4th DCA
4th DCA (Melanie Bell)

The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed deficiency judgments and other rulings Wednesday, examining the adequacy of purchase prices, claims of discovery violations and errors during the foreclosure sale process.

In a series of cases brought by Vantium Capital Inc., the court reversed orders by Senior Broward Circuit Judge Robert B. Carney denying motions for deficiency judgment based on the notion that Vantium established only a bid price at each foreclosure sale.

“The trial court held a single hearing to address Vantium’s deficiency claims in all three cases,” according to the four-page ruling written by Judge Carole Taylor. “None of the debtors appeared at the hearing.”

Court documents show Vantium repeatedly coming up short on its recoveries, $21,100 on a $276,000 award,

$162,700 on a $200,000 judgment and $21,100 on nearly a $200,000 judgment.

That’s why Vantium argued the trial court was wrong to deny its claim for a deficiency judgment resulting from the mortgage foreclosure sales—an argument the appeals court accepted.

In another reversal, the court allowed PNC Bank N.A. to escape a ruling that would have dismissed the bank’s foreclosure case with prejudice due to discovery violations.

The bank argued Broward Circuit Judge Marina Garcia-Wood was mistaken in dismissing its foreclosure case because of discovery violations. It said the defendants strategically filed multiple discovery requests in bad faith to delay the foreclosure, and the bank’s attorneys and responded quickly and efficiently.

“When a trial court dismisses a complaint with prejudice, it must first consider whether a less severe sanction is appropriate,” Judge Melanie May wrote. “We feel the trial court’s frustration. But as the bank argues, the homeowners made numerous confusing and cumulative discovery requests while failing to file a responsive pleading for two years.”

Continuing its reversal streak, the court cited an “undisputed mistake” in a ruling favoring US Bank N.A.

In 2012, Palm Beach Circuit Judge Eli Breger entered a final foreclosure judgment of $118,063. The appeal centered on the adequacy of the purchase price after a series of errors and miscommunications.

During the foreclosure, a new staffer inadvertently caused the bank’s attorney to miss placing a $51,000 bid on the property. The bidding date changed twice, and the new employee dropped the ball by allowing a third party, Chris Greaves, to purchase the property for $35,200. U.S. Bank objected and moved to set aside the sale.

“Because it was undisputed that a mistake occurred, the trial court grossly abused its discretion in denying the motion to vacate,” Taylor wrote. “We reverse.”