjudication on the merits” and thus destroys any issue as to acceleration and thus use of the statute of limitations defense. By contrast, when the prior dismissal is without prejudice, the prior acceleration is preserved and keeps the statute of limitations clock ticking.

This has a direct effect on the thousands of cases previously filed by David Stern which were left in limbo when his Firm closed years ago. Many other Firms have since picked up “old Stern files” which were dismissed without prejudice due to, e.g., lack of record activity, but which filings contained an acceleration. These cases are prime targets for use of the statute of limitations defense for foreclosure cases in at least 2 Florida counties for now, and possibly for use in 62 other counties as well.

Florida has 67 counties and 5 appellate court districts. Beauvais is presently binding on foreclosure cases in Miami-Dade and Monroe (Florida Keys) counties, while the 4th DCA decision is binding on foreclosure cases in Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties. Any other foreclosure in any other Florida county is up for grabs, and the Judge can accept either decision if they want, but are not bound to do so.

Beauvais has set up what is called “conflict certiorari jurisdiction” to the Florida Supreme Court to decide who is right. Until the Supreme Court sorts the matter out, there is uncertainty in most of Florida as to the use of the statute of limitations defense where a prior dismissal occurred of an action which accelerated the note balance and where the subsequent filing is outside of the statutory period.

Separately, there is no secret that Ocwen Loan Servicing has become the target of several official investigations in several states for fraudulent foreclosure practices. As most of you also know, the “servicer wars” between Ocwen, SPS, SLS, Bayview and Nationstar have resulted in Ocwen getting the lion’s share of the servicing contracts. Thus, if Ocwen folds, there will be literally tens of thousands of foreclosure cases left up in the air.

Jeff Barnes, Esq., www.ForeclosureDefenseNationwide.com