A helpful presentation on the avenues and steps available to enforce a money judgment: Collecting on a Judgment by attorney Leonard Elias, Esq.
A judgment creditor sought to domesticate and enforce a foreign judgment in Florida. The judgment debtor challenged enforcement on the grounds that Florida lacked personal jurisdiction over the judgment debtor. The Second DCA determined that the judgment could be domesticated in Florida regardless of whether Florida had personal jurisdiction over the judgment debtor. In the context of domesticating a judgment, whether Florida had personal jurisdiction over judgment debtor was irrelevant. The judgment debtor could challenge domestication if the foreign court lacked personal jurisdiction over the judgment debtor, not if Florida lacked personal jurisdiction.
On February 25, 2010, an agreed final judgment of foreclosure was entered pursuant to a settlement agreement between the original lender and the defendants/appellees. On August 31, 2012, the defendants filed an objection to the sale and a rule 1.540(b) motion to vacate the February 2010 final judgment of foreclosure. The trial court denied the defendants’ motion.
The Fourth DCA ruled that a trial court loses jurisdiction to entertain a motion to vacate a final judgment under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540 (b) after one year, including motions for “fraud on the court,” and upheld the trial court’s ruling. Only “extrinsic fraud,” i.e., that fraud which is outside and collateral to the issues tried in the case, may be raised beyond the one year period.
In this products liability case, final judgment was entered in favor of the defendant following a four-week jury trial. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had committed fraud on the court and sought to set aside the final judgment pursuant to Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.540(b)(3).
The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion finding that the defendant (1) had destroyed evidence, (2) made false representations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), (3) improperly inquired on cross-examination about matters excluded from evidence by a motion in limine, and (4) presented false and misleading testimony through its experts.
After determining that the defendant had committed fraud on the court, the trial court struck the defendant’s answer and affirmative defenses, entered judgment on liability in favor of the plaintiff, and ordered a trial on the issue of damages. The defendant appealed the trial court’s order.
The Fifth DCA determined that:
Fraud on the court occurs where “it can be demonstrated, clearly and convincingly, that a party has sentiently set in motion some unconscionable scheme calculated to interfere with the judicial system’s ability impartially to adjudicate a matter by improperly influencing the trier of fact or unfairly hampering the presentation of the opposing party’s claim or defense.” citing Cox v. Burke, 706 So. 2d 43, 46 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998).
Reviewing the evidence submitted to the trial court on each of the four instances of purported fraud, the Fifth DCA determined that their was insufficient record evidence to support the trial court’s findings. The Fifth DCA overturned the trial court’s decision to grant the Rule 1.540(b)(3) motion, thereby effectively reinstating the final judgment in favor of the defendant.
Ford v. Stimpson, 5th District. Case No. 5D11-2787 (April 19, 2013).
In this case, the court entered a partial summary judgment on a counterclaim for monetary damages while the plaintiff’s affirmative claim was still pending. By including the phrase “for which let execution issue” in the judgment, the trial court attempted to permit the defendant to begin collection proceedings. The appellate court held that this was error as a matter of law and reversed, citing Millennium Group I, L.L.C. v. Attorney’s Title Ins. Fund, Inc., 847 So. 2d 1115 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003).
In this case, a defendant filed a motion in 2007 to set aside a default judgment that had been entered and recorded in 1993. He claimed that he never received pleadings in the case or the judgments themselves. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s finding that excusable neglect had not been established, because the appellant “advanced no reason for simply ignoring, for so many years, a lawsuit he knew had been filed and served upon him in 1990.”
Even after judgment has been satisfied a Defendant can move to set aside the satisfaction and
judgment using Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.540(b) to recapture a purported overpayment to the
Plaintiff based on alleged fraud by the Defendant. The decision distinguishes between motions
to set aside satisfaction brought by the Plaintiff versus the Defendant.
This case involved a loan to a nightclub which was secured by a second mortgage on the owner’s
residence and a security interest in the club’s liquor license. The
nightclub closed leading to this lawsuit and another case in which the club
owner was never served. After having judgment entered in this case and
satisfying that judgment, the club owner learned of the second case, through
which his investor had already taken ownership of the liquor license.
By taking the liquor license in a separate action, the club owner argued that the investor was
overpaid for his debts. And, as the investor had not notified the Court
of the second action, the club owner argued that the investor had committed fraud
on the Court.