Caveat Emptor = Buyer Beware = Watch Out!

Posted by David Adelstein on August 18, 2017
Trial Perspectives / Comments Off on Caveat Emptor = Buyer Beware = Watch Out!

Caveat Emptor.  Buyer Beware!!!! This is a doctrine that applies to commercial property transactions. Watch out and do your due diligence when entering into a commercial real estate transaction. If you do not, the doctrine of caveat emptor will apply which puts the onus on you, the buyer, to discover material facts relating to the property.

In Transcapital Bank v. Shadowbrook at Vero, LLC, 42 Fla.L.Weekly D1657b (Fla. 4th DCA 2017), a bulk buyer purchased 123 out of 164 condominium units for approximately $11 Million.   The buyer, thereafter, sued the seller / lender for fraud, among other counts, claiming it was misled about the value of the property and, particularly, each of the condominium units.

Post-trial, the seller / lender appealed claiming the trial court erred in denying its motion for directed verdict at trial. The appellate court agreed that the trial court erred. Why?

The doctrine of caveat emptor applied to this commercial transaction where the buyer purchased 123 condominium units. “This doctrine places the duty to examine and judge the value and condition of the [commercial] property solely on the buyer and protects the seller from liability for any defects.” Transcapital Bank, supra, quoting Turnberry Court Corp. v. Bellini, 962 So.2d 1006, 1007 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007).

There are three exceptions to the applicability of caveat emptor: 1) where the buyer has been prevented from making an independent inquiry regarding the property due to a trick from the buyer; 2) where the buyer does not have equal opportunity to become apprised of a material fact; and 3) where the seller discloses some facts but not the whole truth regarding those facts. Transcapital Bank, supra citing Turnberry Court Corp. v. Bellini, 962 So.2d 1006, 1007 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007).   None of the exceptions, however, applied to this transaction. “Even if any of the defendants [seller / lender] had misrepresented the property’s appraised value, such a misrepresentation would not be actionable under the doctrine of caveat emptor in the absence of evidence that the defendants resorted ‘to some fraudulent means in preventing a prospective purchaser from making an examination of the property under consideration.’Transcapital Bank, supra, citing Farnham v. Blount, 11 So.2d 785, 790 (Fla. 1942).

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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Writ of Certiorari to Remedy Pre-Trial Discovery Order

Posted by David Adelstein on August 12, 2017
Discovery, Standard of Review / Comments Off on Writ of Certiorari to Remedy Pre-Trial Discovery Order

Sometimes, a trial court issues a pre-trial order on a discovery issue that a party claims causes it irreparable harm.   In this situation, the only basis to appeal the pre-trial discovery order is through a petition for writ of certiorari, as recently explained by the Second District Court of Appeal:

A party seeking review of a pretrial discovery order must show that the trial court’s order departed from the essential requirements of law and caused material injury to the petitioner throughout the remainder of the proceedings below, effectively leaving no adequate remedy on appeal.  Generally, certiorari is not available to review orders denying discovery because in most cases the harm can be corrected on appeal. But certiorari relief may be appropriate when the requested discovery is relevant or is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and the order denying that discovery effectively eviscerates a party’s claim, defense, or counterclaim.  The harm in such cases is not remediable on appeal because there is no practical way to determine after judgment how the requested discovery would have affected the outcome of the proceedings.

Westerbeke Corp. v. Atherton, 42 Fla.L.Weekly D1741c (Fla. 2d DCA 2017) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

In this recent opinion (discussed in more detail here), the trial court in a product liability case denied a defendant’s right to perform destructive testing of a boat’s gas generator that caused an explosion. The defendant claimed the destructive testing was necessary to determine the cause of the explosion and prepare a defense. In other words, the harm imposed on the defendant could not be corrected on a final appeal since the harm prevented it from generating a sufficient defense. Here, the Second District granted the writ of certiorari because the trial court applied the wrong legal standard in denying the defendant’s request to perform destructive testing. The take-away is the Second District’s explanation as to when certiorari relief is appropriate to remedy a pre-trial discovery order.

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

Florida Statutory Cause of Action for Misleading Advertisement

Posted by David Adelstein on August 06, 2017
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Have you been duped into procuring something through misleading advertising? There is a Florida Statute that provides a civil cause of action for misleading advertising. Florida Statute s. 817.41 provides a statutory cause of action for misleading advertising that gives the prevailing party a basis to recover their attorney’s fees in addition to a potential claim for punitive damages.  This is probably a less known statutory cause of action, but it is a particularized statutory fraud claim that is available.

Additionally, the statute maintains that, “There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the person named in or obtaining the benefits of any misleading advertisement or any such sale [i.e, party making misleading advertisement] is responsible for such misleading advertisement or unlawful sale.”  Florida Statute s. 817.41(4).  This is favorable language for a party asserting a claim.

Florida Statute s. 817.40(5) defines misleading advertising as follows:

(5) The phrase “misleading advertising” includes any statements made, or disseminated, in oral, written, electronic, or printed form or otherwise, to or before the public, or any portion thereof, which are known, or through the exercise of reasonable care or investigation could or might have been ascertained, to be untrue or misleading, and which are or were so made or disseminated with the intent or purpose, either directly or indirectly, of selling or disposing of real or personal property, services of any nature whatever, professional or otherwise, or to induce the public to enter into any obligation relating to such property or services.

Importantly, the misleading advertising MUST be made “with the intent or purpose, either directly or indirectly, of selling or disposing of real or personal property, services of any nature whatever, professional or otherwise, or to induce the public to enter into any obligation relating to such property or services.” Fla.Stat. s. 817.40(5); Samuels v. King Motor Co. of Fort Lauderdale, 782 So.2d 489, 496 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001). Since a civil cause of action for misleading advertising is a specialized type of fraud claim, the person asserting the claim MUST allege and support other elements of fraudulent inducement. See Third Party Verification, Inc. v. Signaturelink, Inc., 492 F.Supp.2d 1314, 1322 (M.D.Fla. 2007) (explaining that party asserting misleading advertising claim must also allege: “(a) the representor made a misrepresentation of a material fact; (b) the representor knew or should have known of the falsity of the statement; (c) the representor intended that the representation would induce another to rely and act on it; and (d) the plaintiff suffered injury in justifiable reliance on the representation.”).  

Conversely, if the misleading advertising claim is made by a competitor, then reliance element–that the party asserting the claim relied on the misrepresentation–does not have to be alleged and proven. See id.

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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Not All Non-Final Orders are Immediately Appealable

Posted by David Adelstein on July 30, 2017
Appeal / Comments Off on Not All Non-Final Orders are Immediately Appealable

Many non-final orders are NOT immediately appealable. The immediate right to appeal non-final orders are enumerated in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130. (And, prior postings have discussed the burden in moving for a writ of certiorari based on a non-final order.) Fair or unfair. These are the rules that govern appellate proceedings. When you receive a non-final order that you believe impacts rights and decisions moving forward, make sure to review Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130 regarding those immediately appealable non-final orders.

 

In a recent insurance coverage dispute (discussed here), the trial court declared that the insurer had a duty to defend its insured in a personal injury lawsuit.   This declaration was issued in response to a motion for summary judgment. But, the order granting the summary judgment was a non-final order. The trial court did not enter a judgment against the insurer and did not declare the insurer was obligated to indemnify its insurer. Instead, the trial court simply declared that the insurer had an obligation to defend its insured in the lawsuit based on the underlying allegations in the lawsuit. The insurer did not like this declaration from the trial court and appealed.

 

The Third District dismissed the appeal holding that the trial court’s order was not an appealable non-final order.   Just because the trial court issued an order granting an insured’s summary judgment does not in of itself make that an appealable final order. If there are no words of finality concluding the dispute, the order granting summary judgment is simply a non-final order.   In this case, all the trial court declared was that the insurer had a duty to defend – but there was no declaration regarding the duty to indemnify or regarding potential damages.  Hence, the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the immediate appeal of the non-final order.

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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Properly Pleading the Affirmative Defense of the Nonperformance or Nonoccurrence of Conditions Precedent

Posted by David Adelstein on July 22, 2017
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The nonperformance of conditions precedent must be pled with particularity. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.120(c) provides:

Conditions Precedent. In pleading the performance or occurrence of conditions precedent, it is sufficient to aver generally that all conditions precedent have been performed or occurred. A denial of performance or occurrence shall be made specifically and with particularity.

It is common for a plaintiff to generally plead in its complaint, “All conditions precedent have been performed or have occurred.”   A defendant may want to assert an affirmative defense attacking or denying this allegation relating to the plaintiff’s failure to satisfy certain conditions precedent.   In doing so, a defendant must identify the nonperformance or nonoccurrence of conditions precedent with specificity. Any generality in this regard could end up hurting the defendant, especially if the defendant has a legitimate defense based on the plaintiff failing to comply with conditions precedent.  Hence, make sure to consider applicable conditions precedent and identify those with particularity that deny the plaintiff’s allegation that all conditions precedent have been performed or have occurred.

In a construction dispute, a contractor argued that the subcontractor failed to comply with conditions precedent. However, the contractor’s affirmative defense was general in nature – no particularity.   This may have been a legitimate defense supported by facts since the contractor argued the subcontractor’s failure to comply with conditions precedent to payment meant that the contractor was not obligated to pay the subcontractor. But, based on the generality of the contractor’s affirmative defense, the appellate court held that the contractor failed to property preserve the defense in its affirmative defenses:

In its amended answer, DFI [contractor] asserted, as an affirmative defense, that HRI [subcontractor] “has failed to allege, nor can it establish that it had meet [sic] each and every condition precedent to recovering payment in this cause pursuant to its Complaint.” Contrary to the requirements in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.120(c), DFI did not specify which conditions precedents HRI did not comply with or how HRI failed to comply with them. Consequently, DFI’s answer to the complaint failed to preserve its right to demand proof that HRI complied with the conditions precedent to progress payments and final payment. See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.120(c); Deutsche Bank Nat’l Tr. Co. v. Quinion, 198 So. 3d 701, 703-04 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016) (“[T]o construct a proper denial under the rule, a defendant must, at a minimum, identify both the nature of the condition precedent and the nature of the alleged noncompliance or nonoccurrence.”); Bank of Am., Nat’l Ass’n v. Asbury, 165 So. 3d 808, 810-11 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015); Cooke v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 652 So. 2d 1154, 1156 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995); Paulk v. Peyton, 648 So. 2d 772, 774 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994).

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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Insurance Policy Construction is a Question of Law

Posted by David Adelstein on July 15, 2017
Appeal, Standard of Review / Comments Off on Insurance Policy Construction is a Question of Law

I am sure you have an insurance policy…some type of policy. An automobile liability policy. A commercial general liability policy. A professional liability policy. A property insurance policy.   A directors and officers liability policy. A workers compensation insurance policy. There are many types of insurance policies. I am sure you have some insurance policy to protect you or your business’s needs or risks.   You may have even been involved in an insurance coverage dispute or have had issues dealing with insurance coverage.

If you read any one of your insurance policies, you will probably be left with more questions than answers. You will be asking yourself “what does this mean?” or “what does this say?” and will often be left bemoaning “huh!?!” with every other sentence you read.  This is the exact reason why there are insurance coverage disputes.

When it comes to insurance coverage disputes and the interpretation of the language in an insurance policy, the Florida Supreme Court importantly explained:

Insurance policy construction is a question of law subject to de novo review.  Courts construe insurance contracts according to their plain language.  However, “any ambiguity which remains after reading each policy as a whole and endeavoring to give every provision its full meaning and operative effect must be liberally construed in favor of coverage and strictly against the insurer.”  A provision is ambiguous if it is “susceptible to two reasonable interpretations, one providing coverage and the other excluding coverage.”  The ambiguity must be genuine, and the lack of a definition for an operative term “does not, by itself, create an ambiguity “When a term in an insurance policy is undefined, it should be given its plain and ordinary meaning, and courts may look to legal and non-legal dictionary definitions to determine such a meaning.” 

Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Macedo, 42 Fla. L. Weekly S731a (Fla. 2017) (internal citations omitted).

Obviously, if you have an insurance coverage dispute, you want to make sure you are represented by an attorney that understands the complexities of insurance coverage.  Nonetheless, it is imperative that you understand that insurance policy construction is a question of law for the Court with a de novo standard of appellate review.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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Courts do Not Favor the Technical (Oops!) Wins

Posted by David Adelstein on July 09, 2017
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Many rules of civil procedure are liberally construed to prevent the  “oops!” or “gotcha!” tactic if a rule is not perfectly complied with. Courts are hesitant to allow another party to prevail merely because its opposition committed a technical or procedural error. Technical wins are generally not favored, as long as there is a reasonable / excusable basis to justify why the technical error occurred.   Courts want parties to prevail on the merits of their dispute and not on who wins a procedural error.

An example of this general philosophy is the case of Well Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Shelton, 42 Fla. L. Weekly D1526a (Fla. 5th DCA 2017), where the lender in a mortgage foreclosure action received requests for admissions, a common discovery tool to get a party to admit or deny certain facts. Those admissions of fact help narrow issues for purposes of trial because they narrow the facts in dispute since they serve as stipulated facts.  Based on these admissions, a party can move for summary judgment based on the lack of any genuine material fact in dispute.

The lender’s counsel, due to a calendaring error, failed to respond to the request for admissions for well over a year. During this time, discovery continued. The lender’s counsel realized the error (over a year later) and filed a motion in the court for the court’s permission to file a late response based on excusable neglect (the calendaring error). The lender also claimed that many of the requests in the requests for admissions would have been denied by evidence already in the record and filed with the lender’s verified complaint. After the lender filed this motion, the debtor moved for summary judgment arguing that the lender’s failure to timely respond to the request for admissions should be deemed an admission as to all of its requests. The court agreed and granted summary judgment (based on the technical error of not timely responding to the request for admissions). A technical win!

On appeal, the Fifth District reversed stating that Florida favors disputes to be decided on the merits rather than technical rules. In this case, the court found that even though the lender failed to respond to the request for admissions for well over a year, (1) discovery continued in the case, (2) there was evidence in the record contradicting some or all of the requests, (3) the debtor did not move for summary judgment until after the lender filed a motion for permission to file a late response, and (4) the debtor could not prove how it was prejudiced by the late admissions. Wells Fargo Bank supra (“In sum, the trial court erred in entering summary judgment based on the technical admissions because there was record evidence contradicting the admissions. In addition, the Sheltons failed to make a sufficient showing of how granting relief from the admissions would have caused prejudice.”) 

By no means am I in favor of committing or excusing technical errors, and by no means am I in favor of technical victories.  Waiting well over a year to try to respond to requests for admissions is ridiculous. (Also, the opposing party should have inquired as to the status of the admissions versus waiting over a year to try to obtain a technical victory.)  A calendaring error makes sense in this case because there really was no upside for the lender to not timely respond to these admissions – they were probably all easy denials. There was no strategic value to delay. But, over a year is a LONG time. And, the court provides no substantive discussion as to when a party is prejudiced by a technical error versus when a party is not. For instance, what if the debtor had moved for summary judgment before the lender realized it neglected to respond to the admissions? What if the parties were on a trial docket? What if the denials to the admissions were not so readily apparent from the record evidence? And, what if the debtor’s counsel tried to get the lender’s counsel to respond to the admissions months earlier?

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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Civil Conspiracy – Not Just a Claim in the Criminal Context

Posted by David Adelstein on July 01, 2017
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We think of the word “conspiracy” in the criminal context. A criminal conspiracy. Sounds bad. Real bad. But, there is a cause of action in the civil context called “civil conspiracy.” Granted, this is a fact-based claim that is challenging to prove at trial, but nevertheless, such a claim exists if you can prove that co-conspirators conspired to commit an intentional tort or an intentional wrong.  

The Third District Court of Appeal in MP, LLC v. Sterling Holding, LLC, 2017 WL 2794218 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017) recently explained a claim for civil conspiracy:

The elements of a claim for civil conspiracy are: “(a) an agreement between two or more parties, (b) to do an unlawful act or to do a lawful act by unlawful means, (c) the doing of some overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy, and (d) damage to plaintiff as a result of the acts done under the conspiracy.” Raimi v. Furlong, 702 So. 2d 1273, 1284 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997). There is no requirement that each co-conspirator commit acts in furtherance of the conspiracy; it is sufficient if each conspirator knows of the scheme and assists in some way. Charles v. Fla. Foreclosure Placement Ctr., LLC, 988 So. 2d 1157, 1160 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008).

The gist of a civil action for conspiracy is not the conspiracy itself, but the civil wrong which is done pursuant to the conspiracy and which results in damage to the plaintiff.Blatt v. Green, Rose, Kahn & Piotrkowski, 456 So.2d 949, 951 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984); see also Phelan v. Lawhon, 2017 WL 1177595 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017) (civil conspiracy claim must show independent wrong that would be an actionable wrong if it was committed by one person); Morris USA Inc. v. Boatright, 2017 WL 1356285 (civil conspiracy claim holds co-conspirators liable for “harm caused by other members of a conspiracy to commit an intentional tort.”); Walters v. Blankenship, 931 So.2d 137, 140 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006) (action for civil conspiracy generally requires underlying wrong or tort).

As mentioned, a civil conspiracy claim requires an agreement between two or more parties – co-conspirators. Generally, a company cannot conspire with its officers, employees, and agents. Mancinelli v. Davis, 2017 WL 1278074, *2 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017). The only exception to this would be if an agent has a personal stake in the underlying activities that is distinct from the company’s interest that results in more than an incidental benefit to the agent. Id.

Proving a conspiracy is always challenging so parties need to engage in legwork figuring out what elements they can prove on the front end and what specific discovery they need to focus on in order to connect the dots and prove a civil conspiracy. However, asserting this claim just to assert it is a mistake (in my opinion) without having an understanding as to what you think you can prove.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

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Timely Move for Appellate Attorney’s Fees (if You have a Basis!)

Posted by David Adelstein on June 25, 2017
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Moving for appellate attorney’s fees? If you do, make sure you TIMELY file a motion!  Appeals take time…in many instances, lots of time…and if there is a basis to recover attorney’s fees, you want to make sure a motion is timely filed and supported by a contractual or statutory basis.

Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.400 governs appellate costs and fees.   This Rule provides:

(a) Costs. Costs shall be taxed in favor of the prevailing party unless the court orders otherwise. Taxable costs shall include

(1) fees for filing and service of process;

(2) charges for preparation of the record and any hearing or trial transcripts necessary to determine the proceeding;

(3) bond premiums; and

(4) other costs permitted by law.

Costs shall be taxed by the lower tribunal on a motion served no later than 45 days after rendition of the court’s order. If an order is entered either staying the issuance of or recalling a mandate, the lower tribunal is prohibited from taking any further action on costs pending the issuance of a mandate or further order of the court.

(b) Attorneys’ Fees. With the exception of motions filed pursuant to rule 9.410(b), a motion for attorneys’ fees shall state the grounds on which recovery is sought and shall be served not later than:

(1) in appeals, the time for service of the reply brief; or

(2) in original proceedings, the time for service of the petitioner’s reply to the response to the petition.

The assessment of attorneys’ fees may be remanded to the lower tribunal. If attorneys’ fees are assessed by the court, the lower tribunal may enforce payment.

(c) Review. Review of orders rendered by the lower tribunal under this rule shall be by motion filed in the court within 30 days of rendition.

The entitlement to attorney’s fees must be supported by a statutory or contractual basis. State, Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Trauth, 971 So.2d 906, 908 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007).   It is incumbent on a party to timely file a motion for appellate attorney’s fees if they want to recover attorney’s fees relating to the appeal.  An appellate court has jurisdiction to award appellate attorney’s fees. Bartow HMA, LLC v. Kirkland, 146 So.3d 1213, 1215 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014).   “Once the appellate court determines that an award of appellate attorney’s fees is appropriate, a mandate is issued to the trial court to impose the fees after conducting a hearing. Absent a mandate, the trial court has no jurisdiction to award appellate attorney’s fees.” Respiratory Care Services, Inc. v. Murray D. Shear, P.A., 715 So.2d 1054, 1056 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998).

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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Seller’s Remorse can have Consequences, Particularly when the Seller Acts in Bad Faith

Posted by David Adelstein on June 18, 2017
Trial Perspectives / Comments Off on Seller’s Remorse can have Consequences, Particularly when the Seller Acts in Bad Faith

Seller’s Remorse? We all have experienced buyer’s remorse in some fashion, but what about seller’s remorse? Perhaps talked about less than buyer’s remorse, but sellers can have regrets too.   This, however, does not mean that a seller’s remorse can go consequence-free, particularly when the seller backs out of a deal or sabotages the deal because of seller’s remorse.  For instance, what if a seller of real property signs a deal to sell her property and then realizes she could have gotten some more money for the same property? Can she simply back out of the deal or proactively prevent certain conditions from occurring that are required to consummate the transaction? Is this type of bad faith accepted?

Head v. Sorensen, 42 Fla. L. Weekly D1380 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017) is a case that touches on seller’s remorse in the context of a seller of a condominium unit backing out of a signed deal and undertaking efforts to prevent conditions from occurring required to consummate the transaction.   The seller and buyer signed a purchase and sale contract for $405,000 with closing to occur 2 months later. A day or so later, the seller received a call from another owner in the condominium that told her that her sale price was too low and she could have gotten more money.  Based on this call, the seller signed a cancellation of contract and sent it to the buyer. The buyer refused to sign the cancellation and indicated his intent to close on the unit.

The purchase and sale contract provided that the sale was conditioned on the condominium association’s approval. This is not an uncommon rider to a purchase and sale contract. The buyer filed his application with the association for the requisite approval. However, the seller, because she wanted the deal to die, contacted the association and told them that she did not want to go through with the transaction and there were legal issues that that might prevent closing from taking place (although she never explained what those legal issues were). She also told the association to investigate the buyer’s ability to pay costs associated with the condominium. The association then rejected the contract based on the purported low sales price prompting the buyer to sue claiming, among other counts, breach of contract and specific performance.

The seller argued that the condition to closing—the association’s approval—did not occur so the buyer could not close on the unit.   The seller also creatively argued that the contract terminated by its own terms because there was a title defect (the association’s lack of approval) that rendered the title to the unit unmarketable and this defect was not cured.   The title commitment / defect provision is standard in real estate contracts that allows the buyer to notify the seller prior to closing of any title defects; the seller then has time to cure the title defects. If the seller cannot cure the defects after reasonable diligent effort, the contract terminates.

While the contract and closing was conditioned on the association’s approval, the problem was that the seller proactively assisted the association’s rejection of the buyer and deal, or proactively ensured that the condition would not occur. Naturally, the buyer’s title commitment reflected the association’s approval as a closing condition. The seller certainly didn’t go out of her way to ensure the association would approve the sale, which a seller would typically do when they have a buyer in place and a relatively short closing time. Had the seller sold the sale to the association, or not actively hindered the association from approving the buyer and transaction, the association probably would have approved the deal and any title defect would be removed.

Surprisingly, based on these facts, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the seller. On appeal, the Second District reversed stating:

When there are questions of fact as to whether one party to a contract has acted in bad faith by helping to procure an event that would cause the contract to terminate, summary judgment in favor of that party is improper….Here, such questions do exist. Therefore, Sorensen [seller] was not entitled to summary judgment in her favor on the issue of whether the contract terminated under the condominium rider, and the trial court erred by entering final summary judgment….

***

To limit the buyer to just the return of his deposit creates an incentive for the seller to dishonor the contract: “This seems to us to come perilously close to arguing that the sellers, after entering into a solemn agreement, could glibly dishonor it and restrict the buyer to regaining what was in practical effect already his, inasmuch as the transaction was not consummated and the sellers were therefore not entitled to the money.”… Creating an incentive for a seller to breach the contract is anathema to the law.

Head, supra, (internal citations omitted).

Seller’s remorse has consequences, particularly when the seller proactively ensures conditions associated with the deal do not occur.

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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