The Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, remanded a matter back to state court and imposed sanctions on movants, Valeria and Eliezer Taveras, for removing the state foreclosure action to federal court a second time after their first attempt at removal failed. U.S. Bank, Nat’l Assoc. as Legal Title Trustee for Truman 2016 SC6 Title Trust v. Taveras, Middle District (Orlando), Case No. 6:23-cv1493-WWB-EJK. US Bank filed a foreclosure action against the Taveras in 2016, they moved to Spain in 2018 and unsuccessfully tried to remove the foreclosure matter to federal court in 2019.[i]
Nearly eight years after US Bank filed its initial complaint and one day short of a year after being served with an amended complaint, the Taveras removed the case to federal court for a second time.[ii] In response, US Bank again sought to have the matter remanded arguing removal was untimely and there was a lack of diversity or federal question jurisdiction.[iii] US Bank also sought sanctions in the form of attorneys’ fees and costs for defending the removal. The Middle District agreed with US Bank on all points and granted the requested relief.
Firstly, the federal court explained that the fact the Taveras were domiciled in Spain did not make them citizens of a foreign state because they were still citizens of the United States.[iv] The fact they lived in Spain did not create diversity jurisdiction. Secondly, the Court found removal was untimely since removal must be sought within one year after an action is filed. The Taveras’ second attempt at removal was nearly eight years after commencement of the foreclosure in state court so the procedural requirements for removal were not met. The Court rejected the Taveras’ undeveloped and unsupported argument that US Bank acted in bad faith to prevent them from timing removing the matter to federal court. Because the Taveras failed to develop or support the argument “with citation to the record or relevant authorities” the Court concluded the Taveras waived the argument.[v]
Thirdly, the Court rejected the Taveras’ argument that the foreclosure claims were “pre-empted by federal law, specifically by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.” The Court again found the Taveras waived this argument by their failure to include any legal or factual support for it. Importantly, the Court found an award of attorneys’ fees and costs was an appropriate sanction against the Taveras for removing the matter a second time despite being informed previously that “they were not proper parties to a diversity action in federal court.”[vi] The Court surmised the Taveras knew their arguments for removal were meritless and that there was “no objectively reasonable basis for removal” so a fee award was appropriate. Hopefully, the imposed sanctions will deter the Taveras as well as other parties from filing frivolous pleadings for dilatory purposes.
[i] Taveras, at PageID 577.
[ii] Taveras, at PageID 577-8.
[iii] Taveras, at PageID 578. Future references or quotations to this case are to this citation until indicated otherwise.
[iv] Taveras, at PageID 579. Future references or quotations to this case are to this citation until indicated otherwise.
[v] Taveras, at PageID 580.Future references or quotations to this case are to this citation until indicated otherwise.
[vi] Taveras, at PageID 581.Future references or quotations to this case are to this citation until indicated otherwise.