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Can Financial, LLC v. Krazmien

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

August 1, 2018

CAN FINANCIAL, LLC, Appellant,
v.
DARYL R. KRAZMIEN a/k/a DARYL KRAZMIEN and LAURA KRAZMIEN a/k/a LAURA M. KRAZMIEN, Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Joseph Marx, Judge; L.T. Case No. 502017CA001330XXXXMB-AN.

          Damian G. Waldman of Law Offices of Damian G. Waldman, P.A., Largo, for appellant.

          Preston J. Fields, Sr. of Preston J. Fields, P.A., Palm Beach Gardens, for appellee.

          Forst, J.

         Appellant Can Financial, LLC ("Bank") appeals a final summary judgment that was entered in favor of Appellee Laura Krazmien ("Borrower"). The summary judgment was premised on the trial court's determination that Bank's foreclosure complaint against Borrower was barred by the statute of limitations applicable to foreclosure actions, as the complaint was filed more than five years after Borrower's debts were discharged in bankruptcy. The trial court erred in its application of the statute of limitations to this case. Thus, we reverse.

         Background

         Borrower's personal debts were discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy[1]on August 31, 2009. She made no further payments on her note and mortgage after the discharge. Bank filed an in rem action for foreclosure on February 2, 2017 alleging a February 5, 2012 default on Borrower's monthly installments, followed by subsequent defaults as Borrower had made no payments since January 2012. Borrower answered the complaint with the affirmative defense that Bank had only five years from the date that Borrower's debts were discharged in bankruptcy (August 31, 2009) to file the complaint, and that Bank failed to do so.

         Borrower relied upon this statute of limitations defense in moving for summary judgment. In granting the motion, the trial court made the following findings and conclusions of law: the debt memorialized in the note and mortgage was discharged in bankruptcy; no subsequent defaults occurred after the debt was discharged; Bank filed for foreclosure more than five years later; the foreclosure was barred by the five year statute of limitations of section 95.11(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2009); and a valid lien on the property would remain throughout the statute of repose. The order is before us on appeal.

         Analysis

         "The standard of review for a trial court's ruling on a summary judgment is de novo." Cabo Flats Jupiter, LLC v. Dawley, 236 So.3d 464, 465 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018). Likewise, "[g]enerally, 'the issue of whether [a] claim is barred by the statute of limitations is a question of law subject to de novo review.'" Access Ins. Planners, Inc. v. Gee, 175 So.3d 921, 924 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) (second alteration in original) (quoting Beltran v. Vincent P. Miraglia, M.D., P.A., 125 So.3d 855, 859 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013)).

         A Chapter 7 "bankruptcy discharge extinguishes only one mode of enforcing a claim-namely, an action against the debtor in personam- while leaving intact another-namely, an action against the debtor in rem." Johnson v. Home State Bank, 501 U.S. 78, 84 (1991) (discussing 11 U.S.C. §§ 522(c)(2), 524(a)(1)). "A mortgage is an interest in real property that secures a creditor's right to repayment." Id. at 82. "[A] creditor's right to foreclose on the mortgage survives or passes through the bankruptcy." Id. at 83.

         Following a bankruptcy discharge, a debtor has "three options with respect to property subject to a lien or mortgage: (1) surrender the property; (2) redeem the property; or (3) reaffirm the debt." Alvarez v. Bank of Am. Corp., No. 14-CV-60009-KAM, 2015 WL 12670510, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 17, 2015) (quoting In re Steinberg, 447 B.R. 355, 357 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. 2011)).

When a debtor is unwilling to enter into a reaffirmation agreement and unable to pay off the mortgage, the mortgagee may nonetheless determine that it does not wish to obtain its collateral or dispossess the debtor. The debtor may continue to make periodic mortgage payments in order to discourage the mortgagee from foreclosing on the property. The mortgagee may accept such payments and not seek to foreclose. Section 524(j) [of the Bankruptcy Code] recognizes this possibility and specifically empowers the mortgagee to take action ...

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