Posted on 07 September 2011.
DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA
July Term 2011
GARY GLARUM and ANITA GLARUM,
LASALLE BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, as Trustee for
Merrill Lynch Mortgage Investors Trust, Mortgage Loan Asset-Backed Certificates, Series 2006-FFI, FIRST WELLINGTON, INC., a dissolved
corporation, WELLINGTON SHORES HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION,
GREENVIEW SHORES NO.2 AT WELLINGTON HOMEOWNERS
ASSOCIATION, GREENVIEW SHORES HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION,
FIRST FRANKLIN FINANCIAL CORPORATION, and any unknown
heirs, devisees, grantees, creditors, and other unknown persons or
unknown spouses claiming by, through and under any of the abovenamed
[September 7, 2011]
This appeal presents two issues. First, we consider whether the trial
court improperly granted a summary judgment of foreclosure in favor of
LaSalle Bank. We also consider whether the trial court erred in
sanctioning appellants’ counsel for filing frivolous pleadings pursuant to
section 57.105, Florida Statutes. We reverse the trial court’s entry of
summary judgment in favor of LaSalle in part, as LaSalle’s summary
judgment evidence was insufficient to establish the amount due to
LaSalle under the note and mortgage. We likewise reverse the entry of
sanctions against appellants’ counsel as improper. However, we find no
merit in appellants’ contention that LaSalle lacked standing to seek
Appellants admitted in their answer that they had not made payments
according to the terms of the note, and as such, they were in default.
Appellants, however, denied LaSalle’s allegations regarding the amount
of the default. To establish the amount of appellants’ indebtedness for
summary judgment, LaSalle filed the affidavit of Ralph Orsini, a “specialist”
at the loan servicer, Home Loan Services, Inc. Orsini claimed
in the affidavit that appellants were in default of their payment
obligations and owed in excess of $340,000 on the note. In opposition to
the motion for summary judgment, appellants filed Orsini’s deposition,
wherein Orsini explained that he derived the $340,000 figure from his
company’s computer system. However, Orsini did not know who entered
the data into the computer, and he could not verify that the entries were
correct at the time they were made. To calculate appellants’ payment
history, Orsini relied in part on data retrieved from Litton Loan Servicing,
a prior servicer of appellants’ loan.
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510(c) requires a party moving for
summary judgment to “identify any affidavits, answers to interrogatories,
admissions, depositions, and other materials as would be admissible in
evidence.” If this evidence, taken in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, shows no genuine issue of material fact, the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Volusia Cnty. v. Aberdeen at
Ormond Beach, L.P., 760 So. 2d 126, 130 (Fla. 2000).
We find that Orsini’s affidavit constituted inadmissible hearsay and,
as such, could not support LaSalle’s motion for summary judgment.
Pursuant to section 90.803(6)(a), Florida Statutes, documentary evidence
may be admitted into evidence as business records if the proponent of
the evidence demonstrates the following through a record’s custodian:
(1) the record was made at or near the time of the event; (2)
was made by or from information transmitted by a person
with knowledge; (3) was kept in the ordinary course of a
regularly conducted business activity; and (4) that it was a
regular practice of that business to make such a record.
Yisrael v. State, 993 So. 2d 952, 956 (Fla. 2008).
Orsini did not know who, how, or when the data entries were made
into Home Loan Services’s computer system. He could not state if the
records were made in the regular course of business. He relied on data
supplied by Litton Loan Servicing, with whose procedures he was even
less familiar. Orsini could state that the data in the affidavit was
accurate only insofar as it replicated the numbers derived from the
company’s computer system. Despite Orsini’s intimate knowledge of how
his company’s computer system works, he had no knowledge of how that
data was produced, and he was not competent to authenticate that data.
Accordingly, Orsini’s statements could not be admitted under section
90.803(6)(a), and the affidavit of indebtedness constituted inadmissible
hearsay. Because LaSalle presented no competent evidence to show
$422,677.85 in damages, the amount of the judgment to which LaSalle is
entitled remains at issue. Therefore, we reverse the entry of judgment in
favor of LaSalle and remand for further proceedings.
The trial court also entered sanctions against appellants’ counsel for
filing a “form affidavit” from an expert, Rita Lord, who opined on the
ability of lay persons to distinguish between original and high-quality
copies of promissory notes. Lord did not represent in the affidavit that
she reviewed the papers at issue in this case. Nevertheless, the trial
court was distressed by appellants’ counsel’s habit of filing “the same
affidavit in ten different cases, when [Lord] hasn’t seen the documents in
this case.” The court awarded LaSalle its reasonable attorney’s fees for
having to file a motion to strike Lord’s affidavit.
We note that LaSalle moved for sanctions under section 57.105,
Florida Statutes. That statute permits a trial court to award a
“reasonable attorney’s fee” to the “prevailing party” where the plaintiff’s
claim was frivolous or to a party to compensate for the opposing party’s
dilatory conduct. § 57.105(1)-(2), Fla. Stat. The trial court did not find
that appellants’ claims were frivolous, a n d th e trial court did not
conclude that Lord’s affidavit was filed to cause unreasonable delay.
Thus, section 57.105 could not serve as a basis for the award of
attorney’s fees to LaSalle.
To the extent that the trial court may have been exercising its
inherent authority to sanction parties or their attorneys, we also find
error. “[A] trial court possesses the inherent authority to impose
attorneys’ fees against an attorney for bad faith conduct.” Moakley v.
Smallwood, 826 So. 2d 221, 226 (Fla. 2002). To impose attorney’s fees
as a sanction under its inherent authority, the trial court must make an
“express finding of bad faith conduct” that is “supported by detailed
factual findings describing the specific acts of bad faith conduct that
resulted in the unnecessary incurrence of attorneys’ fees.” Id. at 227.
The trial court did not make any specific findings of bad faith on the
record, and the sanctions order must be reversed without prejudice. See
Finol v. Finol, 912 So. 2d 627, 629 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005). “Upon remand,
should the court be asked to reconsider the issue, any future hearing
and order must comply with the requirements of Moakley.” Id.
In summary, we reverse the judgment of foreclosure and the entry of
sanctions against appellants’ counsel a n d remand for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.
CIKLIN, LEVINE, JJ., and THORNTON, JOHN W., JR., Associate Judge, concur.
* * *
Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm
Beach County; Meenu Sasser, Judge; L.T. Case No. CA08-028930 AW.
Thomas Ice of Ice legal, P.A., Royal Palm Beach, for appellant.
Thomasina F. Moore and Dennis W. Moore of Butler & Hosch, P.A.,
Orlando, for appellee LaSalle Bank National Association.
Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing
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