Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court approved the ruling of the Fifth District Court of Appeal that a trial court may order a defendant over whom it has in personam jurisdiction to act on foreign property pursuant to Fla. Stat. 56.29(6), holding that a trial court has the authority to order a defendant over whom it has in personam jurisdiction to act on foreign property.The district court concluded that section 56.29(6) plainly authorizes a trial court to order a debtor, over whom the court has in personam jurisdiction, to act on assets located outside of the court's territorial jurisdiction. The Supreme Court approved the district court's ruling, holding that the trial court in this case undisputedly had in personam jurisdiction over the debtor and therefore compel him to act on his foreign assets under section 56.29(6). View "Shim v. Buechel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that an "Engle progeny" plaintiff must prove reliance on a statement that was made by an Engle defendant for a concealment claim or co-conspirator for a conspiracy claim and that concealed or omitted material information about the addictiveness or health effects of smoking cigarettes.Plaintiff, on behalf of a deceased smoker, brought this wrongful death lawsuit. The jury found that the decedent was a member of the Engle class then found in Plaintiff's favor on her claims for strict liability, negligence, and concealment conspiracy. The court of appeal vacated the judgment, concluding that the trial court's refusal to give Defendant's requested special instruction on reliance was both erroneous and prejudicial. The Supreme Court approved the court of appeal's decision, holding that Defendant's requested jury instruction on concealment conspiracy was correct, and the trial court's instruction was both erroneous and prejudicial. View "Prentice v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a deed covenant requiring the arbitration of any dispute arising from a construction defect runs with the land such that it is binding upon a subsequent purchaser of the real estate who was not a party to the deed.The home in this case was constructed and sold by U.S. Home Corp. to the original purchasers. The original deed contained an arbitration provision and several covenants, conditions and restrictions concerning the home that bound both the original purchasers and subsequent purchasers. The original purchasers later sold the home to Plaintiffs, who brought suit against U.S. Home pursuant to Fla. Stat. 553.84. U.S. Home filed a motion to stay and compel arbitration, which the circuit court granted. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that a valid arbitration agreement existed and that it was a covenant running with the land. The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that Plaintiffs were bound by the arbitration provision. View "Hayslip v. U.S. Home Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal invalidating the decision of a property appraiser assessing back taxes after discovering his purported clerical error in undervaluing and undertaxing a taxpayer's property, holding that the district court did not err.After discovering valuation errors, the property appraiser reassessed the taxpayer's property and sent her a bill for back taxes. The taxpayer brought this action to obtain aa judgment declaring the invalidity of the back-assessment. The trial court ruled against the taxpayer. The Second District reversed, concluding that the property had not "escaped taxation," which is a prerequisite for a property appraiser's authority to assess back taxes under Fla. Stat. 193.092(1). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 193.092(1) did not give the property appraiser authority to back-assess the taxpayer's property. View "Furst v. DeFrances" on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure case, the Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal failing to follow precedent and concluding that the term "Borrower" means something different than both the mortgage and the note define it to mean, holding that the court of appeal erred in affirming the trial court's denial of foreclosure.Petitioner's predecessor sought to foreclose on a mortgage that secured the loan. Respondents, Luisa Palmero and her children, defended against the foreclosure action by arguing that Luisa was not a co-borrower under the mortgage. The trial court ruled that Luisa was not a co-borrower but denied foreclosure based on a federal statute. The Third District held that the trial court erred by relying on the federal statute to deny foreclosure and ruled that, as a matter of law, the mortgage unambiguously defined Luisa as a "Borrower." Thus, the Third District affirmed the denial of foreclosure. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Third District erred in affirming the trial court's denial of foreclosure on the ground that, as a matter of law, Luisa was a surviving co-borrower. View "WVMF Funding v. Palmero" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted certification of a question about theUnderground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Fla. Stat. Chapter 556, and answered that the Act creates a standalone cause of action and that the cause of action sounds in negligence.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified the question of whether a member-operator has a cause of action under Fla. Stat. 556.106(2)(a)-(c) to recover damages or obtain indemnification from an excavator for payments to a third party for personal injuries related to the excavator's alleged violation of the statute. The Supreme Court answered (1) liability under the Act is subject to proof of proximate causation and to the defense of comparative fault; (2) losses recoverable under the Act can include purely economic damages, independent of personal injury or property damage; and (3) the Act does not create a cause of action for statutory indemnity. View "Peoples Gas System v. Posen Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court concluded that a unilateral attorney's fee provision in a note and mortgage was made reciprocal to a borrower under Fla. Stat. 57.105(7) where the borrower prevailed in a foreclosure action in which the plaintiff bank established standing to enforce the note and mortgage at the time of trial but not at the time suit was filed, holding that the statutory conditions were met.The Fourth District Court of Appeal held that a borrower who successfully argues that the bank lacked standing at the time suit was filed could not rely on the contract to obtain attorney's fees under section 57.105(7). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the borrowers were eligible to recover reciprocal fees under the statute because the conditions in the statute's two clauses were satisfied here. View "Page v. Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal in this foreclosure case, holding that the proper predicate for admission of records into evidence under the business records exception to the hearsay rule can be laid by a qualified witness testifying to the foundational elements of the exception.Household Finance Corp III (HFC) field a foreclosure complaint against Petitioners, alleging that Petitioners defaulted under the terms of the note and mortgage. During trial, HFC moved certain documents, including the original note, mortgage, and loan payment history, into evidence. Counsel for Petitioners objected on grounds of hearsay, claiming that the witness testifying as to the foundational elements of the business records exception to the hearsay rule failed to lay a foundation upon which to testify as to the records or to authenticate he documents based on personal knowledge. The trial judge overruled the objection and admitted the records into evidence. The trial court entered final judgment of mortgage foreclosure for HFC. The Second District affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the testimony of a qualified witness confirming the presence of each foundation requirement of the business records exception constitutes a sufficient predicate for the admission of records under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. View "Jackson v. Household Finance Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the First District Court of Appeal regarding whether the circuit court presiding over a foreclosure action has continuing jurisdiction to consider a third-party purchaser's motion to recover the value of repairs and improvements made to the property he purchased at a foreclosure sale that was later vacated, holding that the circuit court had continuing jurisdiction to consider the purchaser's motion for damages.The First District concluded that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the purchaser's third-party motion for damages after it rendered the final judgment of foreclosure. The Supreme Court disagreed and quashed the First District's decision, holding that the circuit court presiding over the foreclosure action had continuing jurisdiction to consider the purchaser's motion for damages for repairs and improvements he made to the property he purchased at the foreclosure sale that was later vacated. View "Griffin v. LaSalle Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal on the question of whether a voluntary dismissal provides a basis for being considered the prevailing party for the purpose of appellate attorney fees, holding that the court of appeal improperly denied appellate attorney’s fees based on the bank’s voluntary dismissal of the appeal.Appellant, a homeowner, sought appellate attorney’s fees pursuant to Fla. Stat. 57.105(7) after a bank filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in the court of appeal. The court of appeal concluded that Appellant was not entitled to appellate attorney’s fees because she prevailed on her standing argument presented in the trial court. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) caselaw makes clear that a voluntary dismissal of an appeal renders the opposing party the prevailing party for the purpose of appellate attorney fees; and (2) Appellant was entitled to appellate attorney fees because the bank maintained its right to enforce the reverse mortgage contract in its appeal until the dismissal. View "Glass v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law