Fla 2d DCA: HELOC Instrument Not Self-Authenticating Article 3 Note

Just because an instrument is not self-authenticating doesn’t mean it can’t be authenticated. Here the Plaintiff could not authenticate the note without the legal presumption of self-authentication and all the legal presumptions that follow.  And that is the point here. They came to court without evidence and in this case the court turned them away.

Florida courts, along with courts around the country, are gradually inching their way to the application of existing law, thus eroding the dominant premise that if the Plaintiff is a bank, they should win, regardless of law.

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see HELOC Not Negotiable Instrument and Therefore Not Self Authenticating

This decision is neither novel nor complicated. A note can be admitted into evidence as self-authenticating without extrinsic evidence (parol evidence) IF it is a negotiable instrument under the State adoption of the UCC as State Law.

The inquiry as to whether a promissory note is a negotiable instrument is simple:

  • Does the body of the note claim to memorialize an unconditional promise
  • to pay a fixed amount
  • (editor’s addition) to an identified Payee? [This part is assumed since the status of the “lender” depends upon how and why it came into possession of the note.]

A note memorializing a line of credit is. by definition, not a fixed amount. Case closed, the “lender” lost and it was affirmed in this decision. There was no other choice.

The only reason why this became an issue was because counsel for the homeowner timely raised a clearly worded objection to the note as not being a negotiable instrument and therefore not being self-authenticating. And without the note, the mortgage, which is not a negotiable instrument, is meaningless anyway.

This left the foreclosing party with the requirement that they prove their case with real evidence and not be allowed to avoid that burden of proof using legal presumptions arising from the facial validity of  a negotiable instrument.

The typical response from the foreclosing party essentially boils down to this: “Come on Judge we all know the note was signed, we all know the payments stopped, we all know that the loan is in default. Why should we clog up the court system using legal technicalities.”

What is important about this case is the court’s position on that “argument” (to ignore the law and just get on with it). “This distinction is not esoteric legalese. Florida law is clear that a “negotiable instrument” is “an unconditional promise or order to pay a fixed amount of money, with or without interest or other charges described in the promise or order.”§ 673.1041(1), Fla. Stat. (2012) (emphasis added).”

So THAT means that if the trial court is acting properly it will apply the laws of the state and THAT requires the court to rule based upon the UCC and cases involving
negotiable instruments.

But none of that invalidated the note or mortgage, nor should it. THAT is where it gets interesting. By denying the note as a self authenticating instrument the court was merely requiring the foreclosing party to proffer actual evidence regarding the terms of the note, including the manner in which it was acquired and how the foreclosing party is an injured party — a presumption that is no longer present when the note is denied admission into evidence as a self authenticating negotiable instrument.

The foreclosing party was unable to produce any testimony or exhibits demonstrating the prima facie case. Why? Because they are not and never were a creditor nor are they agent or representative of the actual party to whom the subject underlying DEBT was owed.

 

Florida law requires the authentication of a document prior to its admission into evidence. See § 90.901, Fla. Stat. (2012) (“Authentication or identification of evidence is required as a condition precedent to its admissibility.”); Mills v. Baker, 664 So. 2d 1054, 1057 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995); see, e.g., DiSalvo v. SunTrust Mortg., Inc., 115 So. 3d 438, 439-40 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) (holding that unauthenticated default letters from lender could not be considered in mortgage foreclosure summary judgment). Proffered evidence is authenticated when its proponent introduces sufficient evidence “to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” § 90.901; Coday v. State, 946 So. 2d 988, 1000 (Fla. 2006) (“While section 90.901 requires the authentication or identification of a document prior to its admission into evidence, the requirements of this section are satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the document in question is what its proponent claims.”).

There are a number of recognized exceptions to the authentication requirement. One, as relevant here, relates to commercial paper under the Uniform Commercial Code, codified in chapters 678 to 680 of the Florida Statutes. “Commercial papers and signatures thereon and documents relating to them [are self-authenticating], to the extent provided in the Uniform Commercial Code.” § 90.902(8); see, e.g., U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n for BAFC 2007-4 v. Roseman, 214 So. 3d 728, 733 (Fla 4th DCA 2017) (reversing the trial court’s denial of the admission of the original note in part because the note was self-authenticating); Hidden Ridge Condo. Homeowners Ass’n v. Onewest Bank, N.A., 183 So. 3d 1266, 1269 n.3 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016) (stating that because the endorsed note was self-authenticating as a commercial paper, extrinsic evidence of authenticity was not required as a condition precedent…

We cannot bicker with the proposition that “for over a century . . . the Florida Supreme Court has held [promissory notes secured by a mortgage] are negotiable instruments. And every District Court of Appeal in Florida has affirmed this principle.” HSBC Bank USA, Nat’l Ass’n v. Buset, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D305, 306 (Fla. 3d DCA Feb. 7, 2018) (citation omitted). That is as far as we can travel with Third Federal.

The HELOC note is not a self-authenticating negotiable instrument. By its own terms, the note established a “credit limit” of up to $40,000 from which the Koulouvarises could “request an advance . . . at any time.” Further, the note provided that “[a]ll advances and other obligations . . . will reduce your available credit.” The HELOC note was not an unconditional promise to pay a fixed amount of money. Rather, it established “[t]he maximum amount of borrowing power extended to a borrower by a given lender, to be drawn upon by the borrower as needed.” See Line of Credit, Black’s Law Dictionary, 949 (8th ed. 1999).

This distinction is not esoteric legalese. Florida law is clear that a “negotiable instrument” is “an unconditional promise or order to pay a fixed amount of money, with or without interest or other charges described in the promise or order.”§ 673.1041(1), Fla. Stat. (2012) (emphasis added).

4 Responses

  1. This should have always been the presumption but it’s great to have another tool in our belt….

    Like

  2. Well, I just filed in the Federal Jurisdiction in NC for a foreclosure order, given, based on an “exact reproduction” of a note…lost note affidavit in 2009 filed, with no note in sight to date, 9 years later. Comments from the lawyer: we have the original in our possession. Really, then why did it not get presented to at least verify, its existence? There is no such thing as “an exact reproduction”…if I sold a Picasso to someone that way, it would be a crime. Then we have a completed foreclosure with a document that appears to be a refinance, post-foreclosure 2009. I’m betting, the note they are trying to collect on and take payments for, is not the “original”, hence the reason for non-production, not the original, because it could never have been transfered. People, stay alert and verify everything. The paperwork tells a story! Our friends from US Bank and Ocwen, at it again…hearsay, fraud, counterfeiting, false affidavits, etc…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Deadly Clear.

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  4. This is so important to use. The banks keep getting away submitting both recorded and non recorded documents claiming they are self authentication of them. NOT!

    Sent from my iPhone

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