To Bar, or Not to Bar: That Is the Certified Question

How long after winning a judgment in the federal court can a Florida plaintiff conduct post-judgment collection efforts? That is the question at the heart of Salinas v. Ramsey, 2017 WL 1593469 (11th Cir. May 2, 2017). The issue has been decided differently in cases before the Florida District Courts of Appeal, and so Tuesday, the Eleventh Circuit certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court, asking that the Florida high court clarify the application of Florida’s statute of limitations to this situation.

The case centers on collection efforts relating to a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. A federal jury found that Sue Ann Ramsey violated the Act by not paying Juan Salinas and Lucila Fuentes time and a half for overtime work. The verdict was issued on September 23, 2004, and the clerk issued writs of execution on the judgments on November 24, 2004 and April 6, 2005. Then the case sat dormant for ten years until Salinas and Fuentes filed a motion to compel post-judgment discovery on May 15, 2015. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 69(a)(1) requires in this context that the procedure on execution follow the state procedure where the district court sits, so a limitations period under state law would apply.

The Eleventh Circuit previously decided this issue in Balfour Beatty Bahamas, Ltd. v. Bush, 170 F.3d 1048 (11th Cir. 1999), which followed Kiesel v. Graham, 388 So. 2d 594 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980), in holding that Fla. Stat. § 95.11(2)(a) barred such post-judgment relief initiated more than five years after a judgment. However, since Balfour, the Florida District Court of Appeal has criticized it as wrongly decided. In Burshan v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, 805 So. 2d 835 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001), the Florida appellate court explained that the language used in Fla. Stat. § 95.11(2)(a), “an action on a judgment,” described a specific common law practice whereby a successful litigant could secure a new judgment that would restart the limitations period. According to Burshan, Fla. Stat. § 95.11(2)(a) did not impose a limitation on a proceeding to actually enforce a final judgment, such as the post-judgment discovery sought by Salinas and Fuentes, because that was not an “action on a judgment” under Florida common law.

Because of the conflicting decisions by the Florida District Courts of Appeal, the Eleventh Circuit found that there was substantial doubt about the answer to a material state law question, so it certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court requesting that it clarify the law. The precise question certified is:

What limitations period, if any, applies to a request for post-judgment discovery brought in federal district court in Florida on a judgment entered by that same federal district court?

Posted by Danny Wells.

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