Florida Supreme Court Sides with Bank in Foreclosure Fraud Case
By: Esther Cho
After much speculation and anticipation, the Florida Supreme Court gave its answer to a highly-contested question that asks whether a bank could voluntarily dismiss a foreclosure case without consequence if fraudulent foreclosure documents were found and then refile the case at a later time.
In the opinion released Thursday for Roman Pino v. the Bank of New York Mellon, the court sided with BKNY Mellon, emphasizing there was no adverse impact on the homeowner as a result of the bank’s voluntary dismissal of the foreclosure case.
According to the Supreme Court’s opinion, the bank first attempted to foreclose on Pino in 2008 and later filed an amended complaint in 2009. However, the bank filed a notice of voluntary dismissal after Pino alleged the bank submitted a fraudulent mortgage assignment and scheduled depositions with employees of the bank’s law firm regarding the assignment.
Five months after serving the notice of voluntary dismissal, the bank refiled a foreclose action against Pino. Pino then sought to strike the bank’s notice of voluntary dismissal on the grounds of fraud, but a trial court rejected Pino’s argument.
“[T]he trial court has jurisdiction to reinstate the dismissed action only when the fraud, if proven, resulted in the plaintiff securing affirmative relief to the detriment of the defendant and, upon obtaining that relief, voluntarily dismissing the case to prevent the trial court from undoing the improperly obtained relief,” the Supreme Court opinion stated.
The Supreme Court also pointed out the bank did not gain anything either, aside from finding protection against “abuse of the judicial process.” Prior to the court’s decision, Pino had already settled the matter with the bank and was able to keep his home.
The court’s opinion reaffirms a prior decision from the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
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