When you are hauled into court in a commercial litigation situation, there are many things you seek to accomplish. Ideally, you seek to avoid a finding of liability and avoid an award of damages. At a minimum, if the court awards damages against you, you want to ensure that your legal obligations from the judgment do not result in paying out a double recovery, which is one situation in which your Florida commercial litigation attorney can help. A recent case involving an owner of undeveloped land and its providers of materials (like fill dirt) eventually presented exactly such an issue of double recovery.
The case began after the property owner contracted with another entity, Outdoor Site Solutions, for the provision of “labor, services and materials which included fill dirt.” That entity then, in turn, contracted with another business, Hicks Trucking and Fill, for the labor, services, and fill dirt.
Eventually the owner and Outdoor wound up in a dispute, and that dispute led to a cessation of work on the project and then a breach of contract lawsuit (which was filed by Outdoor). At first, the case was only a breach of contract action. Later, however, Hicks joined the case, asserting a claim of unjust enrichment against the owner.
At the end of the trial, the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and against the owner. The jury awarded Outdoor $87,000 in damages on the contract breach claim. Those damages were based upon amounts the owner had not paid for materials that Outdoor had already delivered. Hicks received almost $76,000 on the unjust enrichment claim for the fill dirt it had provided.
The owner then made a procedural move in an effort to avoid paying twice for one quantity of fill dirt (once to Outdoor within the contract breach damages and once to Hicks in the unjust enrichment damages). The trial court agreed that it must act to prevent a double recovery. As a result, it reduced Outdoor’s damages award by the amount of the fill dirt, meaning that Outdoor’s damages award dropped from $87,000 to $11,000.
Outdoor appealed and won. The Third DCA concluded that allowing the owner to escape paying Outdoor the full contractual amount due would result in the owner reaping a windfall. The owner was correct that it should not be forced to make payments that would amount to a double recovery, but the law only prevents a losing party from being forced to pay damages on multiple claims when those damages overlap. According to the appeals court, as long as Outdoor did not, as part of collecting its judgment, take in “monies actually paid” by the owner to Hicks, there was no overlap, and there would be no double recovery.
Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant in a commercial litigation case, you need skilled Florida business counsel fighting for you. The diligent South Florida contract litigation attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon have been helping clients protect their rights and defend their interests for many years. Find out how our team can help you.
Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you protect your interests.
More blog posts:
Stok Folk + Kon Client Secures $8M Award in Breach of Contract Litigation Victory, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, May 18, 2017
Tenant Entitled to Evict Subtenant Despite Unjust Enrichment in Broward County Commercial Lease Dispute, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, April 29, 2015
Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Christopher Carson, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.