In a victory for creditors, the Supreme Court of Florida recently ruled, in Patrick v. Hess, 2017 Fla. LEXIS 337 (Fla. Feb. 16, 2017), that foreign judgment creditors have significantly more time to enforce their judgments in Florida if they complete the required steps to properly record and domesticate the foreign judgment. 

By way of background, Florida Statute 95.11(1) provides that “[a]n action on a judgment or decree of a court of record in this state” shall be commenced within 20 years. Thus, it is clear that a judgment creditor who obtains a judgment in Florida has 20 years to enforce the judgment in Florida. 

The issue addressed in the Patrick case was how long does a judgment creditor have to enforce a foreign judgment in Florida (obtained from a court outside of Florida)?  In Patrick, the Supreme Court of Florida held that the 20 year statute of limitations provided in Fla. Stat.  95.11(1), concerning domestic judgments, applies to the enforcement of a foreign judgment after it is recorded in Florida under the Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgment Act (FEFJA).  See, Patrick, 2017 Fla. LEXIS 337, 1. FEFJA was enacted in Florida in 1984 – it creates a procedure for domesticating foreign judgments in Florida. This is significant because Fla. Stat. 95.11(2)(a), concerning foreign judgments, provides that “[a]n action on a judgment or decree of any court, not of record, of this state or any court of the United States, any other state or territory in the United States, or a foreign country” shall be commenced within 5 years. 

The Court in Patrick based its ruling on several factors, including but not limited to FEFJA does not contain its own statute of limitations and Fla. Stat. 95.11 governs the time constraints by which enforcement of judgments within the state must be conducted. Id. at 7. The Court in Patrick carefully analyzed the intent of the Legislature, holding that the Legislature did not intend to subject a foreign judgment recorded under FEFJA to the 5 year enforcement limitations because “once recorded pursuant to the act, a foreign judgment is treated as a Florida judgment.” Id. at 8. The Court further reasoned that “the Legislature intended to apply the twenty-year limitations period contained in section 95.11(1) to the enforcement of a foreign judgment after its recording and domestication under FEFJA.” Id. The Court stated “[t]his interpretation gives full effect to the legislative intent to treat a foreign judgment recorded under FEFJA as a judgment in this state by subjecting it to the same enforcement limitations applicable to domestic judgments.” Id. at 9. 

Thus, whether you are on the judgment debtor side or judgment creditor side, it is important to understand this significant ruling and how it may affect your case. 

The below article addresses the statute of limitations relating to mortgage liens in Florida and in what instances a mortgage can be cancelled. In foreclosure litigation, borrowers must understand their rights and possible alternatives, and also need to understand the rights of a creditor should a judgment be obtained. 

If you or your client need assistance navigating a creditors’ rights issue, from either the debtor side or creditor side, we invite you to contact the attorneys at Iurillo Law Group to discuss your specific case. 


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