Thursday, February 26, 2015

Judgment Cannot Be Corrected To Clarify Status Of Parties Years After Entry

In Lorant v. Whitney National Bank (1D14-2757), the First District "consider[ed] whether Florida’s Rule of Civil Procedure allowing for corrections of 'clerical mistakes,' encompasses authorization to supplement a final deficiency judgment by clarifying the party defendants’ status in the litigation almost three years after the entry of the initial judgment."

After a foreclosure judgment was entered:
the court entered a final deficiency judgment as to Mr. Lorant and two other named defendants in favor of the bank. The bank then sought to domesticate the final deficiency judgment in Alabama against Mr. Lorant, but the Alabama courts did not allow it. Under Alabama law, the deficiency judgment had to reflect that Mr. Lorant was the sole remaining defendant and that all claims, rights, or liabilities of the other parties had been adjudicated. See Whitney Bank v. Lorant, 148 So. 3d 1077, 1078 n. 1 (Ala. 2014) (Moore, C.J., dissenting).
After the Alabama court's refused to domesticate the judgment, the lender "filed a motion to correct a final deficiency judgment pursuant to Rule 1.540(a)’s allowance for the correction of 'clerical mistakes.' The bank asked the court to modify its 2011 deficiency judgment to reflect that Mr. Lorant was the sole remaining defendant and that all claims, rights, or liabilities of the other parties had been adjudicated."

The court stated that:
Rule 1.540(a) specifically allows for the correction of “clerical mistakes” and “errors” in judgments “arising from oversight or omission” for an indefinite period of time. Rule 1.540(b), on the other hand, allows for the correction of other mistakes or inadvertence in a final judgment for “a reasonable time . . . not more than 1 year after the judgment[.]” The bank in this case filed its motion under Rule 1.540(a), requiring a “clerical mistake” as opposed to some other kind of mistake. Our court has recognized clerical mistakes include “only ‘errors or mistakes arising from an accidental slip or omission, and not errors or mistakes in the substance of what is decided by the judgment or order,’ the latter of which must be corrected pursuant to Rule 1.540(b).” .... A trial court “has no authority under Rule 1.540(a) to make substantive changes.” .... And relief under Rule 1.540(a) may not be appropriate where “[t]he proposed amendment of the judgment substantially change[s] its impact and effect.” 
Therefore, the court held that "[t]he mistake involved in this case resulted in the trial court 'supplementing' its initial final deficiency judgment in order to more definitively address the litigation status of the three party defendants. This correction and supplement to the previous final judgment represented a substantive change, not the sort of accidental slip or omission permitted to be corrected under Rule 1.540(a). In fact, nothing in the record indicates that a 'mistake' existed at all in the initial judgment; rather the bank’s issue was that Alabama required these matters to be addressed in a substantively different manner."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Be Specific: Order Vacating Judgment Pursuant to Rule 1.540 Reversed Because Motion Only Relied Upon Rehearing Rule (1.530)

In Foche Mortgage, LLC v. CitiMortgage, Inc. (3D14-521), the Third District reversed a trial court's order vacating a judgment pursuant to Rule 1.540. The Third District stated that the movant only referenced Rule 1.530 in the motion filed in the trial court and did not reference or make argument relating to Rule 1.540. Therefore, the motion could only be construed pursuant to Rule 1.530, which  requires a motion to be filed within fifteen days.* 

Because the movant only sought relief pursuant to Rule 1.530, and didn't reference or rely upon Rule 1.540, the motion was required to be filed within fifteen days of the entry of the order. Since it was not filed within that time period, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the order appealed. 

* Rule 1.530 was recently amended to allow fifteen days. The prior version of the rule, and the version applicable to the motion at issue in the opinion, was ten days.