Thursday, September 22, 2011
Law firm warns of foreclosure ruling's effect
WEST PALM BEACH — The national law firm of Greenberg Traurig issued an alert this week warning its lawyers that a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling in favor of Palm Beach County homeowners could "dramatically change the foreclosure landscape in Florida."
The Sept. 7 decision in the case of Gary and Anita Glarum vs. LaSalle Bank says that an affidavit of indebtedness submitted by the bank was hearsay because the person who signed it did not have personal knowledge of the case. It reversed a 2010 Palm Beach County Circuit Court summary judgment that said the Glarums owed the bank $422,677.
"This decision could have broad, sweeping application in the lending and loan servicing industries and affect thousands of foreclosure cases, among other types of cases, currently pending in Florida courts," says the alert posted on Greenberg Traurig's website. The Orlando-based firm of Butler & Hosch represented LaSalle Bank in the case, but Greenberg Traurig also is a bank representative.
The amount the circuit court said the Glarums owed was based on an affidavit of indebtedness signed by loan servicer employee Ralph Orsini, who pulled the information from a company computer - a move that appeals court judges said amounts to hearsay. The court's ruling means the home can't go to foreclosure sale until the bank either gets another summary judgment or goes to trial. The plaintiffs have 15 days to file for a rehearing.
Ice Legal of Royal Palm Beach represents the Glarums, who have been in foreclosure since 2008 and continue to live in the home. Ice Legal founder Tom Ice said the alert is a "transparent attempt to influence" the court to change its ruling .
"Being denied a prohibited shortcut may cost the banks a little more, but given that they are the deep pockets here, pockets lined with our own taxpayer money, the ruling is hardly unfair or earth- shaking," he said.
Greenberg Traurig writes that the Glarum decision is the first case to specifically hold that an affidavit of a loan servicer relying on computer records is inadmissible hearsay because the affidavit was unable to identify who made the data entries, or how or when they were made.
"In the context of foreclosure matters, Glarum is especially concerning given the fact that the lending community uniformly relies upon computer data, including data from prior servicers, when drafting affidavits of indebtedness in support of summary judgment motions," the alert notes.
It says the appeals court sent a "strong statement" that "may have achieved the unintended result of dramatically changing the foreclosure landscape in Florida."