DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA
January Term 2011
FLAGSTAR BANK, FSB, UNKNOWN SPOUSE OF TATYANA NUDEL,
MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. AS
NOMINEE FOR FLAGSTAR BANK, FSB, PALM BEACH COUNTY,
ADORNO & YOSS, LLP, UNKNOWN TENANT(S) IN POSSESSION, and
ALL OTHER UNKNOWN PARTIES
[May 18, 2011]
On June 30, 2009, Flagstar Bank sued Tatyana Nudel to foreclose a mortgage. According to the mortgage, Flagstar was defined as the lender” which lent Nudel $220,000; Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., (“MERS”) was the “mortgagee” under the instrument, acting as a “nominee” for Flagstar; and Nudel was the “[b]orrower.” Under section 22 of the mortgage, the “lender” Flagstar was entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs in foreclosure proceedings. MERS assigned the mortgage to Flagstar on August 21, 2009.
Nudel moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Flagstar lacked standing because MERS did not assign the bank the mortgage until after the bank filed the complaint. See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.140(b). The circuit court agreed, granted the motion, and dismissed the case without prejudice on March 29, 2010.1 Nudel moved for attorney’s fees and costs on April 15, relying in part on the attorney’s fee provision in the mortgage. The circuit court denied the motion for fees, accepting Flagstar’s argument that Nudel had waived entitlement to fees under Stockman v. Downs, 573 So. 2d 835 (Fla. 1991), and Sardon Foundation v. New Horizons Service Dogs, Inc., 852 So. 2d 416 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003), because she had not sought attorney’s fees in her motion to dismiss.
For the purpose of determining a “prevailing party” under section 57.105(7), we see no reason to distinguish between a voluntary dismissal without prejudice and a court’s involuntary dismissal without prejudice. This same conclusion was reached in Bank of New York v. Williams, 979 So. 2d 347 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008), where the first district affirmed an award i f prevailing party attorney’s fees on facts similar to those in this case. There, the bank sued the defendant to foreclose a mortgage. Id. at 347. The defendant moved to dismiss because the bank failed to show that it owned the mortgage and promissory note and, thus, it lacked standing to sue. Id. The court dismissed a complaint and amended complaint without prejudice; “[w]hen the Bank declined to file a second amended complaint, the trial court dismissed the amended complaint with prejudice.” Id. The bank did not appeal this order, but instead instituted a new foreclosure action. Id. In the first action, the court awarded the defendant prevailing party attorney’s fees and costs. Id.
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