When you need to sue because your business was harmed as a result of a breached contract, there are many litigation strategies that may be available to you. One of those is presenting the court with alternate theories of liability. Using strategies like this effectively can be essential to ensuring that your business receives every opportunity to achieve a positive outcome. When it comes to deploying this and other litigation strategies in your breach of contract case, it is essential to make sure you’re using it properly within the confines defined by Florida law. Whether you have one theory or liability or several, make sure you have the right South Florida commercial litigation attorney handling your matter for you.
When you decide to present multiple theories of liability, it is important to ensure you are not seeking inconsistent remedies, as that may trigger an invocation of the legal doctrine of ‘election of remedies’ and cause your case irreparable harm.
As an example, there is a commercial lease case from South Florida. In late 2011, a tenant subleased a space to a restaurant. The agreement gave the subtenant the option to terminate the lease early, provided the subtenant supplied nine months prior written notice. If the subtenant opted to exit early, the agreement obligated it to pay an early termination penalty fee.
In 2014, the restaurant decided to use the early termination option. It sent a written notice on April 28 and, exactly eight months later, the restaurant left the property.
Nevertheless, the matter ended up in court. The tenant asserted that the subtenant improperly failed to pay rent that was owed. The tenant lost that argument, but later amended its complaint to assert that the restaurant also breached the lease by failing to pay the appropriate early termination fee.
What ‘election of remedies’ means in Florida
The restaurant argued that the “election of remedies” barred the tenant from pursuing a breach claim based on the termination fee. Election of remedies says that “a party electing one course of action should not later be allowed to avail himself of an incompatible course.” In Florida, this means that, if you are seeking remedies that are “coexistent and inconsistent,” you’re barred from advancing your case.
So, when are remedies inconsistent under Florida law, you might wonder? This happens if they create the possibility for you to obtain double recovery for the same injury or if they “rely on sets of facts that are inconsistent with one another.”
Neither of those was true in this lawsuit, so the election of remedies doctrine did not stop the tenant from advancing its breach of lease claim. The tenant previously alleged that the subtenant improperly failed to pay rent. The tenant’s current breach of lease claim asserted that the subtenant improperly failed to pay the termination fee. These, according to the court, represented “two alternate, but consistent, remedies arising from a breach of the same contract.” The termination fee argument was “an alternate breach of lease claim under the same general set of facts,” which is entirely permissible under Florida law.
The tenant’s legal team knew the parameters of Florida ‘election of remedies’ law and knew how to assert alternate theories of liability without running afoul of them, thereby giving the tenant the greatest chance of recovery.
Whether your landlord tenant dispute involves one claim or numerous claims, the right legal team can help you give yourself every chance possible for a positive result. For the powerful legal representation you need, count on the knowledgeable commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman and our many years of experience representing commercial landlords and tenants.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.