In any commercial dispute, as with any litigation generally, there are some preliminary matters you must satisfy before you can bring your case in a particular place. In the case of a dispute between an airplane seller and its agent brokering the sale, the matter that proved to be a problem for the plaintiff was personal jurisdiction. The seller didn’t have sufficient contacts with Florida, so that meant the agent couldn’t sue it here, the Second District Court of Appeal opined.
In William Shakespeare’s history play, Henry IV, Part I, the bard wrote the line, “Discretion is the better part of valor.” This quotable quote is one that commercial landlords in Florida might do well to remember when experiencing an urge to use self-help in retaking possession of a leased space. The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently upheld a ruling that a commercial tenant in Palm Beach County was entitled to a multi-million-dollar judgment for a wrongful eviction. By engaging in self-help, the landlord was in violation of the law, and the tenant was entitled to the damages the jury awarded to it. The case points out the severe consequences that can await imprudent landlords and the recovery that can be available to tenants harmed as a result of their landlords’ self-help.
In commercial landlord-tenant disputes, one aspect of your case that may become involved is the use of the court registry as a place for the tenant to pay rent monies that are in dispute in the case. The standards of whether a trial court can order payment of rent into the court registry vary significantly, depending on whether the payment is compulsory or something that the tenant voluntarily asks of the court. In a recent constructive eviction case from Miami-Dade County, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court’s order allowing the tenant to pay rent to the registry. The tenant voluntarily sought to pay the registry, which meant that the trial judge had broad discretion in using or not using the registry.
In your commercial lease dispute case, sometimes it may be a small detail that makes all the difference. In a recent South Florida case decided by the Third District Court of Appeal involving a landlord’s action for a breach of the lease agreement, the tenant’s claim for attorneys’ fees fell short even though it had submitted an offer of settlement and had secured a judgment in its favor. The fees claim failed because the offer was not completely clear regarding exactly which issues were (and were not) covered by the settlement, and this technical vagueness made the offer unenforceable.
The dispute pitted a commercial landlord, Sharpe Investment Land Trust Number J, against one of its tenants, South Florida Pool and Spa Corp., regarding South Florida Pool’s tenancy at the Sharpe-owned Miller Heights Shopping Center in Miami. The landlord had filed an eviction action against the tenant, alleging that the tenant was in default with regard to paying its rent.
In a recent Fifth District Court of Appeal case, a Central Florida staffing company won a renewed opportunity to seek an award of damages as a result of its opponent’s assertion of baseless defenses. The decision clarified that, under the revised law, even if the defendant offered one potentially meritorious defense, the plaintiff was still allowed to seek delay damages for all of the other defenses advanced that were completely devoid of merit.
In the litigation of a commercial contract dispute, as in almost any civil case, you want to make sure that the outcome comes from all the appropriate information you wanted in front of the judge, and your case is not decided by anything that shouldn’t have been before the trial court. An example of this was a recent South Florida breach of contract case, in which the trial court looked at a party’s abandoned complaint in deciding to throw out the complaint. The Third District Court of Appeal revived the case, explaining that the trial judge should have reviewed only the most recent amended complaint submitted by the plaintiff.
When you are involved in a commercial contract dispute, there are many very important parts to the process. In some cases, the most important activity may actually take place before the trial, during the discovery process. This stage can involve many different options available to you to further your interests in the case. One of these tools is the deposition, including taking depositions of the corporate officers of your opponent. In a recent case originating in Miami regarding the management of a Key West hotel, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld a trial judge’s ruling that allowed a plaintiff to go forward with its depositions of two of the defendant’s highest officers. Even though the two officers didn’t have day-to-day roles in the management of the Key West hotel, the plaintiff had done enough to convince the courts that their depositions were “reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence.”
A case of bad carpet resin, and the demise of a 40-year-old carpet brand as a result, produced a $70 million verdict in favor of the carpet manufacturer recently. While the resin manufacturer owed the eight-figure judgment and also owed the carpet manufacturer prejudgment interest, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order setting the amount of interest the resin maker owed the carpet manufacturer. The interest should have been calculated from the time that the carpet manufacturer began suffering economic losses, rather than the time that the resin maker first breached the contract. The decision may possibly make it easier for businesses in commercial disputes in the future to defend against overly large prejudgment interest awards.
When you decide to pursue litigation against your former commercial contract partner, you hope to achieve either a successful settlement or a favorable judgment from the court. However, sometimes securing a settlement or a judgment is not the end of the road, but just a step along the way. In some cases, securing a judgment leads you to the next step of collecting that judgment, which can also involve the need for skilled counsel to provide diligent litigation representation and detailed knowledge of the law and procedures. One option that may be available to your business is persuading a court to transfer and assign your opponent’s right to a legal claim from that entity to your entity, as happened in one case recently decided by the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
There are several things you may have to address if someone with whom you’ve contracted breaches the agreement. One of these is obtaining a lien. In one recent Tampa Bay breach of contract case, the Second District Court of Appeal has reiterated that losing a claim on the merits does not automatically make the lien related to that claim fraudulent. A lien is only fraudulent if you lacked a good-faith basis for your claim or intentionally exaggerated the amount. Losing a closely contested issue in court does not qualify as either willful exaggeration or a lack of good faith.