Susan M. May appeals a final judgment of foreclosure entered in favor of
PHH Mortgage Corporation (the bank) following a nonjury trial. May argues that the
bank failed to demonstrate that it possessed the note at the time it filed the complaint.
We agree. Because we hold that the bank lacked standing, we decline to address the
remaining issue in this appeal.
On April 11, 2008, the bank filed a two count complaint against May for
foreclosure and an action to recover or reestablish a lost note. Attached to the
complaint was a copy of the note and mortgage. The note and mortgage had the name
of the first mortgagor, Bank Atlantic, on the documents and did not contain an
endorsement in blank or any indicia of legal transfer to the bank. May filed an answer
and defenses which alleged that the bank did not own or possess the note. On
December 8, 2008, the bank filed a copy of the original note and mortgage which
contained two endorsements. One was an undated endorsement to the bank and the
other was an undated, blank endorsement.
During trial, the bank submitted the second copy of the note into evidence.
Its only witness, a senior litigation specialist, confirmed that the note was signed by May
with the original lender and that there was a blank endorsement on the note. The bank
also introduced into evidence the original mortgage, the payment history of the loan,
and a copy of the default notice letter. The witness did not testify that the bank owned
or possessed the note at the time the complaint was filed or that the bank serviced the
At the end of the bank’s case, counsel for May moved for an involuntary
dismissal and argued that the bank failed to prove that it had standing at the inception of
the lawsuit. May argued that the first copy of the note and mortgage attached to the
complaint in April 2008 and the second copy of the note, which had a blank
endorsement and was filed over seven months after the complaint, failed to prove that
the bank had standing at the suit’s inception. She asserted that the bank had rested
and could no longer introduce evidence of when the bank came into possession of the
note and mortgage. The bank responded that it could present evidence that it was in
possession of the note before filing the lawsuit but did not request to reopen its case.
The trial court denied May’s motion and entered a final judgment of foreclosure.
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.420(b) provides that “[a]fter a party
seeking affirmative relief in an action tried by the court without a jury has completed the
presentation of evidence, any other party may move for a dismissal on the ground that
on the facts and the law the party seeking affirmative relief has shown no right to relief.”
When confronted with a motion for involuntary dismissal, the trial court must determine
whether or not the plaintiff has made a prima facie case. Capital Media, Inc. v. Haase,
639 So. 2d 632, 633 (Fla. 2d DCA 1994). May’s motion for involuntary dismissal could
only have been denied if the court found that the bank presented competent substantial
evidence to establish a prima facie case. State, Dep’t of Health & Rehabilitative Servs.
ex rel. Williams v. Thibodeaux, 547 So. 2d 1243, 1244 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989).
A party seeking to foreclose on a note and mortgage must prove that it
has standing to do so. To have standing to foreclose, the plaintiff must demonstrate
that it holds the note and mortgage in question. See Khan v. Bank of Am., N.A., 58 So.
3d 927, 928 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011). “A plaintiff who is not the original lender may
establish standing to foreclose a mortgage loan by submitting a note with a blank or
special endorsement, an assignment of the note, or an affidavit otherwise proving the
plaintiff’s status as the holder of the note.” Focht v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 124 So. 3d
308, 310 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013). However, standing must be established at the time the
complaint was filed. Id. Thus, the bank needed to introduce evidence that it was in
possession of the original note with the blank endorsement at the time it filed the
complaint. Id. at 310-11. The bank failed to do so; none of the evidence adduced at
trial demonstrated when, if at all, the bank came into possession of the note.
The bank’s failure to prove a prima facie case warrants dismissal. See
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.420(b); Wolkoff v. Am. Home Mortg. Servicing, Inc., 39 Fla. L. Weekly
D1159 (Fla. 2d DCA May 30, 2014); Allard v. Al-Nayem Int’l, Inc., 59 So. 3d 198, 201
(Fla. 2d DCA 2011). Accordingly, we reverse and remand with directions for the trial
court to enter an order of involuntary dismissal.