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Gonzalez v. International Park Condominium I Association, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

April 26, 2017

Maria Gonzalez and Ida Leal, Appellants,
v.
International Park Condominium I Association, Inc., Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Rodney Smith, Judge, and Victoria S. Sigler and Judith L. Kreeger, Senior Judges. Lower Tribunal Consolidated Nos. 13-26294 and 12-690

          Javier Guadayol, for appellants.

          Essig Law, P.A., and William G. Essig, for appellee.

          Before SUAREZ, C.J., and SALTER and SCALES, JJ.

          SALTER, J.

         Maria Gonzalez and Ida Leal ("Owners"), individual condominium unit owners and members of appellee, International Park Condominium I Association, Inc. ("Association"), appeal a final judgment awarding attorney's fees and costs to the Association in the consolidated circuit court cases below. The issue presented is whether the Owners or the Association prevailed on the substantial issues in the lawsuits. Shands Teaching Hosp. & Clinics, Inc. v. Mercury Ins. Co. of Fla., 97 So.3d 204, 213 (Fla. 2012). We find that the Owners prevailed on those issues, and thus vacate the final judgment of attorney's fees and costs entered February 29, 2016, as well as the earlier order on the Association's entitlement to such fees and costs.

         I. The Lawsuits

         In circuit court case 12-690, the Association petitioned for appointment of a receiver for the 75 units within the 312-unit condominium that were delinquent in their payment of assessments, section 718.116(6)(c), Florida Statutes (2012). The circuit court granted the petition and appointed a receiver for the delinquent units in late 2012. In early 2013, the receiver sought a modification of the receivership order to grant the receiver blanket authority to cast votes on behalf of those members then owning the units which were delinquent in paying assessments. The receiver's motion for modification was granted.

         In April 2013, one of the Owners (appellee Maria Gonzalez) filed an emergency motion to limit the receiver's authority to cast any votes for units subject to the receivership, "as it would be in direct violation of the Association's governing documents and contrary to Florida law." The trial court denied Ms. Gonzalez's motion. Thereafter, the initially-appointed receiver was discharged by the trial court for cause and a successor was appointed.

         In August 2013, the Owners filed a separate action (circuit court case 13-26294) against the Association to compel the Association to comply with the Declaration of Condominium ("Declaration"), its articles of incorporation, its bylaws, and statutory provisions regarding voting rights for the unit owner/members ineligible to vote because of their delinquencies in the payment of assessments.[1]The 2013 and 2012 circuit court cases were consolidated in 2014.

         In November 2014, the circuit court discharged the successor receiver on the court's own motion. The court then entered an order appointing a successor as receiver, but that order eliminated the prior receivers' power to vote on behalf of unit owners who were delinquent in their payment of assessments. That order substantially granted the relief sought by the Owners in circuit court case 13-26294. The Owners and the Association filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and in 2015 the then-presiding circuit judge[2] reaffirmed during a hearing that she had "already stripped the receiver of [the delinquent unit owners' voting] rights, " the relief sought by the Owners.

         Finding no further action necessary in the cases, the circuit court then entered a final judgment in favor of the Association and reserved jurisdiction regarding the Association's motion for an award of attorney's fees and court costs. Following the retirement of the circuit judge who entered that final judgment, another circuit judge entered an order of entitlement to attorney's fees and costs in favor of the Association, but did not fix the amount of attorney's fees and costs. A third circuit judge then conducted an evidentiary hearing on the amount of attorney's fees and costs, and on ...


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