Miami Appellate Court Reverses Foreclosure Judgment Because the Bank Failed to Properly Perfect Service of Process

rocket docket 001z.jpgThe 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County is under a lot of strain. The strain stems from a “perfect storm” of events. First, the real estate collapse led to an explosion of foreclosure filings in Miami. Second, the real estate collapse also triggered an extreme economic down turn. That resulted in the court system, and, in particular, the courts here in Miami, to lose much needed financial resources. So the end result is that our courts have been asked to do more with less.

The courts initially tried to balance the interests of those being foreclosed on with the growing weight of increased filings. In Miami, a program was initiated that required all parties to attend mediation within a set time frame after the filing of a foreclosure. Filing fees were also substantially increased for banks filing foreclosures. Yet, these programs did very little to either slow the overwhelming number of foreclosures being filed, or help struggling homeowners.

As a result, the judiciary took it upon themselves to try and push these cases through the judicial system to help alleviate the strain our judiciary was facing given the foreclosure crises. The creation of the “rocket docket” has helped lower the amount of foreclosures currently pending in our judicial system, and possibly even helped fuel the real estate recovery that is currently underway.

But the “rocket docket” is not without its problems. The rush to judgment may actually create more work for the judiciary if proper procedure is not followed prior to judgment being entered.

For instance, the Third District Court of Appeal in Peysina v. Deutsche Bank reversed a judgment that was entered against the homeowner in large part because of the court’s rush to judgment and failure to follow proper procedure. Peysina stemmed from a judgment of foreclosure against Natalie Peysina. Peysina argued that service of process was not properly perfected on her at the commencement of the lawsuit. Apparently, the Bank was unsuccessful at serving Peysina and chose publication as an alternate route. The trial court ruled that service was proper and immediately moved for trial on the foreclosure.

The Third District Court of Appeal, reversed that ruling, stating that the trial court failed to hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the service of process. The court also explained that service of process by publication requires a conscientious and honest effort, appropriate to the circumstances, which must be made to acquire necessary information.

Moreover, the record does not demonstrate that the Bank exerted an appropriate effort under the circumstances to be able to effectuate personal service upon Peysina. For these reasons the trial court must conduct an evidentiary hearing to ascertain enough information to make a ruling on the service of process. Once this has been determined then the foreclosure hearing can be determined.