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Building Owner’s Florida Breach of Contract Case Against Contractor Revived Due to Improper Consideration of ‘Abandoned’ Complaint

gavelIn 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.

The case involved two parties to a commercial contract:  Oceanside Plaza Condominium Association, Inc. and Foam King Industries, Inc. Under the February 2008 agreement, Foam King promised to provide insulation for a new roof on Oceanside’s property. After discovering that its roof leaked, the property owner sued Foam King in the summer of 2013. Foam King launched a challenge to the lawsuit, based upon Oceanside’s having filed it after the statute of limitations had already expired. While that was pending, the two sides agreed to dismiss the first complaint and to allow Oceanside to file a second complaint.

Two months after this agreement, Oceanside returned to court to file its second complaint. Again, Foam King tried to secure a dismissal of the case based upon a statute of limitations argument. Foam King’s argument was that the first complaint and the second complaint contained identical claims and that the complaint could not be considered to be within the four-year limitations period dictated by Florida law.

The trial court sided with Foam King. In reaching its ruling, it looked at both the first and second complaints. The court noted that the claims were the same, but Oceanside had changed the date that it allegedly discovered the leak problem to the day before the limitations period would have expired. The trial court concluded that Oceanside’s new complaint was designed “simply to avoid and plead around the statute of limitations.”

Oceanside appealed and won. In this case, the issue was not whether Oceanside engaged in a process of improperly “pleading around” its case’s potential limitations period problem. The issue was that the trial judge never should have looked at the first complaint at all in making a ruling regarding the second complaint. The law in Florida says that, when you file a second complaint in your case, that automatically amounts to a complete abandonment of your first complaint.

In other words, when Oceanside filed its second complaint, its first complaint “ceased to be part of the record and could no longer be viewed as a pleading.” Since the first complaint was no longer an official part of the case file, the trial judge should not have compared and contrasted it with the second complaint. The judge should have reviewed only the second complaint, which laid out a proper breach of contract case that was within the four-year limitations period, and, based on that, the trial court should have denied Foam King’s dismissal request.

You may face many hurdles in your commercial contract litigation. There may be jurisdictional challenges. There may be statute-of-limitations challenges. There may be any of a number of things that could derail your case. The experienced Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon have been assisting businesses with their breach of contract lawsuits for many years and have the skills and resources you need for your case.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation.

More blog posts:

Lack of Clarity Costs Concert Producer in Federal Breach of Contract Lawsuit, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Nov. 4, 2016

Media Rights Sale to Argentine Government Stymies Florida Marketing Firm’s Breach of Contract Lawsuit, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Sept. 16, 2016