by Danielle Kelley, Esq., Senior Partner, Garfield, Gwaltney, Kelley and White:
I moved to dismiss two cases on several grounds – one that the allonge was not “firmly affixed”. This will become an issue as the banks scramble to file pleadings under HB87 that show they have the Note. The 1st DCA has now admitted there is a lack of caselaw in Florida on this issue – I’m hoping that one of these Judges (the one in Marianna who has already dismissed twice on one case) will issue an order agreeing.
1. The allonge attached to the Complaint does not meet the legal definition of what an allonge is: a firmly attached document to the Note, when there is no space on the bottom of the Note for endorsements. “An allonge is a piece of paper annexed to a negotiable instrument or promissory note, on which to write endorsements for which there is no room on the instrument itself. Such must be so firmly affixed thereto as to become a part thereof.” Black’s Law Dictionary 76 (6th ed.1990). Florida’s Uniform Commercial Code does not specifically mention an allonge, but notes that “[f]or the purpose of determining whether a signature is made on an instrument, a paper affixed to the instrument is part of the instrument.” § 673.2041(1), Fla. Stat. (1995). See Booker vs. Sarasota, 707 So.2d 886 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998)(footnote 1). See also Isaac v. Deutsche Bank Nat. Trust Co., 74 So. 3d 495 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011)(“An “allonge” is a piece of paper annexed to a negotiable instrument or promissory note, on which to write endorsements for which there is no room on the instrument itself; such must be so firmly affixed thereto as to become a part thereof.”).
2. There is no Florida case on point which provides guidance as to how an allonge must be physically attached to an instrument in order for it to become “firmly affixed” to same. Recently the First District Court of Appeal took notice of such in Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Bohatka, 1D11-3356, 2013 WL 1715439 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013), stating that “A body of caselaw has developed, primarily in other states and under the UCC, regarding the validity of an allonge and how it must be “affixed” to a note.4”). In footnote Four to that statement, the First District Court of Appeal wrote:
“See, e.g., Douglas J. Whaley, Mortgage Foreclosures, Promissory Notes, the Uniform Commercial Code, 39 W. St. U.L.Rev. 313, 318–19 (2012) (noting the “many new cases” that deal with allonges and the meaning of “affixed”). Professor Whaley continues, “It is not enough that there is a separate piece of paper which documents the transfer unless that piece of paper is “affixed” to the note. What does “affixed” mean? The common law required gluing. Would a paper clip do the trick? A staple?” Id. at 319 (footnotes omitted). To our knowledge, no Florida court has explored what type of affixation or annexation of an allonge is legally sufficient, nor has any court addressed the possibility of electronic attachment of allonges. See Patricia Brumfield Fry, James A. Newell, & Michael R. Gordon, Coming To A Screen Near You—“Emortgages”—Starring Good Laws And Prudent Standards—Rated “XML”, 62 Bus. Law. 295, 311 (Nov.2006) (noting that Freddie Mac addressed the possibility “that an electronic allonge be added to all eNotes that contains language addressing both the recourse and transfer warranty issues”).”
3. Thus, with this issue to date still uncertain, the Court can rely on the plain meaning of the words, “firmly affixed” and the Court may look to decisions of courts in other states for persuasive authority. To begin, two reasons have been cited for the “firmly affixed” rule: (1) to prevent fraud; and (2) to preserve a traceable chain of title. See Adams v. Madison Realty & Development, Inc., 853 F. 2d. 163, 167 (3rd Cir. 1988). A draft of the 1951 version of the UCC Article 3 included the comment that “[t]he indorsement must be written on the instrument itself or an allonge, which, as defined in Section___, is a strip of paper so firmly pasted, stapled or otherwise affixed to the instrument as to become part of it.” ALI, Comments & Notes to Tentative Draft No. 1-Article III 114 (1946), reprinted in 2 Elizabeth Slusser Kelly, Uniform Commercial Code Drafts 311, 424 (1984). More recently, however, courts have held that “stapling is the modern equivalent of gluing or pasting.” See Lamson v. Commercial Cred. Corp., 187 Colo. 382 (Colo. 1975). See also Southwestern Resolution Corp. v. Watson, 964 S.W. 2d 262 (Texas 1997)(holding that an allonge stabled to the back of a promissory note is valid so long as there is no room on the note for endorsement but affixed does not include paperclips.). Regardless of the exact method of affixation, numerous cases have rejected indorsements made on a separate sheet of paper loosely inserted into a folder with the instrument and not physically attached in any way. See Town of Freeport v. Ring, 1999 Me. 48 (Maine 1999); Adams v. Madison Realty & Development, Inc., 853 F. 2d 163 (3d Cir. 1988); Big Builders, Inc. v. Israel, 709 A. 2d 74 (D.C. 1988).