Florida Appeals Court Awards Former Condo Owner Attorneys’ Fees After the Condo Association Failed to Prosecute its Claim
On November 6th, 2019, the Fourth District Court of Appeals for the state of Florida ruled in favor of a former condo owner in a dispute over attorneys’ fees. In the case of Victor Tison v. Clairmont Condominium F Association, Inc, the appeals court determined that former condo owner was still entitled to recover attorneys’ fees even though he sold his interests in the property while litigation was still pending. Here, our Miami business litigation lawyers review this decision and highlight an important lesson.
Case Analysis: Victor Tison v. Clairmont Condominium F Association, Inc
Background and Facts
In late 2015, the Clairmont Condominium F Association filed a complaint against Mr. Tison and another individual for unpaid assessments. In bringing the claim, Clairmont Condominium sought to foreclose on this property owner’s unit. In his response, Mr. Tison raised affirmative defenses.
In the Spring of 2017, Clairmont Condominium’s motion for summary judgement was denied—setting the case on a path for litigation. However, soon after, Mr. Tison sold his property interests to an unrelated third party while the litigation was still pending. Eventually, the entire lawsuit was dismissed because Clairmont Condominium simply stopped prosecuting its claim.
Initial Denial of Attorneys’ Fees
After the dismissal of the lawsuit, Mr. Tison moved for attorneys’ fees. His argument was relatively straightforward: He was the prevailing party in the case and the law/agreement allowed for the shifting of fees. In response, Clairmont Condominium countered that he was no longer entitled to any attorneys’ fees because he was not a unit owner. A trial court agreed with the condo association, denying his claim for attorneys’ fees.
Reversal: Attorneys’ Fees Deemed Appropriate
On review, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has reversed the trial court’s decision. As noted in the decision, the fact that Mr. Tison sold his unit in the middle of litigation has no bearing on the issue of attorneys’ fees. By law, prevailing parties in this type of case can seek attorneys’ fees from the other side—and, due to the fact that Clairmont Condominium essentially abandoned its claim, Mr. Tison did indeed prevail in the initial litigation. The decision has been reversed and remanded to determine an appropriate award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
An important lesson to take out of this case is to remember the full implications of bringing and abandoning legal action. It is entirely possible that Clairmont Condominium would have prevailed if it pursued its claim. It is now an unknowable question because the issue will never be litigated. However, due to the lack of prosecution, Mr. Tison was the prevailing party. Thus, he was entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Contact Our Florida Commercial Lawyers for Immediate Assistance
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida commercial attorneys represent condo owners and condo associations in legal proceedings. To get a confidential consultation, please do not hesitate to call us now. We serve clients in West Palm Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, and throughout South Florida.