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White v. Sutalo

Superior Court of Delaware

August 25, 2017

FLOYD WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
FLORA J. SUTALO, Defendant. FLOYD WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
ANTONIA ESTRADA, Defendant.

          Submitted: July 12, 2017

         Upon Plaintiffs Motions for Reconsideration of Commissioner's Orders: DENIED

          Edward J. Fornias, III, Esquire.

          Tabatha L. Castro, Esquire.

          ABIGAIL M. LEGROW, JUDGE.

         This 25th day of August, 2017, upon consideration of Floyd White's Motions for Reconsideration of Commissioner's Orders (the "Motions") and the applicable legal authorities, including Rule 132 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 132"), it appears to the Court that:

         1. In 2012, the plaintiff, Floyd White, purchased various judgments, including one against Antonia Estrada and a second against Flora Sutalo. The judgments represented unpaid assessment fees originally owed to Burnbrae Maintenance Association ("Burnbrae"). Ms. Estrada and Ms. Sutalo each owned a Burnbrae condominium unit.

         2. In 2013, Mr. White filed a motion to allow execution on the judgments. Thereafter, this Court entered an order requiring Burnbrae to provide Mr. White with an accounting of any funds or credits related to the judgments and to turn over to Mr. White any payments or credits Burnbrae received related to the judgments.[1] On July 11, 2016, this Court found Burnbrae in contempt and ordered it to (i) provide an accounting, (ii) turn over to Mr. White any payments or credits received related to the judgments no later than July 13, 2016, and (iii) provide a certification with the accounting that the records were accurate.[2]

         3. On July 15, 2016, Mr. White filed a contempt motion, alleging Burnbrae withheld payments received from Ms. Estrada and Ms. Sutalo. The motion was assigned to a commissioner of this Court, who held an evidentiary hearing. Following the hearing, the parties supplemented the record. On May 23, 2017, the Commissioner issued two non-dispositive orders under Rule 132 (collectively, the "Orders").[3]

         4. The Commissioner found: (1) Burnbrae collected payments from Ms. Estrada and Ms. Sutalo under the terms of the judgments, which now were Mr. White's property; (2) Burnbrae failed to account properly for the payments; and (3) Burnbrae failed to remit the collected payments to Mr. White.[4] The Commissioner further found that the parties agreed Burnbrae collected $4, 135.00 from Ms. Estrada and $7, 901.28 from Ms. Sutalo and therefore Mr. White was entitled to those amounts.[5] The Commissioner also held Mr. White's conduct contributed to the "delay and confusion caused in this matter, " he failed to present sufficient evidence that he properly notified Ms. Estrada or Ms. Sutalo of the purchase of the judgments, and he did not pursue collection of the judgments in a timely manner, electing instead to seek his remedies first from Burnbrae.[6] Accordingly, the Commissioner (i) found Burnbrae in contempt; (ii) awarded Mr. White $12, 036.28, [7] plus $3, 500.00[8] in sanctions and costs; (iii) awarded post-judgment interest accruing 30 days from the date of the Orders; and (iv) ordered the judgments against Ms. Estrada and Ms. Sutalo satisfied.[9]

         5. Mr. White timely filed two Motions objecting to the Orders. Burnbrae opposed both Motions.[10] For the reasons explained below, Mr. White's Motions are denied.

         6. Mr. White makes three arguments in his objections to the Commissioner's Orders. First, Mr. White contends the Orders omit two facts: (i) Mr. White purchased a fourth judgment, and (ii) a March 7, 2013 motion to allow execution was the motion that precipitated a March 22, 2013 order that the Commissioner referenced in each case. Second, he maintains the Orders are contrary to law as (i) Mr. White was required to take a reduced amount in satisfaction of the judgments; (ii) the Orders failed to provide pre-judgment interest; (iii) the Orders failed to provide post-judgment interest from the date of the judgments; and (iv) he was faulted for not executing on the judgments in a timely manner. Third, Mr. White argues the Commissioner abused her discretion because (i) now he cannot recover unpaid judgments from Ms. Sutalo, Ms. Estrada, or Burnbrae; (ii) he was required to enter immediate satisfaction of the judgments; (iii) the Orders fail to address the post-judgment interest rate; and (iv) Burnbrae was not required to correct its erroneous accounting records.

         7. Upon review of a non-case dispositive matter, a commissioner's order is reconsidered by a judge "only where it has been shown on the record that the . . . order is based upon findings of fact that are clearly erroneous, or is contrary to law, or is an abuse of discretion."[11] The moving party has the burden to show on the record where the order clearly is erroneous, contravenes the law, or is an abuse of discretion.[12]

         8. Mr. White has not identified any material, erroneous finding of fact. Both purportedly "erroneous entries" are in the Orders' "background of proceedings" sections. Moreover, the facts to which Mr. White refers are irrelevant to the present issues and have no legal bearing on the Commissioner's decisions. Although Mr. White purchased several judgments, there were two judgments at issue at the time of the evidentiary hearing and those correctly were identified in the Orders.[13] Similarly irrelevant is the fact that the Commissioner did not cite ...


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