FLA 3rd DCA: Kelsey vs SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. – Note, Mortgage are Impermissible Hearsay Unless Properly Authenticated
At trial, SunTrust’s only testifying witness was Lauren Gergeceff (“Gergeceff”), a mediation litigation specialist employed by Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (“Nationstar”).1 Gergeceff testified that she had no independent knowledge of the loan, she had only seen the subject note for the first time the day of trial, and she had only become familiar with the mortgage file when she learned the case was being tried. The Kelseys objected to Gergeceff’s authentication of the note and mortgage because she lacked the requisite foundation and she was incompetent to testify because her purported knowledge was based entirely on out-of-court documents that had not been made available for inspection, and which were hearsay. The trial court overruled the objections, allowed Gergeceff to testify, and admitted the note and mortgage into evidence.
To establish its entitlement to foreclosure, SunTrust needed to introduce the subject note and mortgage, as well as the acceleration letter sent to the Kelseys. See Ernest v. Carter, 368 So. 2d 428, 429 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979) (holding that foreclosure plaintiffs must show: (1) an agreement, (2) a default, (3) an acceleration of debt to maturity, and (4) the amount due). The documents establishing these requirements constitute impermissible hearsay unless properly authenticated. § 90.803, Fla. Stat. (2012); Yisrael v. State, 993 So. 2d 952, 956(Fla. 2008).
The Kelseys argue, among other things, that the trial court erred in allowing Gergeceff to authenticate these documents without showing that she was a records custodian or that she had personal knowledge of the documents. SunTrust filed a partial concession of error in this Court, admitting that the trial court erred in allowing the documents, as they are hearsay without the proper authentication. We agree, and remand for rehearing on that issue. The Kelseys’ remaining arguments either lack merit, were decided in their previous interlocutory appeal, or are rendered moot based on our remand.
Reversed and remanded.
Full opinion below…