Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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For purposes of applying the municipal or public purposes tax exemption contained in Fla. Const. art. VII, section 3(a), a public marina owned and operated by a municipality is a traditional municipal function that carries a presumption of tax-exempt status. The owners of a private marina in Fort Pierce filed a complaint challenging the tax-exempt status of the Fort Pierce City Marina and the Fisherman’s Wharf Marina. Plaintiffs’ amended complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief on the basis that the property appraiser unconstitutionally granted ad valorem tax exemptions to the two marina properties owned and operated by the City of Fort Pierce and the Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency (the City). The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs, determining that neither of the City marinas qualified for the constitutional tax exemption. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that municipal marinas are traditionally considered exempt from taxation. The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to rebut the presumption that the municipally-owned properties that were used exclusively by the City to provide traditional municipal functions were constitutionally exempt from ad valorem taxation. View "Treasure Coast Marina, LC v. City of Fort Pierce" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the holding of the First District Court of Appeal in City of Jacksonville v. Smith, 159 So. 3d 888 (Fla. 1st CA 2015), that the Bert J. Harris Jr., Private Property Protection Act (Act) does not apply to claims from government action that regulates property adjacent to the claimant’s property and disapproved the Second District Court of Appeal’s contrary decision in FINR II, Inc. v. Hardee County, 164 So. 3d 1260 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015). Hardee County granted FINR, Inc., which operated a neurological rehabilitation center on a parcel adjacent to property owned by a phosphate mining company, a setback on the phosphate mining company’s adjacent property. Hardee County subsequently decreased the quarter-mile setback to as little as 150 feet. FINR brought a claim under the Act seeking $38 million in damages for devaluation of its property. The trial court concluded that the Act did not apply to FINR because the quarter-mile setback change did not directly restrict or limit FINR’s property. The Second District reversed and certified conflict with Smith. The Supreme Court disapproved the decision below, holding that the setback in this case was not a property right for which FINR may state a claim under the Act. View "Hardee County v. FINR II, Inc." on Justia Law

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MMB Properties filed a complaint alleging that Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando’s use of property located at a medical complex violated the Declaration of Restrictions. The complaint sought a permanent injunction preventing Planned Parenthood from performing certain activities. MMB Properties then filed a motion for a temporary injunction. The trial court granted the motion. Planned Parenthood filed a motion to modify or dissolve the temporary injunction, without success. Planned Parenthood appealed the temporary injunction and the denial of its motion to modify or dissolve the temporary injunction. The Fifth District Court of Appeal held that Planned Parenthood needed to establish changed circumstances in order to modify or dissolve the temporary injunction, which it did not do. The Fifth District also affirmed the portion of the temporary injunction enjoining Planned Parenthood from performing abortions. The Supreme Court quashed the Fifth District’s decision to the extent it affirmed the trial court’s temporary injunction, holding (1) a trial court abuses its discretion in not modifying or dissolving a temporary injunction when a party shows clear misapprehension of the facts or clear legal error, regardless of whether the movant shows changed circumstances; and (2) the order enjoining Planned Parenthood from performing abortions was not based on competent, substantial evidence. View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando, Inc. v. MMB Properties" on Justia Law

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Borrower stopped making payments on his mortgage and note, both before and after a foreclosure action was brought by Bank and subsequently dismissed. Borrower subsequently filed a crossclaim against Bank in a separate foreclosure action. Borrower sought a declaratory judgment to cancel the mortgage and to quiet title to the property, arguing that the statute of limitations barred the Bank from bringing another foreclosure action. The trial court granted summary judgment for Borrower and cancelled the note and mortgage. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the statute of limitations had not expired. The Supreme Court approved the Fifth District’s decision, holding (1) when a mortgage foreclosure action is involuntarily dismissed, either with or without prejudice, the mortgagor’s right to continue to make payments on the note is reinstated, and the mortgagee’s right to seek and acceleration and foreclosure based on the mortgagor’s subsequent defaults is also reinstated; and (2) accordingly, Bank was not precluded by the statute of limitations from filing a subsequent foreclosure action based on payment defaults occurring subsequent to the dismissal of the first foreclosure action when the alleged subsequent default occurred within five years of the subsequent foreclosure action. View "Bartram v. U.S. Bank National Ass’n" on Justia Law

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The Board challenged two separate orders of the PSC. The first order is a declaratory statement that the PSC issued in response to a petition filed by the City of Vero Beach, in which the PSC declared that the City has the right and obligation under territorial orders issued by the PSC to continue to provide electric service in the territory described in the orders (which includes unincorporated portions of the County) upon the expiration of the City’s franchise agreement with the County. The court rejected the County's challenges and held that the City had standing to seek this declaration from the PSC concerning territorial orders to which the City is a party and which the County had taken the position would be voided by the Franchise Agreement’s expiration, thereby effectively evicting the City. The court also held that the PSC’s declaration is within the PSC’s authority as the entity with exclusive and superior statutory jurisdiction to determine utility service areas, and that the declaration does not impermissibly grant the County’s property rights to the City or violate the statutory prohibition against the PSC affecting a franchise fee. The second order on appeal denies the County’s petition for a declaratory statement on the ground that it failed to meet applicable statutory requirements. The court agreed and affirmed this order without further comment. View "Bd. of Cnty. Comm'r Indian River Cnty. v. Art Graham, etc." on Justia Law

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CSX Transportation requested indemnification from the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) for the amount paid to resolve a negligence action arising from an accident at a railroad crossing. CSX based its request on a railroad crossing agreement under which the DOT received a revocable license to use land as a right-of-way. The sole consideration for the license was an agreement to indemnify the railroad for losses arising out of DOT’s activity on the land. The trial court required DOT to indemnify CSX for the settlement of the lawsuit and for the expenses arising from DOT’s failure to defend the suit. DOT appealed, arguing that the indemnity clause was invalid. The Second District Court of Appeal concluded that the indemnity clause was enforceable. The Second District then certified two questions to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered (1) DOT is bound by the indemnity provision as party of the statutorily authorized railroad crossing agreement, and breach-of-contract principles prohibit DOT from using sovereign immunity to avoid suit for its breach of the crossing agreement; and (2) DOT’s liability under the crossing agreement is not limited by Fla. Stat. 768.28(5). View "Fla. Dep’t of Transp. v. Schwefringhaus" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the claims of a group of owners of land abutting a railroad corridor who claimed that conveyances to the railroad by their predecessors in title granted only easements for a railroad right-of-way rather than convey fee simple title, that the abandonment of the railroad right-of-way entitled them to claim the land free of the easements, and that the conversion of the land to a public recreational trail constituted a taking for which they were entitled to compensation. The United States Court of Federal Claims found that the claimants did not own any property interests in the land formerly used as a railroad corridor and, therefore, were not entitled to compensation. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit certified a question of Florida law for the Supreme Court to answer. The Supreme Court answered (1) Fla. Rev. Stat. 2241 does not limit the railroad’s interest in the property, regardless of the language of the deeds; (2) state policy does not limit the railroad’s interest in the property, regardless of the language of the deeds; and (3) factual considerations do not limit the railroad’s interest in the property, regardless of the language of the deeds. View "Rogers v. United States" on Justia Law

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Landowners rejected a condemning authority’s (the Authority) presuit written offer to purchase a parcel of their land. The Authority subsequently filed an action to condemn the property. After a jury determined the fair market value of the land, Landowners moved for attorney’s fees. The trial court awarded fees under Fla. Rev. Stat. 73.092(2). The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the attorney’s fees for the valuation proceedings were limited to those allowed by section 73.092(1). On remand, the trial court found that the Authority had caused excessive litigation and held that section 73.092(1) was unconstitutional as applied under the facts of this case because it operated to deny Landowners their right to full compensation. It then determined that the original fee award remained valid. The Court of Appeal again reversed on appeal. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fifth District, holding (1) when a condemning authority engages in tactics that cause excessive litigation, section 73.092(2) shall be used separately and additionally to calculate a reasonable attorney’s fee for the hours attributable to defending against the excessive litigation; and (2) this will result in an amount that must be added to the remainder of the fee calculated utilizing the benefits achieved formula delineated in section 73.092(1). Remanded. View "Joseph B. Doerr Trust v. Cent. Fla. Expressway Auth." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the land and improvements on certain leaseholds that were created under long-term leases granted by Santa Rosa County were subject to the ad valorem real property tax. The leaseholders argued that the leasehold interests were taxable only as intangible personal property because the leaseholders were not the actual owners of the property under Florida law, and there could be no equitable ownership absent the right to acquire legal title. The First District Court of Appeals concluded that, given the nature of their perpetual leasehold interests, the leaseholders were the equitable owners of the real property and the improvements thereon, and therefore, the land and improvements at issue were subject to the ad valorem real property tax. The Supreme Court approved of the decision reached by the First District, concluding that the leaseholders were the equitable owners of the real property at issue. View "Accardo v. Brown" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case were improvements on certain leaseholds that were created under leases granted by Escambia County. The leaseholders (Petitioners) contended that the improvements were not subject to ad valorem taxation. The First District Court of Appeal determined that Petitioners were the equitable owners of the improvements, and therefore, the improvements were subject to ad valorem taxation. The Supreme Court approved the decision reached by the First District, holding that a lessee can have equitable ownership for purposes of ad valorem taxation of improvements on real property even if the lessees have neither a perpetual lease of the underlying real property nor an option to ultimately purchase such property for nominal value. View "1108 Ariola, LLC v. Jones" on Justia Law