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Brannock Berman & Seider Wins Reversal from New Florida Appellate Court

After presenting the first and second ever oral arguments in Florida’s new Sixth District Court of Appeal, Brannock Berman & Seider obtained one of the court’s first written reversals too—a complete turnaround of a merits judgment and two attorney’s fee judgments the trial court had entered against the firm’s clients.

The appeal stemmed from a Collier County action challenging a modest resale assessment imposed by the developer of a high-end resort community for recreational vehicles. A lot owner who had benefitted from the developer’s efforts but who did not want to pay the assessment sued, claiming that the assessment violated Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) and the Florida statute regulating homeowners’ associations. After a non-jury trial, the trial court agreed with the lot owner and invalidated the assessment on both grounds. The trial court also awarded the lot owner a substantial amount in attorney’s fees and litigation costs.

Enter Brannock Berman & Seider. Representing the developer and the homeowners’ association on appeal, the firm argued that the lot owner’s evidence could not invalidate the assessment and that an involuntary dismissal of the lawsuit should have been granted. The firm also argued that the lot owner was trying to turn a routine homeowners’ association dispute into a violation of FDUTPA—with the sole goal to obtain attorney’s fees.

The appellate court fully embraced Brannock Berman & Seider’s arguments. The court held that FDUTPA does not apply to this type of dispute. The court further held that there was “a complete lack of documentary or testimonial evidence” to support the lot owner’s claims. And the court awarded attorney’s fees to Brannock Berman & Seider’s clients, to boot, for having to bring the appeal. This capped off a total reversal of the trial court’s ruling and represents a complete victory for the firm’s clients.