4th DCA Holds That Property’s Incorrect Legal Description Does NOT Require A New Case To Be Filed Or Warrant Dismissal

The 4th District Court of Appeal (DCA) in Florida recently held that an erroneous legal description in a foreclosure judgment did not require dismissal of the foreclosure case and the filing of a new lawsuit.

In the case, the lower court issued judgment to Fannie Mae in an uncontested foreclosure case.  After the foreclosure sale and issuance of title, the Fannie Mae discovered the legal description of the property contained an error.  Fannie Mae moved to vacate the title, sale, and judgment to correct the legal description.  In doing so, the lower court also dismissed the case without notice and rehearing was denied.

On appeal Fannie Mae argued that it had the right to vacate the sale and judgment to amend the legal description and have a new final judgment entered with the correct legal description.

The court considered Epstein v. Bank of Am., 162 So. 3d 159, 162 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) (quoting Lucas v. Barnett Bank of Lee Cnty., 705 So. 2d 115, 116 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998)) which found that:

When a mortgage contains an incorrect legal description, a court may correct the mistake before foreclosure. If, however, the mistaken legal description is not corrected before final judgment of foreclosure, and the mistake is carried into the advertisement for sale and the foreclosure deed, a court cannot reform the mistake in the deed and judgment; rather, the foreclosure process must begin anew. 

 The court also looked to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Giesel, 155 So. 3d 411 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014) where the 1st DCA reversed a case with similar facts where the lower court dismissed the case.  The reasoning in Giesel was that the parties were returned to their “original status” which did not require dismissal because “the plaintiff can simply amend the complaint to correct the erroneous legal description”

The 4th DCA used this reasoning to reverse the lower court’s dismissal of the case to allow the bank to correct the erroneous legal description and have a new judgment entered with such.

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