Remedies For Real Property Disputes 05 30 12 DOCXx FLA 1201 W Salzman Remediesfor 053012

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Remedies for Real Property
Disputes in Florida
May 30, 2012 ©
Attorneys and Counselors at Law
301 E. Pine Street, Suite 1400
Post Office Box 3068
Orlando FL 32802-3068
Office: (407) 843-8880
Fax: (407) 244-5690
website: 1
A. Nature of Defaults.
A default under a contract for the sale and purchase of real estate in Florida
must be material to be legally justified. If a material default occurs, the contract for
sale, if enforceable under Florida law, generally governs the parties’ rights and
remedies. Although there can be numerous grounds to declare a default, they
generally fall within two categories: monetary and non-monetary defaults.
1. Monetary Defaults.
A monetary default is where a party, usually the buyer, fails to meet a financial
obligation due the other party, usually the seller, under the contract for sale. Typically,
this occurs when a buyer fails or refuses to pay a deposit or pay the final purchase price
for the property. A seller can also cause a monetary default, although it is less common
and depends on the terms of the contract for sale. For example, a contract for sale
could provide for the seller to pay for agreed upon repairs or improvements to the
property and to provide evidence of such payment before closing. The seller’s failure to
do so would arguably constitute a monetary default under the contract for sale. A
monetary default is almost always considered material, although the timing of the
default may or may not be material depending on whether the contract for sale provides
that “time is of the essence.”1
2. Non-Monetary Defaults.
Non-monetary defaults under contracts for sale can be more problematic. For
example, a seller could fail to disclose known, material, latent defects to the property
prior to closing, such as termite infestation or roof leaks. A title search could also reveal
a title defect which the seller is unwilling to cure, despite the terms of the contract
requiring such a cure. The contract for sale could require the seller to actually perform
repairs or improvements to the property, but the seller fails to do so prior to closing.
The seller could fail to sufficiently maintain a minimum level of tenants before closing.
The ways in which either party could cause a non-monetary default are only limited by
the obligations set forth in the contract for sale and to the extent that the default is
material. In general, a non-monetary default will be judicially enforced provided there is
evidence that the non-defaulting party has been materially prejudiced.
B. Notice of Default and Right to Cure.
Most contracts for sale require one party to give the other party notice of a
material default and a reasonable opportunity to cure the default. Such notice is a
1Sun Bank of Miami v. Lester, 404 So. 2d 141, 142 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981). 2
condition precedent to the non-defaulting party enforcing his or her rights under the
contract for sale.
C. Waiver of Notice and Default.
By closing on any sale with knowledge of a default under the contract, the non-
defaulting party may be deemed to have waived any right to enforce the default, unless
such rights are expressly reserved in a writing signed by all parties. However, many
contracts for sale include “anti-waiver” provisions to prevent the assertion of a
continuing waiver. The following is one example of such a provision:
Either party’s forbearance or waiver of any breach or
violation of this contract shall not be construed as a
continuing waiver or consent to any subsequent breach or
violation and shall not bar any party’s right to demand strict
compliance with that provision or any other provision of this
agreement. No course of dealing between the seller and the
buyer shall constitute a waiver of any of the seller’s rights or
any of the buyer’s obligations as due hereunder.
Notwithstanding a similar provision, a party’s conduct of accepting a cure of a
default could still be deemed a waiver of the default and similar types of future defaults.
For example, the seller may accept a deposit that is untimely made under the contract.
Even though the contract for sale may provide that time is of the essence for all
obligations, the seller may have thereby waived this requirement to refuse a future
untimely deposit. For a court to make that determination, it would have to conclude that
the default from the first untimely deposit was waived, along with the anti-waiver
provision itself.
Florida’s parol evidence rule may provide some protection against a party to a
contract alleging that its terms were modified or waived by an oral agreement. The rule
is that, if the terms of a contract are unambiguous and the contract is a complete
agreement, those terms are not subject to modification, variance or contradiction by
parol (oral) evidence.2If the contract for sale is ambiguous as to the parties’ intent on
any matter, parol evidence will be admissible on the issue.3“The parol evidence rule
serves as a shield to protect a valid, complete and unambiguous written instrument
from any verbal assault that would contradict, add to, subtract from it, or affect its
2See Titusville Assocs., Ltd. v. Barnett Banks Trust Co., 591 So. 2d 609, 611 (Fla. 1991); see also
Co & Co Enter., Inc. v. Robertson, 761 So. 2d 1179, 1179 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000); Newbern v. Am.
Plasticraft, Inc., 721 So. 2d 351, 352 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998); Polk v. Crittenden, 537 So. 2d 156, 159
(Fla. 5th DCA 1989); Rodriguez v. Tombrink Enter., Inc., 870 So. 2d 117, 119 n. 2 (Fla. 2d DCA
3See 3679 Waters Ave. Corp. v. Water St. Ovens, Ltd., 779 So. 2d 349, 351 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). 3
construction.4Since the rule only applies if the parties’ agreement is unambiguous and
complete, it is important that the contract is clear in its terms and expressly states that it
is “the entire agreement between the seller and the buyer and all other oral or written
understandings and agreements are merged into the contract and are deemed void.”
D. Excuse of performance.
Florida law excuses performance of a contract, if performance is either
impossible or the contract purpose has become commercially frustrated.5However, the
performance must be more than difficult or burdensome.6The defense of impossibility
of performance refers to the occurrence of an event that is beyond the parties' control
which, given the purpose for which the contract was made, renders one side's
performance to be impossible.7Supervening impossibility of performance based upon
an event which occurs after inception of a contract is not an excuse for non-
performance of a contract.8Likewise, an unexpected impediment to the performance of
a contract will not relieve a party from his contractual obligations, unless his
performance is rendered impossible by an “act of God.”9Such an “act of God” must be
so extraordinary and unprecedented that human foresight could not anticipate or guard
against it, and the effect of which could not be prevented or avoided by the exercise of
reasonable prudence, diligence, and care.10
Further, a party’s performance will not be excused if the other party has fully
performed or if the impossibility or frustration of purpose was foreseeable at the time
the contract was formed.11 Even an “act of God” will not excuse non-performance
under a contract where one party has substantially or fully performed under the
4Crittenden, 537 So. 2d at 159 (quoting Sears v. James Talcott, Inc., 174 So. 2d 776, 778 (Fla. 2d
DCA 1965)).
5Home Design Ctr.-Joint Venture v. County Appliances of Naples, Inc., 563 So. 2d 767, 769-70
(Fla. 2d DCA 1990); see also Florida Dep’t of Fin. Servs. v. Freeman, 921 So. 2d 598, 608 (Fla.
2006) (Cantero, J., concurring).
6Home Design Ctr.–Joint Venture, 563 So. 2d at 769-70.
7Crown Ice Mach. Leasing Co. v. Sam Senter Farms, Inc., 174 So. 2d 614, 617 (Fla. 2d DCA
8Metro. Dade County v. Babcock Co., 287 So. 2d 139, 142 n.1 (Fla. 3d DCA 1973).
9Enid Corp. v. Mills, 101 So. 2d 906, 908-09 (Fla. 3d DCA 1958).
10Seaboard Airline Ry. Co. v. Mullin, 70 So. 467 (Fla. 1915); see also Fla. Power Corp. v. City of
Tallahassee, 18 So. 2d 671, 675 (Fla. 1944); Norris v. Savannah, F&W Ry. Co., 1 So. 475, 478
(Fla. 1887) (stating that an extraordinary flood is an act of God).
11Home Design Ctr.–Joint Venture, 563 So. 2d at 769; see also Valencia Ctr., Inc. v. Publix Super
Mkts., Inc., 464 So. 2d 1267, 1269 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985); Moon v. Wilson, 130 So. 25, 27 (Fla.
12Moon, 130 So. at 27. 4
Should the buyer breach a material term of a contract for sale, the seller has
several alternative remedies.13 The seller may choose to retain the property and sue
for breach of contract or the seller may elect to sue in equity for specific performance.14
In other words, the seller may sue for actual damages caused by a default, or request a
court, under limited circumstances, to order specific performance and require the buyer
to complete the sale.15 As a practical matter, however, courts generally do not grant
specific performance against a buyer who refuses to complete any sale in the absence
of evidence that the buyer has the financial ability to close.
A. Compensatory, Incidental and Consequential Damages.
If the seller chooses to retain the property and sue the buyer for damages, the
proper measure of actual damages is the difference between the agreed purchase price
in the contract and the fair value of the property at the time of the breach, less any
money received by the seller under the contract for sale.16 Unless expressly precluded
by the contract for sale, the seller may also recover such incidental and consequential
damages that were reasonably contemplated by the parties at the time the contract was
executed and which directly and proximately result from the buyer’s default.17 A seller’s
incidental and consequential damages may include title search expenses, closing fees
or broker’s fees which would not have otherwise been paid, but for the buyer’s default.
B. Liquidated Damages.
Most contracts for sale provide that the seller may retain, as liquidated damages,
all deposits made by the buyer in the event of a material breach. The amount of
liquidated damages, however, must be reasonably related to: (i) the actual damages
incurred by the seller; (ii) other facts and circumstances known to the parties as of the
date the contract was signed; and (iii) with due regard to future expectations. The sum
for liquidated damages cannot be disproportionate to any compensatory damages that
may have been reasonably expected to result from a breach at the time the contract
was executed.18 Further, the liquidated damages may not be a penalty, otherwise the
13Clements v. Leonard, 70 So. 2d 840, 842 (Fla. 1954); see also Miller v. Rolfe, 97 So. 2d 132,
134 (Fla. 1st DCA 1957).
14Miller, 97 So. 2d at 134.
15Clements, 70 So. 2d at 842; see also Frank Silvestri, Inc. v. Hilltop Developers, Inc., 418 So. 2d
1201, 1203 (Fla. 5th DCA 1982).
16Buschman v. Clark, 583 So. 2d 799, 800 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991); see also Frank Silvestri, Inc., 418
So. 2d at 1203.
17Buschman, 583 So. 2d at 800.
18See Valenti v. Coral Reef Shopping Ctr., Inc., 316 So. 2d 589, 592 (Fla. 3d DCA 1975); see also
Hooper v. Breneman, 417 So. 2d 315, 317 (Fla. 5th DCA 1982). 5
contract provision will not be enforced.19 The enforcement of a liquidated damages
clause may also be called into question if the seller has the express contractual option
to recover actual compensatory damages in excess of the amount of liquidated
C. Specific Performance.
The obligations for performance under the contract for sale must be clear,
definite and certain for a court to order specific performance in the event the buyer fails
or refuses to close.21 The seller must also be ready, willing and able to complete the
sale in accordance with the contract terms.22 Ultimately, the court has discretion
whether to grant specific performance, even where all other elements of the claim are
If an adequate remedy at law exists, it is error for the court to grant specific
performance.24 Whether a monetary judgment is collectible is not to be considered by
the court in determining whether the movant has an adequate legal remedy.25
D. Rescission.
A seller seeking rescission of a contract for sale must be able to return the buyer
to the status quo prior to the execution of the contract for sale. To do so, the seller
must return to the buyer all amounts paid to the seller or paid into escrow. However,
the seller may deduct any financial damage sustained, along with any amount of
19Hutchison v. Tompkins, 259 So. 2d 129, 132 (Fla. 1972); see also Berndt v. Bieberstein, 465 So.
2d 1264, 1265 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985).
20See Lefemine v. Baron, 573 So. 2d 326, 328 (Fla. 1991); see also Crosby Forrest Prods., Inc. v.
Byers, 623 So. 2d 565, 568 (Fla. 5th DCA 1993); Ropiza v. Reyes, 583 So. 2d 400, 401 (Fla. 3d
DCA 1991); Hackett v. J.R.L. Dev., Inc., 566 So. 2d 601, 603 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990); Haisfield v.
Fleming, Haile & Shaw, P.A., 819 So. 2d 182, 186 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002).
21Our Savior Lutheran Church v. Tom Jones Enter., Inc., 421 So. 2d 738, 739 (Fla. 4th DCA
22Bay Club, Inc. v. Brickell Bay Club, Inc., 293 So. 2d 137, 138 (Fla. 3d DCA 1974); see also
Muniz v. Crystal Lake Project, LLC, 947 So. 2d 464, 469 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006).
23Mann v. Thompson, 100 So. 2d 634, 637 (Fla. 1st DCA 1958); see also Campbell v. A.B. Taff &
Sons, Inc., 519 So. 2d 1039, 1041 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988).
24Vagabond Travel & Tours, Inc. v. Universal Inns of Am., Inc., 440 So. 2d 482, 483 (Fla. 2d DCA
1983); see also Terex Trailer Corp. v. McIlwain, 579 So. 2d 237, 241 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991).
25Employee Benefit Plans, Inc. v. Radice Corporate Ctr. I, Inc., 593 So. 2d 1125, 1127 (Fla. 4th
DCA 1992). 6
financial benefit the buyer received if he or she was in possession of the real property
prior to the default.26
E. Reformation.
A court may equitably reform an executed agreement to effect the intent of an
agreement previously entered into by the parties, but which by mistake of the
draftsman, does not fulfill the parties’ mutual intent. In short, if a written instrument
fails to express the mutual intent of the parties, a court in equity may reform the
instrument, although the failure may have resulted from a mutual mistake as to the legal
meaning and operation of the terms used in the writing. Reformation will not be
permitted if only one party is mistaken as to the legal meaning, scope and effect of the
agreement he or she has signed.27 Also, the statute of frauds is not a bar to
reformation of a land contract.28
Where a seller wrongfully fails or refuses to perform under a contract for sale or
to convey the quality of title agreed to be conveyed to the buyer, the buyer has several
legal and equitable remedies against the seller.29 One of those remedies is for the
buyer, under certain circumstances, to bring an action for specific performance of the
contract for sale. If the buyer is unsuccessful in an action for specific performance, the
buyer may be precluded from bringing a subsequent suit for damages based upon the
doctrine of res judicata.30 For this reason, a buyer should bring a multiple count lawsuit
for specific performance and, in the alternative, damages should the court decline to
grant specific performance. Consideration should be given to any controlling contract
provisions for liquidated damages or a limitation of liability.31
A. Specific Performance.
As with a seller requesting specific performance, a buyer may only seek specific
performance if the obligations for performance under the contract for sale are clear,
26See Braman Dodge, Inc. v. Smith, 515 So. 2d 1053, 1054-55 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987); see also
Niesz v. Gehris, 418 So. 2d 445, 447 (Fla. 5th DCA 1982).
27Jacobs v. Parodi, 39 So. 833, 836 (Fla. 1905); see also Smith v. Royal Auto. Group, Inc., 675
So. 2d 144, 150 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996).
28Miley v. Miley, 402 So. 2d 557, 558 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981); see also Genarro v. Leeper, 313 So. 2d
70, 72 (Fla. 2d DCA 1975); Royal Auto., 675 So. 2d at 153.
29See John Ringling Estates, Inc. v. White, 141 So. 884, 885 (Fla. 1932).
30Greenstein v. Greenbrook, Ltd., 443 So. 2d 296, 297 (Fla. 3d DCA 1983); see also Alvarez v.
Nestor Salesco, Inc., 695 So. 2d 941, 942 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997).
31Miller, 97 So. 2d at 134. 7
definite and certain.32 The buyer must also be ready, willing and able to complete the
sale.33 Again, the court has discretion whether to grant specific performance even
where all other elements of the claim are proven.34 If the buyer has an adequate
remedy at law, the court may not grant specific performance.35
B. Notice of Lis Pendens.
If a buyer desires to pursue specific performance of a contract for sale, the buyer
needs to consider recording a notice of lis pendens against the property to prevent the
seller from transferring title to a subsequent buyer pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
Florida’s lis pendens statute governs when that can be done, which states in part:
When the pending pleading does not show that the action is founded on
a duly recorded instrument or on a lien claimed under part I of chapter
713 or when the action no longer affects the subject property, the court
shall control and discharge the recorded notice of lis pendens as the
court would grant and dissolve injunctions.36
In order for a notice of lis pendens to be filed and recorded by any party without
first posting a bond, the lawsuit must be “founded on” a duly recorded instrument or
upon a lien claimed under part I of Chapter 713, Florida Statutes. If the action is
“founded on” an unrecorded document, such as a contract for sale, the proponent of
the lis pendens should consider first obtaining leave of court before filing and recording
the lis pendens. The court must then determine whether to require the posting of a
bond to secure the opposing parties’ damages, interest thereon, and attorneys’ fees
and costs that may be incurred to dissolve the lis pendens.37 For any lawsuit to be
“founded” upon a duly recorded instrument, the primary rights asserted by the
proponent of the lis pendens must have “arose from the recorded instrument.”38
The Florida Supreme Court has addressed whether it is mandatory under Florida
Statute §48.23(3) for a trial court to require a lis pendens bond where the action is not
based upon a recorded instrument or a construction lien.
32Our Savior Lutheran Church, 421 So. 2d at 739.
33Harrison v. Baker, 402 So. 2d 1270, 1273 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981).
34Mann, 100 So. 2d at 637.
35Vagabond Travel & Tours, Inc., 440 So. 2d at 483.
36Fla. Stat. § 48.23(3) (2011) (emphasis added).
37See Avalon Assocs. of Del., Ltd. v. Avalon Park Assocs., Inc., 760 So. 2d 1132, 1134 (Fla. 5th
DCA 2000); see also Suarez v. KMD Constr., Inc., 965 So. 2d 184, 187-88 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).
38Avalon Assocs. Of Del., Ltd., 760 So. 2d at 1134-35; see also Feinstein v. Dolene, 455 So. 2d
1126, 1127 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984); Hough v. Bailey, 421 So. 2d 708, 708 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982). 8
[I]t is within the trial court’s discretion to determine whether
to require the lis pendens proponent to post a bond when
the property-holder defendant can show that damages will
likely result to that defendant in the event the notice of lis
pendens is unjustified.39
The Florida Supreme Court stated that the amount of the bond is also within the
discretion of the trial court, but should bear a reasonable relationship to the amount of
damages the seller proves are likely to result if the lis pendens is unjustified.40
In addition, the lis pendens may be dissolved where the buyer does not establish
a “fair nexus between the apparent legal or equitable ownership of the property and the
dispute embodied in the lawsuit.”41 A fully executed contract for sale establishes a fair
nexus between a buyer’s claim for specific performance and ownership of the real
property for purposes of defeating a seller’s motion to dissolve a lis pendens. This is
because any order dissolving the notice of lis pendens could jeopardize the rights of
subsequent buyers or lienors and could also jeopardize the buyer’s unrecorded claim
against the property, should the buyer prevail in his action for specific performance.42 It
has been held that it would be error for a trial court to not require the posting of a bond
to maintain a lis pendens for an equitable lien claim where the lawsuit is not founded
upon a duly recorded instrument.43
C. Equitable Liens.
Equitable liens arise from two sources: (a) a written contract which shows
an intention to charge some particular property with a debt or obligation,
and (b) when declared by a court of equity out of general considerations
of right and justice. . . .44
39Med. Facilities Dev., Inc. v. Little Arch Creek Props., Inc., 675 So. 2d 915, 916 (Fla. 1996); see
also Nickerson v. Watermark Marina of Palm City, LLC, 978 So. 2d 187, 189 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008).
40Med. Facilities Dev., Inc., 675 So. 2d at 918 n. 2.
41Chiusolo v. Kennedy, 614 So. 2d 491, 492 (Fla. 1993).
42Christian v. Sanderhoff, 731 So. 2d 804, 805 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999); see also Von Mitschke-
Collande v. Kramer, 869 So. 2d 1246, 1249-50 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004).
43See Baghaffar v. Story, 515 So. 2d 1373, 1374 (Fla. 5th DCA 1987); see also Mohican Valley,
Inc. v. MacDonald, 443 So. 2d 479, 480-81 (Fla. 5th DCA 1984); Roger Homes Corp. v. Persant
Constr. Co., 637 So. 2d 5, 6 n.1 (Fla. 3d DCA 1994); Porter Homes, Inc. v. Soda, 540 So. 2d 195,
195 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989).
44Carter v. Suggs, 190 So. 2d 784, 787 (Fla. 1st DCA 1966) (citing Tucker v. Prevatt Builders,
Inc., 116 So. 2d 437, 439 (Fla. 1st DCA 1959)). 9
For example, a written contract containing an agreement for a property owner to
grant a mortgage at some time in the future as security may create a right to an
equitable lien.45
A buyer under an executory contract for sale who is not in default is entitled to
rescind the contract and recover all purchase money paid with interest, along with other
expenses incurred by reason of the seller’s default. The buyer further has a claim to an
equitable lien against the property to secure such damages.46 If the buyer chooses to
proceed with a specific performance claim, the fact that he or she may be entitled to
record a notice of lis pendens has the same effect as creating an equitable lien on the
property subject to the final determination of the claim for specific performance.
D. Compensatory, Incidental and Consequential Damages.
If the seller’s default was in good faith and the property has not been sold, the
buyer’s measure of damages is the buyer’s “out-of-pocket” damages, such as any
money paid to the seller, interest on that sum and any other actual damages incurred
as a result of the default.47 If the default was in bad faith and the property has not yet
been sold, the buyer is entitled to recover its “benefit of the bargain” damages, which
are measured as the difference in the purchase price in the contract for sale and the
fair market value of the property at the time of the breach.48 Bad faith is determined by
the intent of the seller and is deemed present where the seller knew or should have
known that the seller could not perform under the contract for sale, or where the seller
simply refuses to close on the sale without legal justification.49
Should a seller default under a contract by failing to close and later sells the
property to another buyer, the initial buyer may pursue the seller for “benefit of the
bargain” damages, measured by all monies paid to the seller, interest on that amount,
special damages and any profit made by the seller on the subsequent sale.50 The
foregoing is the rule regardless of whether the seller’s default was in good faith or bad
In the event a seller defaults under the contract by failing to disclose a material,
known, latent defect and the buyer closes on the sale, the buyer’s damages are
measured by the lesser of:
45Meyer v. Schwartz, 391 So. 2d 310, 311 (Fla. 4th DCA 1980).
46Sparks v. Charles Wayne Group, 568 So. 2d 512, 515 (Fla. 5th DCA 1990) receded on other
grounds by Chiusolo v. Kennedy, 589 So. 2d 420, 421 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991); limitation on other
grounds recognized by Chiusolo v. Kennedy, 614 So. 2d 491, 492-93 (Fla. 1993).
47Avellone v. Mehta, 544 So. 2d 1122, 1123 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989).
48Port Largo Club, Inc. v. Warren, 476 So. 2d 1330, 1333 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985).
49Wolofsky v. Behrman, 454 So. 2d 614, 615-16 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984).
50Coppola Enter., Inc. v. Alfone, 531 So. 2d 334, 335 (Fla. 1988). 10
1. Diminution in fair value; or
2. The cost of repairing or restoring the property to its condition prior
to the defect.51
Damages for the cost of restoration are limited to the value of the property in its
original condition.52 However, the restoration rule is not applicable where: (a) the cost
of restoring the property exceeds the value of the property in its original condition; (b)
the restoration would result in a depreciation in the value of the property; (c) the cost of
restoration is more than the actual damage sustained by the buyer; or (d) where the
restoration is impracticable.53
E. Rescission.
For a buyer to rescind a contract for sale, the buyer must reconvey the real
property if the sale has already closed and return all benefits received from the sale. In
return, the buyer is entitled to a refund of all purchase money paid to the seller and the
rescission of any purchase money note and mortgage held by the seller or others who
are not good faith purchasers for value, such as holders in due course.54
A buyer, who in good faith has made improvements to the property, is also
entitled to receive the reasonable value of those improvements upon rescission of the
contract for sale.55 A trial court is not permitted to rescind a contract for sale and a
deed where it is proven that rescission will not return the parties to their status quo prior
to the sale, particularly where one party has made improvements to the property for
which no compensation is or can be received.56 This rule may not be applicable if the
improvements were made by a party in possession, but after suit was instituted.57
F. Reformation.
Reformation is proper to equitably reform an executed agreement to effect the
mutual intent of an agreement previously entered into by the parties, but which by
mistake of the draftsman, does not fulfill the parties’ mutual intent. However,
51Davey Compressor Co. v. City of Delray Beach, 639 So. 2d 595, 596 (Fla. 1994); Am. Equity
Ins. Co. v. Van Ginhoven, 788 So. 2d 388, 391 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001).
52Davey Compressor Co., 639 So. 2d at 596.
53Samples v. Conoco, Inc., 165 F. Supp. 2d 1303, 1317 (N.D. Fla. 2001).
54Niesz, 418 So. 2d at 447-48.
55Walker v. Galt, 171 F.2d 613, 615 (5th Cir. 1948).
56Royal v. Parado, 462 So. 2d 849, 856 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985).
57See Walker, 171 F.2d at 615. 11
reformation will not be permitted if only one party is mistaken as to the legal meaning,
scope and effect of the agreement he or she has signed.58
G. Injunctions.
A temporary injunction is an extraordinary remedy. The movant must prove all
essential elements for a temporary injunction with competent, admissible evidence.59
Those elements are as follows: (1) the likelihood of irreparable harm; (2) the
unavailability of an adequate remedy at law; (3) a clear legal right to the relief requested
and a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; and (4) the injunction is in the
public interest.60
A prospective irreparable injury must be more than a remote possibility; it must
be imminent and probable.61 There must be a reasonable probability, not a bare
possibility, that a real irreparable injury will occur.62 If the irreparable injury is doubtful
or contingent, injunctive relief may not be granted.63
Irreparable harm and the lack of an adequate remedy at law are not established
where any potential loss can be adequately compensated by a monetary judgment.64
The irreparable injury must be of a peculiar nature, so that monetary compensation will
not be adequate.65 Similarly, collectability of a monetary judgment is not to be
considered by the court in determining whether the movant has an adequate legal
A. The Mediation Process
Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third person encourages and
facilitates the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties in an
58Jacobs, 39 So. at 837.
59State Agency for Health Care Admin. v. Cont’l Car Servs., Inc., 650 So. 2d 173, 175 (Fla. 2d
DCA 1995).
60Richard v. Behavioral Healthcare Options, Inc., 647 So. 2d 976, 978 (Fla. 2d DCA 1994).
61City of Coral Springs v. Florida Nat’l Prop., Inc., 340 So. 2d 1271, 1272 (Fla. 4th DCA 1976).
62Miller v. MacGill, 297 So. 2d 573, 575 (Fla. 1st DCA 1974); see also A1A Mobile Home Park,
Inc. v. Brevard County, 246 So. 2d 126, 128 (Fla. 4th DCA 1971).
63Sanstrom v. Garren, 187 So. 2d 366, 367 (Fla. 3d DCA 1966); see also First Nat’l Bank in St.
Petersburg v. Ferris, 156 So. 2d 421, 424 (Fla. 2d DCA 1963).
64B.G.H. Ins. Syndicate, Inc. v. Presidential Fire & Cas. Co., 549 So. 2d 197, 198 (Fla. 3d DCA
65First Nat’l Bank in St. Petersburg, 156 So. 2d at 423.
66Employee Benefit Plans, Inc., 593 So. 2d at 1127. 12
informal proceeding to help the parties reach a voluntary binding
The mediator does not make any rulings or decisions for the parties.68
The mediator may not give the parties any legal advice, but the mediator
may discuss the possible outcomes of the lawsuit or arbitration if not
settled, as well as the potential strengths and weaknesses of the parties’
positions in the case.69 The process is conducted in an informal non-
adversarial manner. The objective of the mediation is to reach a mutually
acceptable agreement.70
A circuit or county court is required to order the parties to a civil lawsuit to
mediation if one party requests mediation and the lawsuit is for monetary
damages, provided the requesting party is willing and able to pay the
costs of the mediation or the costs can be equitably divided between the
parties, unless:
a. The action is a landlord and tenant dispute that does not
include a claim for personal injury.
b. The action is filed for the purpose of collecting a debt.
c. The action is a claim of medical malpractice.
d. The action is governed by the Florida Small Claims Rules.
e. The court determines that the action is proper for referral to
non-binding arbitration.
f. The parties have agreed to binding arbitration.
g. The parties have agreed to an expedited trial.
h. The parties have agreed to voluntary trial resolution.71
67Fla. Stat. § 44.1011(2) (2011); Fla. R. Med. 10.210.
68Fla. R. Med. 10.310.
69Fla. R. Med. 10.370.
70Fla. R. Med. 10.410.
71 Fla. Stat. § 44.102(2)(a) (2011). 13
B. Agreements to Mediate through AAA
If the parties wish to require mediation with the American Arbitration
Association (“AAA”) for all future disputes relating to a contract before any
arbitration or litigation can be commenced, the following mediation clause
may be added to the contract:
If a dispute between the parties arises out of or relates to this contract, the
breach thereof, or any performance or obligation due hereunder, and if
the dispute cannot be settled through direct negotiation, the parties agree
first to try in good faith to settle the dispute by mediation administered by
the American Arbitration Association under its Commercial Mediation
Rules before resorting to arbitration, litigation, or some other dispute
resolution procedure.
If the parties wish to mediate an existing dispute, they may enter into the
following agreement, independent of any contract:
The parties hereby submit the following dispute to mediation administered
by the American Arbitration Association under its Commercial Mediation
Rules: (describe dispute).
C. Selection of the Mediator
The parties may agree on the appointment of any person to act as the
mediator for any mediation conference. As long as the parties agree, the
mediator does not need to be certified.72 Depending on the level of
“reality checking” the parties would like the mediator to undertake, the
parties should consider the substantive experience of the mediator.
In the absence of the parties’ agreement, the court may only appoint a
certified mediator to conduct a mediation conference.73 The chief judge of
each judicial circuit is required to maintain a list of certified mediators who
have registered for appointment in that circuit.74
72Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(f)(1)(B).
73Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(f).
74Fla. Stat. § 44.102(4) (2011). 14
D. Appearance at the Mediation Conference
Unless permitted by court order or the parties’ written agreement, a party
is deemed to appear at a mediation if the following persons are physically
a. The party or the party’s representative having full authority to
settle without further consultation; and
b. The party’s counsel of record, if any; and
c. A representative of the insurance carrier for any insured
party who is not such carrier’s outside counsel and who has
full authority to settle up to the amount of the plaintiff’s last
demand or policy limits, whichever is less, without further
Thus, the mediator does not have the authority to excuse any
attorney, party or insurance carrier representative from attending
the mediation in person, unless the parties have agreed in writing.
Full authority to settle means that the person attending the mediation is
the final decision maker with respect to all issues presented by the case
and who has the legal ability to execute a binding settlement agreement.76
As a result, it may be extremely difficult for most insurance carriers and
large corporations to strictly comply with this rule. However, this rule does
not require any party to actually enter in a settlement agreement.77
Appearance by a public entity under Chapter 286, Florida Statutes, only
requires the party’s representative to physically appear at mediation with
full authority to negotiate on behalf of the entity and recommend
settlement to the decision-making body of the entity.78
Unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties, each party must, 10 days
prior to the mediation, file and serve a written notice identifying the
persons who will be attending the mediation as a party representative or
as an insurance carrier representative and confirm that those persons
have full authority as required under the rule.79
75Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(b).
76Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(c).
78Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(d).
79Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(e). 15
If a party fails to appear at a “duly noticed mediation without good cause,”
the court, upon motion, shall impose sanctions against the party failing to
appear, including the mediator’s fees, attorney’s fees and costs. The
failure to file a certification confirming the representative’s authority or the
failure of the person identified in the certification to actually appear at the
mediation creates a rebuttable presumption of the party’s failure to
E. Conduct of and Communications during the Mediation Conference
At all times, the mediator shall be in control of the mediation and the
procedures to be followed in the mediation.81 For the most part, the
mediation conference is conducted in at least two stages.
a. Joint Session: Initially, the mediator will conduct a joint
session in which the mediator and then each attorney will
give brief opening statements. Each party should be
advised by their attorneys prior to the mediation that they will
hear statements from the opposing attorney with which the
party may disagree. Nevertheless, each attorney and his or
her client, if they desire, are typically given the full
opportunity to be heard without interruption. Each person
attending the mediation is expected to act in a civil,
respectful manner to all other persons present.
b. Private Caucus: After the joint session, the mediator will
separate the parties and their respective attorneys into
private sessions or caucuses in which they may feel more
free to candidly discuss other aspects of the dispute and
how it may be resolved.
There are times when the mediator may not conduct a joint session, such
as when emotions are at extreme levels and the parties are in a state of
high conflict. These situations should be weighed against the need for the
parties to have their opportunity to address each other directly or through
counsel so that they will be able to move past their conflict towards
resolution. A joint session is also a valuable time saving tool for the
exchange of information directly between the parties, rather than the
mediator shuttling the information between private caucuses.
Each party at mediation has the privilege to prevent any person present at
the mediation from disclosing communications made during the
80Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(f).
81Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.720(2)(d). 16
mediation.82 However, Section 44.102(3), Florida Statutes, should not
preclude evidence supporting a claim that a mediated settlement
agreement contained a clerical error so as to lead the court to an
unreasonable conclusion.83
Although attendance at any court ordered mediation is mandatory,
participation in settlement negotiations is completely voluntary. It is a
party's right to refuse to compromise or settle any claim and to have their
day in court.84
“Decisions made during a mediation are to be made by the parties. A
mediator shall not make substantive decisions for any party. A mediator
is responsible for assisting the parties in reaching informed and voluntary
decisions while protecting their right of self-determination.”85
Indeed, the mediation conference is an opportunity for the parties to
control the outcome of the case and to fashion a resolution to the dispute
which is certain and may encompass terms which an arbitrator or a court
may not otherwise be able to award.
F. Mediation Impasse
There may be various reasons for impasse. A party may truly evaluate
claims and defenses based upon significantly different criteria, making the
potential settlement ranges too far apart to broach. In that instance, the
parties may feel they would be better served having a third party, such as
a judge, jury or arbitrator decide the dispute. It is important for the parties
in such a case to fully understand the range of possible outcomes, along
with the costs of going forward, including all legal fees, expert fees,
deposition costs and other court costs.
Sometimes the parties are not able to reach a compromise because one
or more parties are emotionally vested in their case or the events that led
up to the dispute. In that instance, the emotional party often needs to feel
they had the opportunity to tell their story, whether at the mediation or at a
hearing. This need cannot be underestimated as a prerequisite for
settlement, especially where an apology can be given.
82Fla. Stat. § 44.102(3) (2011).
83DR Lakes, Inc. v. Brandsmart U.S.A. of West Palm Beach, 819 So. 2d 971 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002),
quoting Holly v. Auld, 450 So. 2d 217, 219 (Fla. 1984); but see Feldman v. Kritch, 824 So. 2d 274,
276 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002) (no exception for “unilateral mistake”).
84Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.730(a).
85Fla. R. Med. 10.310(a) (emphasis added). 17
A. The Arbitration Process
As opposed to mediation, arbitration results in a binding or non-binding
decision of the dispute. The arbitrator or panel of arbitrators consider the
evidentiary presentations of the parties and then render(s) an award,
which may then be confirmed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
B. Arbitration Agreements
The following is a sample clause for the arbitration of all future disputes
between the parties before the AAA:
Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract, or the
breach thereof, shall be resolved and determined by binding arbitration
administered by the American Arbitration Association under its
Commercial Arbitration Rules, and judgment on the award rendered by
the arbitrators shall be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof.
Arbitration through the AAA for existing disputes may be accomplished by
use of the following agreement, independent of any contract in question:
We, the undersigned parties, hereby agree to submit to binding arbitration
administered by the American Arbitration Association under its
Commercial Arbitration Rules the following controversy: (describe the
We further agree that we will faithfully observe this agreement and the
rules, that we will abide by and perform any award rendered by the
arbitrators, and that a judgment of any court having jurisdiction thereof
shall be entered on the award.
To expedite matters, any arbitration clause can expressly adopt the
summary procedures of Chapter 51, Florida Statutes, or customized
expedited summary procedures set forth in AAA’s rules or the clause
itself. The arbitrators and the administrator of the proceeding are
mandated to comply with those procedures, provided they are
fundamentally fair to all parties.
The arbitration clause may provide for emergency interim relief by
incorporating the AAA’s optional rules for emergency measures of 18
protection or other applicable emergency rules, such as applicable Florida
Rules of Civil Procedure.
In order for any party to avail itself of any statute of limitations defense,
the agreement to arbitration must expressly provide for the application of
the statute to any arbitration proceeding brought in connection with the
Subject to due process considerations, arbitration clauses may expressly
provide for:
a. The number of arbitrators;
b. The specific minimum qualifications for the arbitrators;
c. The method of and responsibility for payment for the fees
and costs associated with the arbitration;
d. The locale for all hearings and the use of any discovery
tools, including depositions under the Florida Rules of Civil
e. Any other item of concern to the parties.
A customized arbitration clause can be drafted with the foregoing in mind.
In that regard, the following is a sample arbitration clause tailored for a
real estate contract for purchase and sale of commercial property:
Except for an injunction or specific performance, any and all other claims,
controversies and disputes between Seller and Buyer relating to or arising
out of this agreement or the parties’ performances due hereunder shall be
resolved by binding arbitration administered by and in accordance with the
national employment rules of the American Arbitration Association, and
any court of competent jurisdiction shall enter final judgment on any such
final arbitration award.
The final arbitration hearing shall be conducted in the county in which
Seller’s principal place of business is located no sooner than sixty (60)
days and no later than one hundred twenty (120) days after any demand
for arbitration is served upon the respondent for the proceeding. The
arbitration proceeding shall be conducted by a panel of three neutral and
impartial arbitrators. Said arbitrator panel shall be comprised of
arbitrators who shall be members in good standing with the state bar
86Raymond James Fin. Servs., Inc., v. Phillips, No. 2D10-2144, 2011 WL 5555691 (Fla. 2d DCA
Nov. 16, 2011). 19
association for the state in which the final arbitration hearing shall be
conducted with at least fifteen (15) years of substantial experience in real
estate law.
The parties to the arbitration proceeding shall be permitted to take no
more than three (3) depositions, not to exceed five (5) hours each, without
good cause shown and leave of the arbitrators. The parties shall also be
entitled to discover documents through the use of requests for production.
No other forms of formal discovery shall be permitted by the arbitrators.
All permissible discovery shall be governed by the applicable Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. The arbitrators shall be bound by and shall
follow the choice of law provision set forth in this Agreement for the
rendering of any final award. All defenses and claims which would
otherwise be available to the parties in any court proceeding shall also be
available in arbitration, including, without limitation, all applicable statutes
of limitations.
Any final award shall reflect the reasoning for the award, but shall not be
required to state findings of fact and conclusions of law. The arbitrators
shall have the authority to award any and all relief which a court of
competent jurisdiction could otherwise award. Seller shall be responsible
to pay for all arbitration filing fees and arbitrator compensation. However,
such fees and compensation may be awarded to Seller in the event it is
determined to be the prevailing party in the arbitration proceeding.
The arbitrators and the parties shall maintain in the strictest confidence
the arbitration proceeding, the final arbitration hearing, all papers filed
therein and the substance of the underlying dispute for the arbitration
proceeding, unless otherwise required to disclose same pursuant to
applicable law.
While courts are mindful of the “liberal policy favoring arbitration
agreements,” the Supreme Court has also made clear that arbitration is
only appropriate “so long as the prospective litigant effectively may
vindicate [his or her] statutory cause of action in the arbitral forum”
allowing the statute to serve its purposes.87
The Supreme Court acknowledged that “the existence of large arbitration
costs could preclude a litigant ... from effectively vindicating her federal
87Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 28 (1991), quoting Mitsubishi Motors
Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 637 (1985). 20
statutory rights in the arbitral forum.88 However, the Court noted that the
“possibility” that the plaintiff would “be saddled with prohibitive costs is too
speculative,” and “[t]o invalidate the agreement on that basis would
undermine the ‘liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements.”89
The party seeking to avoid arbitration due to excessive costs “bears the
burden of showing the likelihood of incurring such costs.”90
When considering the cost sharing language in an employment
agreement, however, the case-by-case analysis offers little guidance in
calculating a numerical figure that would be categorically shielded from
attack. In Morrison, the former employee’s cost splitting rule in her
arbitration agreement detailed her exposure to the greater of $500 or 3%
of her annual salary.91 The court, applying a case-by-case analysis,
concluded that this provision was unenforceable with respect to her
claims.92 The court supported its decision by emphasizing that an
employee’s resources can be scarce, and a substantial number of
similarly situated persons would be deterred from seeking to vindicate
their statutory rights under these circumstances.93
Based upon the current state of the law, it appears virtually impossible to
draft any arbitration clause providing for fee splitting for a consumer or
employment dispute that is completely insulated from any challenge.
Thus, providing for the non-consumer or employer to bear all filing fees,
mediation fees, arbitration costs and arbitrator compensation is advisable
until a safe harbor is established by binding case law.
C. Commencement and Submission to Arbitration to AAA
A party to an existing dispute may commence an arbitration under the
AAA’s rules by filing two copies of a demand for arbitration, signed by the
party or its attorney with AAA’s regional office. (See for
various forms and rules). The demand must contain a statement of the
nature of the dispute, the names and addresses of all parties, the amount
of the claim, if known, the remedy sought, the hearing locale requested
and the name and address of the respondent. The demand must also
attach a copy of the arbitration clause in question.
88Green Tree Fin. Corp.-Alabama v. Randolph, 531 U.S. 79, 90 (2000).
89Id. at 91.
90Id. at 92.
91Morrison v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 317 F.3d 646, 669 (6th Cir. 2003).
93Id. at 670. 21
Under AAA’s Commercial Arbitration Rules, the respondent to the
arbitration demand is not required (but is encouraged) to file an answer to
the claims. If the respondent desires to assert a counterclaim, then it
must comply with substantially all requirements as those for a demand for
D. Enforceability of the Arbitration Agreement
After the plaintiff sued the defendant for breach of contract, the parties
agreed to arbitrate “with respect to the allegations in the complaint.”
When the plaintiff amended his claim during arbitration, the defendant
moved to terminate the arbitration proceedings. The arbitration panel
denied the motion, and as a result, the defendant moved to terminate in
circuit court. The trial judge granted the motion, but the appellate court
reversed because the amended claim did not exceed the scope of the
agreement to arbitrate as it was based upon the facts alleged in the
original complaint.94
Under Florida law, to prevail on a defense that an arbitration agreement is
unconscionable and therefore unenforceable, a party must establish that
the agreement is both procedurally and substantively unconscionable.95
Procedural unconscionability “relates to the manner in which the contract
was entered and it involves consideration of such issues as the relative
bargaining power of the parties and their ability to know and understand
the disputed contract terms.96 A contract is substantively unconscionable
if its terms are so “outrageously unfair” as to “shock the judicial
Where an arbitration clause is valid and not interdependent with the
remaining clauses of an agreement, any offending or unlawful provision
contained therein could be severed without affecting the intent of the
parties or the agreement to arbitrate.98
94Bates v. The Betty & Ross Company, 46 So. 3d 615 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010).
95See Golden v. Mobil Oil Corp., 882 F.2d 490, 493 (11th Cir. 1989); see also Murphy v. Courtesy
Ford, LLC, 944 So. 2d 1131, 1134 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006); Voicestream Wireless Corp. v. U.S.
Commc’ns., Inc., 912 So. 2d 34, 39 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005).
96Powertel Inc. v. Bexley, 743 So. 2d 570, 574 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999).
97Gainesville Health Care Ctr., Inc. v. Weston, 857 So. 2d 278, 285 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003).
98Healthcomp Evaluation Serv. Corp. v. O’Donnell, 817 So. 2d 1095 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002). 22
If a contract containing an arbitration clause is challenged as void ab
initio, it is submitted to arbitration, unless the challenged is to the specific
arbitration clause.99
An action to rescind a contract in its entirety may be subject to arbitration
where the contract contained an arbitration clause and the validity of that
clause was not specifically attacked, as opposed to the whole contract.100
E. Arbitration with non-signatories to agreement.
A party may be bound to arbitrate a dispute even though the party did not
physically sign a written contract to arbitrate.101
On the other hand, courts have refused to require non-signatories to
arbitrate in various circumstances.102
A party who personally guaranteed the obligations of another under a
written agreement containing an arbitration clause was bound as a matter
of law to arbitrate the dispute regarding the guarantee.103
Where a party was appointed as the agent for a principal who was bound
to a contract containing an arbitration clause, the agent must arbitrate all
disputes relating to the contract.104
Arbitration provisions are binding on third-party beneficiaries of a contract
that contains an arbitration provision, provided that the contract clearly
expresses an intent to primarily and directly benefit the third party.105
99Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v. Cardegna, 126 S.Ct. 1204 (U.S. Feb. 21, 2006).
100Sanchez v. Criden, 899 So.2d 326 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005).
101See, e.g.,Fleetwood Enters., Inc. v. Gaskamp, 280 F.3d 1069, 1074 (5th Cir. 2002) (agency
required non-signatory to arbitrate); see also Qubty v. Nagda, 817 So. 2d 952 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002)
(investors suing stockbrokers compelled to arbitrate under thirty-party beneficiary theory);
Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Bright Metal Spec., Inc., 251 F.3d 1316 (11th Cir. 2001); Thomson-
CSF, S.A. v. American Arbitration Ass’n, 64 F.3d 773, 776 (2d Cir. 1995); Gottfried, Inc. v.
Paulette Koch Real Estate, Inc., 778 So. 2d 1089 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001); Pritzker v. Merrill Lynch,
Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 7 F.3d 1110 (3d Cir. 1993).
102See, e.g., Benasra v. Marciano, 112 Cal. Rptr. 2d 358 (2001) (president of corporation who
signed contract in corporate capacity could not be compelled to arbitrate individually); see also
Thomson-CSF, S.A. v. Am. Arbitration Ass’n, 64 F.3d 773 (2d Circ. 1995) (corporate parent not
required to arbitrate on claim relating to subsidiary’s arbitration agreement).
103Berti v. Cedars Healthcare Group, Ltd., 812 So. 2d 580 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002).
104Koechli v. BIP Int’l, 870 So. 2d 940 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004).
105Technical Aid Corp. v. Tomaso, 814 So. 2d 1259 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002). 23
In the absence of a signature, a party may be bound by an arbitration
clause contained in a contract if the party’s conduct indicates that the
party agreed to be bound by the contract in question.106107 One’s intention
to be bound by a contract containing an arbitration clause may be
evidenced by one’s performance under other provisions of the contract.108
Even if not joined in the arbitration, a surety on a construction bond can
be bound by the results of an arbitration.109
F. Waiver of Right to Arbitrate
The right to arbitration under an agreement may be waived by taking
actions inconsistent with the arbitration provision. The court (not the
arbitrator) determines whether a party to an arbitration agreement has
waived its contractual right to arbitration by its subsequent conduct.110
Where one party actively participates in litigation which is the subject of an
arbitration agreement before moving to compel arbitration, that party is
deemed to have waived any right to compel arbitration.111
Such a waiver will be found where the party files an answer or affirmative
defenses, takes discovery or files any claim for affirmative relief in a
lawsuit, including a counterclaim before moving to compel arbitration.112
106Thomson-CSF, S.A., 64 F.3d at 776.
107This rule of law appears to be an outgrowth of the general principle that one may be deemed to
have accepted a written contract, which otherwise requires acceptance by a signature, by
performing pursuant to its terms. See, e.g., Bryan, Keefe & Co. v. Howell, 109 So. 593 (Fla.
108Chanchani v. Salomon/Smith Barney, Inc., No. 99 CIV 9219 RCC, 2001 WL 204214, at *3 (S.D.
N.Y. March 1, 2001); see also Fyrnetics (Hong Kong) Ltd. v. Quantum Group, Inc., No. 99 C 4704,
2001 WL 40900, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 11, 2001) (party’s attempts to comply with other terms of the
contract bound the party by the arbitration provision in the same contract); In the Matter of the
Arbitration Between John Thallon & Co., Inc. and M&N Meat Co., 396 F.Supp. 1239 (E.D. N.Y.
1975) (party’s participation in performance under other provisions of a contract evinced such
party’s intention to be bound by the contract’s arbitration provision).
109Fewox v. McMerit Constr. Co., 556 So. 2d 419, 425 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989).
110Florida Educ. Ass’n/United v. Sachs, 650 So. 2d 29 (Fla. 1995).
111Hansen v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 408 So. 2d 658 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982), rev. den., 417 So.
2d 328 (Fla. 1981); see also Ojus Indus., Inc. v. Mann, 221 So. 2d 780 (Fla. 3d DCA 1969).
112Coral 97 Assocs., Ltd. v. Chino Elec., Inc., 501 So. 2d 69 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987); see also Winter
v. Arvida Corp., 404 So. 2d 829 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981); but see Avid Eng’g, Inc. v. Orlando
Marketplace Ltd., 809 So. 2d 1 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001) (motion for arbitration and counterclaim at
same time does not waive right). 24
G. Selection of Arbitrators for Non-AAA Arbitrations
If an agreement for arbitration provides a method for the appointment of
arbitrators, that method must be followed as long as it is fundamentally
If there is no agreement regarding the appointment of the arbitrators or if
the agreement fails, the Court, on application of a party, shall appoint one
or a panel of three arbitrators.114 Each of the arbitrators must either: (a)
be a member of The Florida Bar, with the chief arbitrator being a member
of The Florida Bar for at least five years; or (b) serve on the arbitration
panel with the written consent of all parties.
H. AAA Arbitrator Selection Process
Following the demand for arbitration, the AAA typically sends each party a
specially prepared list of proposed arbitrators to resolve the controversy.
In compiling the list, the AAA draws from the applicable panel of
arbitrators, considers geographical factors and is otherwise guided by the
nature of the dispute. Biographical and fee information for each arbitrator
is also enclosed with the list.
The parties are allowed a specified time period to study the list, strike
names for good cause and then rank the remaining names in the order of
preference.115 The AAA administrator uses the parties’ returned lists to
select the top arbitrators based upon the parties’ rankings. Additional
information about the proposed arbitrators is available through the
If there are not a sufficient number of names from which to select the
arbitration panel or individual arbitrator, the AAA may send out a second
list or may make appointments without submitting additional lists.
However, no arbitrator whose name was properly stricken by either party
may be appointed in that event.
I. Arbitrators’ Jurisdiction and Scope of Submission
An arbitrator exceeds his or her power when he or she goes beyond the
authority granted by the parties through the operative document and
113Fla. Stat. § 682.04 (2011).
114Fla. Stat. § 682.04 (2011); Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.810(a).
115While no authority can be found, the author suggests that good cause should be limited to
similar grounds for disqualifying an arbitrator under the AAA’s rules, as well as grounds for striking
a prospective juror for cause. 25
decides an issue not within the scope of the arbitration clause or not
pertinent to the resolution of the issues submitted to arbitration.116
J. Discovery in Arbitration
The parties may provide in the arbitration agreement for certain forms of
discovery, either greater or less than those found in the Court’s rules of
discovery. The parties may also stipulate to discovery after the arbitration
action is filed.
An arbitrator may permit a deposition to be taken for use at a hearing
when a witness cannot be subpoenaed or is unable to attend the hearing.
In absence of the parties’ agreement, their incorporation of specific rules,
such as the AAA’s rules, or the demonstrated unavailability of the witness,
there is no authority for the arbitrator to permit parties to take
K. Final Arbitration Hearing
The hallmark of the arbitration hearing is its informality. One purpose of
an agreement to arbitrate is to avoid the formal requisites of a court
proceeding. Each party must be given an equal and fair opportunity to be
heard and present evidence.
While the order of the proceedings is at the arbitrator’s discretion, the
hearing generally begins by each party giving an opening statement to
clarify the issues. The complaining party presents evidence first, followed
by the defending party’s presentation of evidence. Each party also has
the opportunity to cross-examine opposing witnesses.118
The technical rules of evidence do not apply to arbitration hearings.
Hearsay evidence is admissible, leading questions may be asked, the
best evidence rule is irrelevant and witnesses need not be qualified as
L. The Arbitration Award
At a minimum, an arbitration award must be:
116Chandra v. Bradstreet, 727 So. 2d 372 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999), rev. den., 741 So. 2d 1134 (Fla.
1999); see also Applewhite v. Sheen Fin. Res., Inc., 608 So. 2d 80 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992).
117Fla. Stat. § 682.08 (2011).
118Fla. Stat. § 682.06(2) (2011).
119Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.820(c). 26
a. In writing;
b. Signed by the arbitrators joining in the award; and
c. Delivered by the arbitrator to each party, personally or by
registered or certified mail (unless otherwise agreed, such
as set forth in the AAA’s Commercial Arbitration Rules).120
The arbitrators are not required to make specific findings of fact and
conclusions of law, unless the arbitration agreement expressly requires
them to do so or a Court remands the matter to the arbitrators for express
findings to be made before any confirmation of the award will be
Where an arbitration agreement does not expressly grant the arbitrators
the jurisdiction to determine entitlement to and assessment of attorney’s
fees to the prevailing party, they have no jurisdiction to do so and this is a
matter to be determined by the court in any confirmation proceeding.122
M. Post-Arbitration Proceedings
Modification. Pursuant to Florida Statute § 682.14, a binding arbitration
award may be modified upon application made within 90 days after
delivery of a copy of the award to the applicant, where:
a. There is an evident miscalculation of figures in the award;
b. There is an evident mistake in the description of any
property referred to in the award; or
c. The award was based upon a matter not submitted to the
arbitrators and the award may be corrected without affecting
the merits of the decision upon the issues submitted.
Vacation. A binding arbitration award may be vacated where an
application to the court is made within 90 days after the delivery of a copy
of the award to the applicant upon one of the following grounds:
a. The award was procured by corruption, fraud or other undue
120Fla. Stat. § 682.09 (2011).
121Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.820(g)(3).
122Fla. Stat. § 682.11 (2011). 27
b. There was evident partiality by an arbitrator who was
appointed as a neutral arbitrator or there was corruption in
any of the arbitrators or misconduct prejudicing the rights of
any party.
c. The arbitrator exceeded his/her powers (i.e., jurisdiction).
d. The arbitrators refused to postpone the hearing upon
sufficient cause being shown or refused to hear evidence
material to the controversy or otherwise substantially
prejudiced the rights of a party.
The fact that the relief was such that it could not or would not be
granted by a court of law or equity is not a ground for vacating or
refusing to confirm the award.123
Appeal. An appeal may be taken from:
a. An order denying an application to compel arbitration.124
b. An order granting an application to stay arbitration.125
c. An order confirming or denying confirmation of an award.126
d. An order modifying or correcting an award.127
e. An order vacating an award without directing a rehearing.128
f. A judgment or decree entered pursuant to Florida Statute §
Upon application of a party to the arbitration, the Court shall confirm an
award unless, within the statutory time limits, sufficient grounds are
asserted for vacating or modifying or correcting the award. Except where
123Fla. Stat. § 682.13(1) (2011).
124Fla. Stat. § 682.20(1)(a) (2011).
125Fla. Stat. § 682.20(1)(b) (2011).
126Fla. Stat. § 682.20(1)(c) (2011).
127Fla. Stat. § 682.20(1)(d) (2011).
128Fla. Stat. § 682.20(1)(e) (2011).
129Fla. Stat. § 682.20(1)(f) (2011). 28
the Court finds that one of the enumerated grounds apply to vacate an
award, the Court has no authority to overturn an award.130
A. The VTR Process
Florida Statute § 44.104, entitled “Voluntary binding arbitration and
voluntary trial resolution” provides for private attorneys to be appointed
with the parties’ agreement to decide their legal disputes.
Parties may enter into a voluntary trial resolution (“VTR”) agreement to
have most disputes determined by a private attorney.131 The private
attorney acts as the trial court judge for the case, subject to most of the
same rules of Court and with appellate review of legal issues.
Pursuant to the VTR agreement, the Court appoints a private lawyer as
the Trial Resolution Judge (“TRJ”) to conduct the proceedings of an action
and determine the case on its merits generally as if litigated before the
B. The VTR Agreement
To be enforceable, the VTR agreement must be in writing and signed by
the parties. The legal dispute may not involve any constitutional issue,
child custody, child support or visitation issues.133
The VTR agreement may be signed before or after litigation is
commenced and should provide for the compensation of the TRJ.134
The following is a sample contract clause for submitting all permissible
controversies that may arise between the parties to an agreement to
voluntary trial resolution:
Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract, or the
breach thereof, shall be resolved and determined by binding voluntary trial
resolution pursuant to Chapter 44, Florida Statutes, including, without
limitation, the procedures set forth in Florida Statute § 44.104, and final
130Am. Reliance Ins. Co. v. Devecht, 820 So. 2d 378 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002).
131Fla. Stat. § 44.104(1) (2011).
132Fla. Stat. § 44.104(2) (2011); Fla. Stat. § 44.104(8) (2011).
133Fla. Stat. §§ 44.104(1), 44.104(14) (2011).
134Fla. Stat. § 44.104(2) (2011). 29
judgment on the decision rendered by the trial resolution judge shall be
entered by any court having jurisdiction thereof.
Subject to the exceptions stated in Florida Statute § 44.104, the parties to
an existing dispute or pending lawsuit may also submit their controversy to
voluntary trial resolution by use of the following agreed application to the
We, the undersigned parties, hereby jointly agree and apply to the Court
for binding voluntary trial resolution pursuant to Chapter 44, Florida
Statutes, including, without limitation, the procedures set forth in Florida
Statute § 44.104, for the following controversy: (Describe the dispute or
identify an existing lawsuit), and final judgment on the decision rendered
by the trial resolution judge shall be entered by any court having
jurisdiction thereof.
We further agree that (Insert name and address of trial resolution judge)
shall be appointed by the Court as the trial resolution judge for the above-
described controversy, who shall be compensated in accordance with that
certain agreement between the parties, a copy of which is attached hereto
as Exhibit “A.”
C. The Trial Resolution Judge
The TRJ must be a licensed member of The Florida Bar in good standing
for more than five (5) years.135 If the VTR agreement does not specifically
identify the TRJ and the parties cannot otherwise agree, the Court will
appoint the TRJ as the case requires.136
D. Benefits of VTR
The parties may jointly appoint a TRJ who is a qualified, experienced
specialist (Florida Bar Board Certified) in the area of the legal dispute.
Only attorneys certified by The Florida Bar are allowed to identify
themselves as “Florida Bar Board Certified” or as a “specialist.”
Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the
competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for
135Fla. Stat. § 44.104(2) (2011).
136Fla. Stat. § 44.104(2) (2011). 30
certification by the Supreme Court of Florida. Not all qualified lawyers are
certified, but those who are board certified have taken the extra step to
have their competence and experience recognized.
The parties’ rights to procedural due process, rules of Court and appellate
rights (except for findings of fact) are preserved as with most litigation.
The filing of an application for VTR tolls the applicable statute of
The TRJ must follow the applicable law; failing which he or she may be
reversed on appeal.138 However, the harmless error doctrine is applicable
for any appeal from a final determination rendered by a TRJ for a dispute
submitted to VTR.139
The parties have full availability to discovery and motion practice.140
The parties should have greater flexibility for hearings and trials before the
E. Burdens/Costs of VTR
The fees of the TRJ can become sizable for any large, complex case.
There is no limitation on discovery as in arbitration.
A. Attachment, Garnishment & Levy.
A writ of attachment creates a lien against the non-exempt real or personal
property before or after a debt becomes due. A writ of attachment may be obtained
when a debt is due where the debtor:
1. Will fraudulently part with the property before judgment can be
obtained against him or her.
2. Is actually removing the property out of the state.
3. Is about to remove the property out of the state.
137Fla. Stat. § 44.104(6) (2011).
138Fla. Stat. § 44.104(10)(a) (2011).
139Fla. Stat. § 44.104 (12) (2011).
140Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.710(c). 31
4. Resides out of the state.
5. Is actually moving himself or herself out of the state.
6. Is about to move himself or herself out of the state.
7. Is absconding.
8. Is concealing himself or herself.
9. Is secreting the property.
10. Is fraudulently disposing of the property.
11. Is actually removing himself or herself beyond the limits of the
judicial circuit in which he or she resides.
12. Is about to remove himself or herself out of the limits of such
judicial circuit.
Any creditor may have an attachment on a debt not due, when the debtor:
1. Is actually removing the property out of the state.
2. Is fraudulently disposing of the property to avoid the payment of his
or her debts.
3. Is fraudulently secreting the property to avoid payment of his or her
Once the writ is issued and served, the creditor must complete the lawsuit and
then execute upon the property through a sheriff’s sale.142 Before any writ of
attachment will issue, the creditor must post a bond equal to double the debt
demanded. This bond will be security for the debtor should the court later determine
the writ was improperly obtained.143
After a monetary judgment is obtained, a writ of garnishment is available to a
creditor to collect non-exempt money owed to a buyer by a third-party.
After judgment has been obtained against the defendant but before the
writ of garnishment is issued, the plaintiff, or the plaintiff’s agent or
attorney, shall file a motion (which shall not be verified or negative
141Fla. Stat. § 76.05 (2011).
142Fla. Stat. § 76.14 (2011) et seq.
143See Fla. Stat. § 76.12 (2011). 32
defendant’s exemptions) stating the amount of the judgment. The motion
may be filed and the writ issued either before or after the return of
Even before a monetary judgment is obtained, a writ of garnishment is available to a
creditor to collect non-exempt money owed to the debtor by a third-party upon
compliance with the following procedure:
(2) To obtain issuance of the writ, the plaintiff, or the plaintiff’s agent or
attorney, shall file in the court where the action is pending a verified
motion or affidavit alleging by specific facts the nature of the cause of
action; the amount of the debt and that the debt for which the plaintiff
sues is just, due, and unpaid; that the garnishment is not sued out to
injure either the defendant or the garnishee; and that the plaintiff believes
that the defendant will not have in his or her possession, after execution is
issued, tangible or intangible property in this state and in the county in
which the action is pending on which a levy can be made sufficient to
satisfy the plaintiff’s claim. The writ of garnishment shall set forth a notice
to the defendant of the right to an immediate hearing for dissolution of
such writ pursuant to s. 77.07. Upon issuance of the writ of garnishment,
the clerk of the court shall provide by mail a copy of the writ to the
(3) Except when the plaintiff has had an attachment writ issued, no writ
of garnishment before judgment shall issue until the plaintiff, or the
plaintiff’s agent or attorney, gives a bond with surety to be approved by
the clerk payable to the defendant in at least double the amount of the
debt demanded, conditioned to pay all costs, damages, and attorney’s
fees that the defendant sustains in consequence of the plaintiff’s
improperly suing out the writ of garnishment. A garnishment bond is not
void or voidable because of an informality in it, nor shall the obligors be
discharged because of the informality, even though the garnishment is
dissolved because of the informality.
(4) The motion or pleading need not negative any exemptions of the
A continuing writ of garnishment is similarly available to collect a debtor’s non-exempt
wages, provided the debtor is not considered the “head of household.”
Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, if salary or wages are
to be garnished to satisfy a judgment, the court shall issue a continuing
144Fla. Stat. § 77.03 (2011).
145Fla. Stat. § 77.031 (2011). 33
writ of garnishment to the judgment debtor’s employer which provides for
the periodic payment of a portion of the salary or wages of the judgment
debtor as the salary or wages become due until the judgment is satisfied
or until otherwise provided by court order….146
B. Fraudulent Transfers & Tracing Assets.
A corporate buyer may go out of business and default on its contract for sale
with the seller. The seller may then obtain a monetary judgment against the corporate
buyer only to learn that the corporation no longer has any assets to satisfy the
judgment. If the corporation had substantial assets at one time, it is prudent for the
seller to learn how those assets were disposed of by the buyer. Given the right facts,
the individual principals of the corporate buyer and other persons who received the
corporate assets may be liable for the seller’s judgment.
Several statutory tools are available to attack a fraudulent transfer, including
setting aside the transfer and levying upon the assets transferred or other substitute
property of the transferee. The following are the operable fraudulent transfer statutes:
56.29. Proceedings supplementary.
(6)(a) When, within 1 year before the service of process on
him or her, defendant has had title to, or paid the purchase
price of, any personal property to which the defendant’s
spouse, any relative, or any person on confidential terms
with defendant claims title and right of possession at the
time of examination, the defendant has the burden of proof
to establish that such transfer or gift from him or her was not
made to delay, hinder, or defraud creditors.
(b) When any gift, transfer, assignment or other
conveyance of personal property has been made or
contrived by defendant to delay, hinder or defraud creditors,
the court shall order the gift, transfer, assignment or other
conveyance to be void and direct the sheriff to take the
property to satisfy the execution. This does not authorize
seizure of property exempted from levy and sale under
execution or property which has passed to a bona fide
purchaser for value and without notice. Any person
aggrieved by the levy may proceed under ss. 56.16-56.20.147
726.105. Transfers fraudulent as to present and future creditors.
146Fla. Stat. § 77.0305 (2011).
147Fla. Stat. § 56.29(6) (2011). 34
(1) A transfer made or obligation incurred by a debtor is
fraudulent as to a creditor, whether the creditor’s claim arose
before or after the transfer was made or the obligation was
incurred, if the debtor made the transfer or incurred the
(a) With actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud any
creditor of the debtor; or
(b) Without receiving a reasonably equivalent value in
exchange for the transfer or obligation, and the debtor:
1. Was engaged or was about to engage
in a business or a transaction for which the
remaining assets of the debtor were
unreasonably small in relation to the business
or transaction; or
2. Intended to incur, or believed or
reasonably should have believed that he or
she would incur, debts beyond his or her ability
to pay as they became due.
(2) In determining actual intent under paragraph (1)(a),
consideration may be given, among other factors, to
(a) The transfer or obligation was to an insider.
(b) The debtor retained possession or control of the
property transferred after the transfer.
(c) The transfer or obligation was disclosed or concealed.
(d) Before the transfer was made or obligation was
incurred, the debtor had been sued or threatened with suit.
(e) The transfer was of substantially all the debtor’s assets.
(f) The debtor absconded.
(g) The debtor removed or concealed assets.
(h) The value of the consideration received by the debtor
was reasonably equivalent to the value of the asset
transferred or the amount of the obligation incurred. 35
(i) The debtor was insolvent or became insolvent shortly
after the transfer was made or the obligation was incurred.
(j) The transfer occurred shortly before or shortly after a
substantial debt was incurred.
(k) The debtor transferred the essential assets of the
business to a lienor who transferred the assets to an insider
of the debtor.148
726.106. Transfers fraudulent as to present creditors.
(1) A transfer made or obligation incurred by a debtor is
fraudulent as to a creditor whose claim arose before the
transfer was made or the obligation was incurred if the
debtor made the transfer or incurred the obligation without
receiving a reasonably equivalent value in exchange for the
transfer or obligation and the debtor was insolvent at that
time or the debtor became insolvent as a result of the
transfer or obligation.
(2) A transfer made by a debtor is fraudulent as to a
creditor whose claim arose before the transfer was made if
the transfer was made to an insider for an antecedent debt,
the debtor was insolvent at that time, and the insider had
reasonable cause to believe that the debtor was insolvent.149
In addition to setting aside a fraudulent transfer, a corporation’s shareholders
may be liable for the corporation’s debts to the extent that they received any
distributions of the corporation’s assets at a time when they knew or should have known
that the corporation had the outstanding debts. “[T]he properties of a corporation are to
be deemed a trust fund for the payment of the debts of the corporation, so that the
creditors have a lien upon it or right of priority out of it in preference to any shareholder
of the corporation.”150 A corporation is required to maintain a sufficient amount of its
funds to pay the claims of its creditors, including its contingent creditors.151
Similarly, Florida Statutes will hold the directors of a corporation personally liable
for any distributions to shareholders that the directors affirmatively authorize in violation
148Fla. Stat. § 726.105 (2011).
149Fla. Stat. § 726.106 (2011).
150Beach v. Williamson, 83 So. 860, 863 (Fla. 1919); see also U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. Morejon, 338
So. 2d 223, 224 (Fla. 3d DCA 1976), cert. den. 345 So. 2d 426 (Fla. 1977).
151See U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 338 So. 2d at 224; see also Diamond Int’l Corp. v. SJH Enter., Inc., 487
So. 2d 1089, 1091 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986). 36
of Florida law. The directors of a corporation may be personally liable for distributions if
the effect of which precludes the corporation’s ability to pay its debts as they become
due. “No distribution may be made if, after giving it effect: (a) The corporation would
not be able to pay its debts as they become due in the usual course of business; or (b)
The corporation’s total assets would be less than the sum of its total liabilities. . . .”152
Any director who votes for or assents to a distribution made in violation of Florida
Statutes is personally liable for the amount of the distribution that exceeds what could
have been distributed in accordance with Florida law.153
C. Piercing the Corporate Veil.
One of the advantages of doing business though a corporation is that its
shareholders are not liable for the corporation’s debts. Nevertheless, this corporate
shield or veil may be pierced under limited circumstances.
Florida courts will hold a corporation’s shareholders liable for the corporation’s
debts where the corporation was organized or used to mislead its creditors, to
perpetrate a fraud on the corporation’s creditors or the corporation has been used for
some illegal purpose.154 The mere ownership of a corporation by one or a handful of
shareholders, however, is an insufficient reason to pierce the corporate veil.155
“A critical issue in the determination of whether the corporate veil will be pierced
for the imposition of personal liability is whether the corporate entity was organized or
operated for an improper or fraudulent purpose.”156 Unless there is a showing that a
corporation was formed or employed for an unlawful or improper purpose, such as
subterfuge to mislead or defraud creditors, to hide assets, to evade the requirements of
a statute or some betrayal of trust, the corporate veil cannot be pierced.157
The rule of law to hold a parent corporation liable for the debts of its subsidiary is
similar to the above rules. “[T]o pierce the corporate veil under Florida law, it must be
shown not only that the wholly-owned subsidiary is a mere instrumentality of the parent
152Fla. Stat. § 607.06401(3)(a)-(b) (2011) (emphasis added).
153Fla. Stat. § 607.0834(1).
154Advertects, Inc. v. Sawyer Indus., 84 So. 2d 21, 23 (Fla. 1955); see also Gershuny v. Martin
McFall Messenger Anesthesia Prof’l Ass’n, 539 So. 2d 1131, 1133 (Fla. 1989); Gen. Builders
Corp. of Ft. Lauderdale, Inc. v. Sisk, 461 So. 2d 104, 104 (Fla. 1984); Dania Jai-Alai Palace, Inc.
v. Sykes, 450 So. 2d 1114, 1121 (Fla. 1984); Aztec Motel, Inc. v. State ex rel. Faircloth, 251 So.
2d 849, 852 (Fla. 1971); McFadden Ford, Inc. v. Mancuso, 766 So. 2d 241, 242 (Fla. 4th DCA
155Advertects, Inc., 84 So. 2d at 23.
156Kanov v. Bitz, 660 So. 2d 1165, 1166 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995).
157See Aztec Motel, Inc., 251 So. 2d at 852; see also Munder v. Circle One Condo., Inc., 596 So.
2d 144, 145 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992). 37
corporation but also that the subsidiary was organized or used by the parent to mislead
creditors or to perpetrate a fraud upon them.”158
Legal disputes are won and lost based upon various factors, including the quality
and persuasiveness of the evidence. Although a seller’s or buyer’s termination of a
contract for sale must comply with the pre-requisites of the contract for sale and Florida
law, proving the presence of lawful grounds to terminate the contract is a separate
issue of concern.
At a minimum, sellers and buyers should prepare contemporaneous memoranda
or telephone logs of all substantive conversations regarding the negotiation and
performance of contracts for sale. Even better, confirming letters create a stronger
evidentiary position in the event of a dispute.
This practice serves two functions. First, a confirming letter provides a written
instrument for the parties to refer back to in the event of a good faith misunderstanding.
Second, a confirming letter, log or memorandum is physical evidence of the facts at the
time they occurred. This physical evidence, if made contemporaneous with the
conversation and in the normal course of business, is generally admissible in court.
When faced with a “he said, she said” claim or defense, the party who also has a
contemporaneous document evidencing the conversation will more often than not
prevail in the dispute. Some examples of these practices are reflected in the Appendix.
This commentary is for informational purposes only, is not legal advice and does
not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should seek appropriate legal
advice from a licensed attorney before making any decision based on these
comments. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be
based solely upon advertisements.
158Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. v. Hialeah, Inc., 735 So. 2d 542, 543 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999); see also
USP Real Estate Inv. Trust v. Disc. Auto Parts, Inc., 570 So. 2d 386, 390 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). 38
To: XYZ file
From: ABC
Date: June 15, 2001
Re: Conference with John Doe, Broker for XYZ Corp.
This morning, I met with John Doe, broker for XYZ corp. We discussed the fact that XYZ has
failed to make its deposit for the contract for sale on the Zoomer Property. He stated that his
client, Jason Roe of XYZ Corp., did not have any good reason for not making the deposit,
which was now over 90 days past due. I told John that, if the deposit was not made within 10
days, I would declare a breach of the contract.
John assured me that the payment would be made by that date.
ABC's signature
June 15, 2004
ABC Corp. Telephone Log
ABC Employee Name: ABC
ABC Account: XYZ corp.
Date Name of Caller Log of Discussion
6/15/01 ABC I called John Doe today about XYZ’s failure to make the
deposit due on the contract for sale. I told him that the
deposit was over 90 days past due and the matter
would be turned over to our lawyer, unless we received
the deposit within ten days. John assured me that the
payment would be made by that date. I told John that I
could not give his client any further extensions. John
acknowledged this. Nothing further was discussed.
ABC’s signature 39
ABC's Letterhead
June 15, 2004
John Doe, Broker for XYZ Corp.
Re: XYZ Corp's account number with ABC
Dear Mr. Doe:
Thank you for meeting with me this morning. As we discussed, XYZ has failed to make its
deposit for the contract for sale on the Zoomer Property. I appreciate your candid statement
that your client, XYZ Corp., did not have any good reason for not making the deposit, which
is now over 90 days past due. I told you that, if the payment was not made within 10 days, I
will be forced to declare a breach of the contract. In response, you advised that the payment
would be made by that date. Please allow me to reiterate that I cannot give your client any
further extensions on this matter.
Very truly yours,
ABC's signature
Print Name and Title
cc. Gary S. Salzman, Esq.

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