FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
from the Circuit Court for Brevard County, Tonya B.
Stephen Joseph Biggie, of Arcadier, Biggie and Wood, PLLC,
Melbourne, for Appellant.
M. Talley, of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell &
Berkowitz, PC, Orlando, for Appellee, Bachu C. Patel.
Appearance for Other Appellees.
ROBERSON, E.C., ASSOCIATE JUDGE.
and Recovery of Assets, Inc. ("CRA") challenges the
trial court's limitation of its judgment against Dr.
Bachu Patel pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure
1.540(b)(5). Because we find that the trial court did not
abuse its discretion, we affirm.
Rajiv Chandra and Patel were involved in multiple business
ventures, including the loan and, ultimately, the judgment at
issue in this case. Zeta Medical, LLC, of which Chandra and
Patel had membership interests through other corporations
they owned, purchased a medical office building. Zeta Medical
took out a revolving line of credit through a note that was
secured, in part, by a mortgage on the medical building.
Chandra and Patel both personally guaranteed the debt owed by
Zeta Medical. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., ultimately acquired the
note, mortgage, and guaranties.
Zeta Medical defaulted on the loan, Wells Fargo obtained
partial summary judgment against Chandra and Patel personally
and jointly and severally on the guaranties. Wells
Fargo's action for foreclosure remained pending as did
cross-claims that Chandra and Patel filed against each other
for fraud. Thereafter, Chandra formed CRA and was its sole
owner. CRA then purchased the summary judgment and loan
documents from Wells Fargo. After being substituted as the
party plaintiff, CRA then began post-judgment collection
efforts seeking to recover the entire amount from Patel.
years later, with the forced sale of his real property
looming, Patel sought relief from the judgment under Rule
1.540(b)(5). Patel, relying on Weitzman v. F.I.F.
Consultants, Inc., 468 So.2d 1085 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985),
argued that CRA's purchase of the judgment was a change
in circumstances that made it inequitable to enforce the
entire amount of the judgment against him. The sale was
stayed when Patel posted a bond, equaling nearly half of the
judgment amount, into the court registry. A full evidentiary
hearing on Patel's Amended Motion for Relief from
Judgment was held several months later.
hearing, Patel argued that he and Chandra, as co-guarantors,
were each liable to Wells Fargo for half of the total amount
of the guaranteed loan. Thus, Patel claimed that it was
inequitable to allow Chandra to shift that liability entirely
to him through CRA's purchase of the judgment and loan
the other hand, argued that Patel had an adequate remedy at
law by seeking contribution from Chandra's estate.
However, CRA represented to the trial court (but not in its
appellate briefing) that:
[t]he real reason [Patel] will not file a contribution action
is because he is so overwhelmingly indebted to Dr. Chandra,
now the estate of Dr. Chandra, . . . that any claim for
contribution would be reduced to zero by setoff.
trial court held that CRA's purchase of the summary
judgment and loan documents was a change in circumstances
that warranted the court invoking its equitable powers. The
court, relying on Weitzman, found that it was no
longer equitable that the summary judgment should have
prospective application and limited Patel's ...