The Fourth Department determined Supreme Court should have granted plaintiff’s motion to substitute nunc pro tunc an affidavit of merit and amount due in a foreclosure proceeding. Plaintiff could not confirm the proper execution of the original affidavit (a requirement of an administrative order of the chief administrative judge) and sought to substitute the original with an identical affidavit, the proper execution of which could be confirmed. Supreme Court denied the motion and dismissed the complaint sua sponte. The Fourth Department held that the dismissal was not warranted and CPLR 2001 permitted the substitution:
” A court’s power to dismiss a complaint, sua sponte, is to be used sparingly and only when extraordinary circumstances exist to warrant dismissal’ ” … . Here, we conclude that “[t]he fact that . . . plaintiff’s [new] attorney[s] attempted to comply, in good faith, with an Administrative Order of the Chief Administrative Judge that did not exist at the time that the action was commenced, or at the time [the judgment of foreclosure and sale was granted], does not qualify as such an extraordinary circumstance’ ” that would support a sua sponte dismissal … . Indeed, “[n]othing in the Administrative Order requires the dismissal of an action merely because the plaintiff’s attorney[s] discover that there was some irregularity or defect in a prior submission” … . Thus, contrary to the court’s determination, we conclude that plaintiff is not “effectively required to commence an entirely new action” … .
We further conclude that the court erred in denying that part of plaintiff’s motion seeking to substitute the affidavit of merit and amount due. “CPLR 2001 permits a court, at any stage of an action, to disregard a party’s mistake, omission, defect, or irregularity if a substantial right of a party is not prejudiced” … . In addition, “[p]ursuant to CPLR 5019 (a), a trial court has the discretion to correct an order or judgment which contains a mistake, defect, or irregularity not affecting a substantial right of a party” … . Here, we conclude that the substitution of the original affidavit of merit and amount due with a new, substantively identical affidavit of merit and amount due was a ministerial amendment permitted by CPLR 2001 and CPLR 5019 (a) inasmuch as the change affected only plaintiff’s ability to comply with the Administrative Order, and “[t]he attorney affirmation is not itself substantive evidence” … . We further conclude that “[n]o substantial right of [defendant .. .would] be affected by the court’s substitution” … . Indeed, that defendant did not reside in the subject property when plaintiff commenced the mortgage foreclosure action and the property was vacant at that time, and he never joined this action nor made any effort to contest the foreclosure. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v Watanabe, 2016 NY Slip Op 01096, 4th Dept 2-11-16
CIVIL PROCEDURE (SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL OF FORECLOSURE COMPLAINT NOT WARRANTED, SUBSTITUTE AFFIDAVIT OF MERIT ALLOWED BY CPLR 2001)/FORECLOSURE (SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL OF FORECLOSURE COMPLAINT NOT WARRANTED, SUBSTITUTE AFFIDAVIT OF MERIT ALLOWED BY CPLR 2001)/AFFIDAVIT OF MERIT AND AMOUNT DUE (SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL OF FORECLOSURE COMPLAINT NOT WARRANTED, SUBSTITUTE AFFIDAVIT OF MERIT ALLOWED BY CPLR 2001)