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On January 14, 2021, the United States Supreme Court handed down their decision in City of Chicago v. Fulton, No. 19-357, 2021 WL 125106 (Jan. 14, 2021). The question before the Court was whether an entity violates §362(a)(3) by retaining possession of a debtor’s property after a bankruptcy petition is filed. The Court held that mere retention of estate property after the filing of a bankruptcy petition does not violate §362(a)(3) of the Bankruptcy Code.
Until this decision, the majority position held by the Second, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits was that the automatic stay prohibited a creditor’s passive retention of property seized before a bankruptcy case began. Weber v. SEFCU (In re Weber), 719 F.3d 72, 81 (2d Cir. 2013); Thompson v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 566 F.3d 699 (7th Cir. 2009), Knaus v. Concordia Lumber Co. (In re Knaus), 889 F.2d 773, 775 (8th Cir. 1989); California Emp’t Dev. Dep’t v. Taxel (In re Del Mission Ltd.), 98 F.3d 1147, 1151 (9th Cir. 1996); Motors Acceptance Corp. v. Rozier (In re Rozier), 376 F.3d 1323, 1324 (11th Cir. 2004).
Florida Supreme Court Holds Borrower is Entitled to Attorney’s Fees Despite Bank’s Failure to Prove Standing at the Inception of the Case
On December 31, 2020, in Page v. Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, No. SC19-1137, the Florida Supreme Court quashed the Fourth DCA’s ruling that the borrower was not entitled to attorney’s fees due to the bank's failure to prove standing, and approved the decisions made in Madl v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 244 So. 3d 1134 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017) and Harris v. Bank of New York Mellon, 2018 WL 6816177 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018).
In Page, the lower court held that the bank did not prove standing at the time the complaint was filed, but did establish standing at trial. The Fourth DCA ruled that the borrower who successfully argues that the bank lacked standing at the time the suit was filed cannot rely on the contract to obtain attorney’s fees under Fla. Stat. section 57.105(7).
The Fourth DCA in Page certified conflict with the Fifth DCA’s decision in Madl and the Second DCA’s decision in Harris. Both Madl and Harris held that a prevailing borrower is entitled to attorney’s fees if it is established that plaintiff became subject to the unilateral fee provision in the contract. In other words, if plaintiff lacks standing at the time the suit was filed, but subsequently establishes standing at trial, then the borrower is entitled to attorney’s fees under section 57.105(7). By contrast, in Page, the Fourth DCA did not give weight to the fact that the plaintiff subsequently established standing at trial.
Florida’s Fourth DCA Confirms the One-Year Statute of Limitations for a Deficiency Action Brought Within a Foreclosure Case
On December 9, 2020, in Accardi v. Regions Bank, No. 4D20-0662, the Fourth DCA held that the one-year statute of limitations specified in section 95.11(5)(h), Fla. Stat., applies to a motion for deficiency judgment brought within an existing mortgage foreclosure action. The Court also determined the limitation period began with the issuance of the Certificate of Title.
On December 31, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court amended Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510, that goes into effect May 2021.
The amended rule adopts the federal summary judgment standard. Prior to the amendment, Florida courts and the federal courts had not been aligned in their controlling summary judgment standard.
Prior to this amendment, there were two relevant differences between the Florida and the Federal summary judgment standards:
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