Edgar B. Pearce, III, Appellant,
Patricia Sandler, etc., Appellee.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower
Tribunal No. 13-19977, Spencer Eig, Judge.
Isaacson Isaacson Sheridan Fountain & Leftwich, LLP and
Jennifer N. Fountain (Greensboro, NC); Kula & Associates,
P.A. and Elliot B. Kula and William D. Mueller, for
Podhurst Orseck, P.A. and Joel D. Eaton, for appellee.
SUAREZ, C.J., and ROTHENBERG and FERNANDEZ, JJ.
"Trey" B. Pearce, III ["Pearce"], seeks
to reverse the Final Judgment and remand with directions to
enter summary judgment in his favor. Summary judgment in
favor of the Appellant, Pearce, should have been entered and
this matter concluded at that point. Additionally, the
present action is also barred by the doctrines of collateral
estoppel and res judicata. Therefore, we reverse.
Pearce, with his father Edgar Pearce, owned Pearce Financial,
a financial investment company. The Sandlers (Martin and
Patricia) and the Conrads (Joseph and Patricia) invested money in
Pearce Financial, which investments were exchanged for
promissory notes. As the notes matured, the Conrads and
Sandlers continued to invest their money with Pearce
Financial, which included money generated through one of the
Conrad's trusts, the Lyons Family CRT. Pearce Financial
started to decline in 2008 and by 2009 it was unable to pay
its creditors. Pearce Financial was forced to sell its assets
to its senior secured lender; the second secured lender -
Pearce - foreclosed on the remaining assets. The Sandlers and
Conrads, as unsecured lenders, got nothing.
the Sandlers and Conrads, with other unsecured lenders, sued
the Pearce corporate entities and Pearce and his father Edgar
individually for fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of
fiduciary duty, and negligence [the "2010 Action"].
The Sandlers and Conrads alleged that at a dinner between the
parties, Pearce materially and intentionally misrepresented
the financial condition of Pearce Financial as well as the
repayment priority of the promissory notes in order to entice
the Sandlers and Conrads to continue to invest their money
with the company.
Conrad died during the pendency of the 2010 litigation. His
wife, Patricia Conrad died shortly after him, also during the
pendency of the 2010 litigation. After Joseph Conrad died,
but before Patricia Conrad's death, the promissory notes
that were held individually by Joseph and Patricia Conrad and
that were the basis of their claims in the 2010 action, were
assigned to the Conrad Family Trust. When Patricia Conrad
died, her daughter, Patricia Sandler, Appellee here, became
the trustee and she continued to pursue the same claims on
those same notes as trustee of both the Conrad Family Trust
and the Lyons Family CRT [collectively, the "Conrad
Trusts"]. Patricia Sandler asserted that the notes held
by the Lyons Family CRT were always included in the claims
asserted by the Conrads in the 2010 Action.
discovery had been conducted in the 2010 Action, Pearce filed
motions for summary judgment against each of the plaintiffs.
On October 26, 2012, the trial court dismissed the
Conrads' claims with prejudice for failure to timely
comply with Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.260 requiring
the substitution of parties upon death. The ruling was not
challenged on rehearing or appeal. The trial court then
granted summary judgment in favor of Pearce on all remaining
claims against him. The trial court found no genuine issues
of material fact in dispute and specifically found that the
pleadings and record evidence demonstrated no
misrepresentation, no breach of fiduciary duty, and no
negligence by Pearce. That ruling was never challenged on
rehearing or appeal.
2013, Patricia Sandler, now in her capacity as Trustee for
the Conrad Trusts ["Sandler as Trustee"], brought
the current suit against Pearce for alleged negligent
misrepresentation,  relying on the same facts as in the 2010
Action and on the same notes that supported the claims in the
2010 Action. Pearce moved for summary judgment based on the
doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Patricia
Sandler argued that as Trustee of the Conrad Trusts, she had
no identity of interest with any party to the prior lawsuit
because in the 2010 Action the Conrad Trusts were not named
plaintiffs, and genuine issues of material fact remained. The
trial court denied Pearce's motion for summary judgment
based on its conclusion that Patricia Sandler as individual
in 2010 and Sandler as Trustee in 2013 were not identical
parties and thus collateral estoppel did not apply as a bar
to the 2013 Action. The cause went to jury trial. The jury
found that Pearce made negligent misrepresentations that were
a legal cause of loss to Sandler as Trustee for the Conrad
Trusts. The jury found that the Conrad Trusts had contributed
to their own harm, assigning 40% negligence to the Trusts and
60% negligence to Pearce, and awarded the amount of $210,
300.00 on the verdict form to Sandler as Trustee for
compensatory damages. This appeal followed.
thorough reading of the record, we agree with Pearce that
when the trial court dismissed the Conrad's claims with
prejudice in the 2010 Action for failure to comply with
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.260, and granted summary
judgment in Pearce's favor specifically dismissing all
claims against him, the matter was concluded for all
purposes. At that point, whatever claims that may have had
existed on the promissory notes in question ceased to exist.
Therefore, no claim could exist on those promissory notes
that could be brought in the current suit by Sandler as
Trustee. In ...