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Supreme Court of Florida
February 7, 2013, Decided
[*25] REVISED OPINION
The issue we address in this case involves an interpretation of the applicable Florida Rules of Civil Procedure [**2] governing voluntary dismissals and the extent of the trial court's inherent authority to remedy alleged fraud on the court through the reinstatement of a dismissed lawsuit. Although the context of the issue as presented in this case arises out of a widespread problem associated with fraudulent documentation filed by various financial institutions seeking to foreclose on real property throughout the state, the specific question we confront centers on the proper interpretation of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure pertaining to voluntary dismissals and the extent of a trial court's inherent authority, which is an issue that affects all civil cases in this state.
This case is not about whether a trial court has the authority in an ongoing civil proceeding to impose sanctions on a party who has filed fraudulent documentation with the court. Rather, the specific and narrow question we are asked to resolve is whether an allegation of fraud on the court empowers a trial court to strike a notice of voluntary dismissal, which was properly served by the plaintiff pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.420(a)(1), to reinstate the dismissed action in order to then again dismiss the action [**3] with prejudice as a consequent sanction.1 In this case, the defendant in the trial court, Roman Pino, who had defaulted on his mortgage, sought to have a notice of voluntary dismissal of the mortgage foreclosure action struck and the case reinstated in order for the trial court to then dismiss the action with prejudice as a sanction to the mortgage holder for allegedly filing fraudulent documentation regarding ownership of the mortgage note.
Sitting en banc, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Pino v. Bank of New York Mellon, 57 So. 3d 950, 952 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011), held that a trial court lacks the authority to set aside a plaintiff's notice of voluntary dismissal at the request of a defendant where the plaintiff has not obtained any affirmative relief before dismissing the case. Because the underlying [*26] facts of this case centered on the broader issue of mortgage foreclosure complaints that appeared to be tainted by fraudulent documentation filed on behalf of various [**4] financial institutions, the Fourth District certified the following question as one of great public importance:
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
121 So. 3d 23 *; 2013 Fla. LEXIS 205 **; 38 Fla. L. Weekly S 168; 2013 WL 452109
ROMAN PINO, Petitioner, vs. THE BANK OF NEW YORK, etc., et al., Respondents.
Prior History: [**1] Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Certified Great Public Importance. (Palm Beach County). Fourth District - Case No. 4D10-378.
Pino v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, 57 So. 3d 950, 2011 Fla. App. LEXIS 4341 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist., 2011)
voluntary dismissal, trial court, notice, affirmative relief, sanctions, mortgage, fraudulent, reinstate, inherent authority, cases, voluntarily dismissed, dismiss an action, relieve, foreclosure action, documentation, allegations, parties, decree, merits, adverse impact, foreclose, assignment of a mortgage, safe harbor provision, mortgage foreclosure, fraudulent conduct, invoked, amended complaint, allege fraud, impacted, lawsuit
Commercial Law (UCC), Definitions & General Provisions, Definitions, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Sanctions, Baseless Filings, Bad Faith Motions, Frivolous Lawsuits, Judgments, Entry of Judgments, Multiple Claims & Parties, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Dismissal, Voluntary Dismissals, Notice of Dismissal, Court Order, Signature Requirements, Real Property Law, Financing, Foreclosures