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Escalona v. Gulf Coast Readers, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

January 2, 2018

ANNIA ESCALONA, an individual Plaintiff,
v.
GULF COAST READERS, INC., ARCO MEDIA, INC., RHONDA MOULDER and ANTHONY E. MOULDER, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CAROL MIRANDO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon review of Plaintiff's Motion to Release Funds (Doc. 34), construed as a Motion for Final Judgment of Garnishment[1] Against Garnishee Bank of the Ozarks, filed on December 12, 2017. Plaintiff seeks to have the Court order garnishee, Bank of the Ozarks, to release $5, 091.96 to satisfy the judgment (Doc. 23) against Defendants. Doc. 34 at 3. Plaintiff also seeks to have the Court award, and order Garnishee to relinquish, an additional $160.00 in court costs Plaintiff has incurred in satisfying the judgment. Id.

         On November 29, 2016, Plaintiff obtained default judgment against all Defendants. Doc. 22. Plaintiff was awarded statutory damages, including liquidated damages, against Defendants jointly and severally in the amount of $1, 506.96. Id. at 7. Plaintiff also was awarded $3, 185.00 in attorney's fees and $400.00 in costs pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), also against Defendants jointly and severally. Id. at 8. Judgment was entered against Defendants on December 2, 2016. Doc. 23.

         Subsequently, the Court issued a Writ of Garnishment to Bank of the Ozarks in the amount of $5, 091.96, summoning Bank of the Ozarks to serve an answer stating whether it was indebted to Defendants. Doc. 26. On August 10, 2017, Bank of the Ozarks filed an Answer to the Writ of Garnishment, stating that it was not indebted to Defendants, but it was in possession of a deposit account belonging to Gulf Coast Readers, Inc. (“GCR”).[2] Doc. 28 ¶ 3. On August 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Notice to Defendants of Writ of Garnishment Pursuant to Section 77.055, Florida Statutes and Certificate of Service. Doc. 29. Plaintiff stated she served this notice upon Defendants on August 15, 2017, and advised Defendants that they must move to dissolve the Writ of Garnishment on or before September 4, 2017. Id. On August 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to nullify Defendant Moulder's claim of exemption, stating Moulder did not properly file his claim of exemption with the Court, but mailed it to Plaintiff's counsel only. Doc. 31 at 4. The undersigned subsequently granted Plaintiff's motion to nullify Moulder's claim of exemption (Doc. 33), and on December 12, 2017 Plaintiff filed this motion seeking to have Bank of the Ozarks release the garnished funds. Doc. 34.

         When obtaining a garnishment on a money judgment obtained in federal court, the party seeking the garnishment must follow the procedure of the state where the court is located - here, Florida. Fed.R.Civ.P. 69(a)(1). According to Section 77.083, Florida Statutes, judgment against the garnishee on the garnishee's answer “shall be entered for the amount of his or her liability as disclosed by the answer.” (1995). “No judgment in excess of the amount remaining unpaid on the final judgment against the defendant . . . shall be entered against the garnishee.” Id.

         Here, the amount remaining unpaid on the final judgment against the defendant is $1, 506.96 in statutory damages, $3, 185.00 in attorney's fees, and $400.00 in costs, for a total of $5, 091.96. See Doc. 22 at 7-8, Doc. 23 at 1. Accordingly, the undersigned can only recommend that judgment be entered against the garnishee up to a total of $5, 091.96. See Fla. Stat. § 77.083. Because the garnishee's answer indicates that it is in possession of a deposit account belonging to GCR in the amount of $77, 073.56 (Doc. 28 ¶ 3), the Court recommends that judgment be entered against the garnishee, Bank of the Ozarks, for the full amount remaining unpaid on the final judgment: $5, 091.96. See Doc. 22 at 7-8, Doc. 23 at 1; see also, Fla. Stat. § 77.083. The undersigned recommends denying without prejudice Plaintiff's request for an additional $160.00 in court costs to satisfy the judgment with leave for Plaintiff to file an appropriate motion and supplemental brief on the Court's authority to grant such a request.

         ACCORDINGLY, it is respectfully

         RECOMMENDED:

         1. That Plaintiff's Motion to Release Funds (Doc. 34), construed as a Motion for Final Judgment of Garnishment Against Garnishee Bank of the Ozarks be GRANTED in part and that the Clerk be directed to enter judgment against garnishee, Bank of the Ozarks, for the total amount of $5, 091.96.

         2. That Plaintiff's Motion to Release Funds (Doc. 34), construed as a Motion for Judgment Against Garnishee Bank of the Ozarks, be DENIED in part without prejudice with respect to Plaintiff's request for an additional award of $160.00 in court costs for supplementary proceedings.

         3. That Plaintiff be permitted to file an appropriate motion and supplemental brief on the Court's authority to grant Plaintiff's request for an additional award of $160.00 in court costs for supplementary proceedings and for judgment against garnishee, Bank of the Ozarks, for such amount.

         DONE and ENTERED.

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