Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Supreme Court hears foreclosure appeal

TALLAHASSEE — In a case that could impact thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure, Florida's Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on whether a judge can revive a dropped case when the plaintiff is suspected of fraud.

The justices took up Pino vs. The Bank of New York, a Palm Beach County case in which drywall hanger Roman Pino accused his bank of fraudulently backdating documents used against him in foreclosure proceedings.

The bank dropped the foreclosure case, corrected the paperwork and refiled five months later. The parties reached a settlement, but justices still wanted to rule on whether a plaintiff's right to drop a case trumps the court's obligation to penalize for fraud.

This is the first time Florida's high court has taken up a foreclosure case since the housing collapse.

"This is an issue of great concern because it's greater than what goes on in the foreclosure area," Justice Barbara Pariente said.

At issue is a Florida law that allows plaintiffs one chance to voluntarily dismiss a case and bring it back later.

In most cases, the rule is used when an attorney makes an honest mistake or a curveball leaves a plaintiff unprepared. But attorneys for Pino argue that banks routinely exploit the rule to evade fraud accusations.

"This law was not intended as a shield," argued Amanda Lundergan, Pino's attorney.

The court decision could bruise any plaintiff accused of presenting fraudulent documents to the courts. But it offers widespread implications for banks, often accused of cutting corners to keep up with the state's flood of foreclosures.

Lundergan argued the court has a duty to preserve its own credibility, but justices cut her off and hammered her with questions about why they should change a rule that didn't cause harm to the homeowner.

"We have mechanisms in place to prevent fraud. The attorney in this case has been reported to the Bar," Justice Barbara Pariente said.

Lundergan replied, "It sets up a system where every litigant who comes to Florida court has not only been condoned, but encouraged, to lie, to cheat, to steal, knowing that if they are caught, they can voluntarily dismiss."

Pariente shot back, "I understand there are some things that have happened on a grand scale that have been an embarrassment to the industry and to the legal system … but we want to make sure we're faithful to common law and to the rules."

Chief Justice Charles Canady also came down hard on Lundergan.

"What it seems like to me, you're just looking for a 'gotcha' to get out of the mortgage. Am I wrong?" he said.

"Absolutely wrong," Lundergan replied. "This is not about Mr. Pino. This is about the bank and the fraud that was committed."

The justices seemed friendlier toward Bruce Rogow, the bank's attorney, who argued that changing the rules could upset the housing market and contradict case law.

Lundergan did not seek damages for Pino and would not comment on Pino's settlement with the bank. But Palm Beach County property records show he still owns his home, which he bought for $203,000 in 2006, at the height of the boom.

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at bdavis@tampabay.com.

Florida Supreme Court hears foreclosure appeal 05/10/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 10, 2012 11:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The winner of 'Survivor: Game Changers?' It has to be Jeff Probst

    Blogs

    But Tampa Bay fans are more interested in whether local lawyer and ex-Buccaneer Brad Culpepper came out on top. After winning five - count ‘em five - challenges Culpepper made probably the most serious error in taking Sarah Lacina. the 33-year-old police officer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to the finals with him.

  2. To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an undercover operation. They created their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened. That was two years ago, and on Wednesday wildlife officers announced that they arrested nine people on  44 felony charges alleging they broke wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy. The wildlife commission released these photos of alligators, eggs and hatchlings taken during the undercover operation. [Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  3. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  4. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux

    Transportation

    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  5. Hailed as 'pioneers,' students from St. Petersburg High's first IB class return 30 years later

    Education

    ST. PETERSBURG — The students came from all over Pinellas County, some enduring hot bus rides to a school far from home. At first, they barely knew what to call themselves. All they knew was that they were in for a challenge.

    Class of 1987 alumni Devin Brown, from left, and D.J. Wagner, world history teacher Samuel Davis and 1987 graduate Milford Chavous chat at their table.