JULIO PLUTT, an individual, JAZWARES DISTRIBUTION, INC., a Florida Corporation, BRIGHT PRODUCTS, INC., a Florida Corporation, Appellants,
MICHELE ROSS, Appellee.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
of non-final order from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth
Judicial Circuit, Broward County; John T. Luzzo, Judge; L.T.
Case No. 09-10145.
Geoffrey D. Ittleman of The Law Offices of Geoffrey D.
Ittleman, P.A., for appellants.
Melissa E. Roque and Steven D. Gonzalez of Weinberg, Wheeler,
Hudgins, Gunn & Dial, LLC, for appellee.
Plutt, Jazwares Distribution, Inc., and Bright Products, Inc.
("Appellants") appeal the circuit court's
denial of their Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540(b)
motion to vacate a final judgment awarding Appellee Michele
Ross $7, 092.56. In their motion, Appellants contended that
the final judgment entered by the circuit court was void for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the amount in
controversy did not exceed $15, 000. We affirm because the
complaint, in good faith, sought damages in excess of $15,
000, conferring jurisdiction on the circuit court
notwithstanding the ultimate damage award.
2009, Appellee filed a complaint against Appellants in
Broward County circuit court. She alleged that Appellants
breached a contract in which she agreed to author
children's books in exchange for a royalty or commission
on all book sales, ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 percent. Appellee
further alleged that Appellants failed to provide any of the
agreed-upon compensation despite her performance under the
contract. Regarding damages, Appellee alleged: "All
claims made herein are for damages in access [sic] of $15,
000.00, exclusive of attorneys' fees, interest and
years of litigation and discovery, Appellee successfully
moved for a default. Appellee then filed a motion for summary
judgment. The motion stated that the proceeds from the sales
of Appellee's books amounted to $202, 644.81. Based on
the formula in the subject contract, Appellee asserted that
Appellants owed her $7, 092.56 "in royalties."
However, she also claimed to have suffered total damages of
$209, 737.37, which was the sum of the royalties and the sale
proceeds. The trial court entered an order granting the
motion for summary judgment and stating that Appellee was
entitled to $7, 092.56 in damages. The final judgment awarded
that amount, in addition to costs and pre-judgment interest,
for a total award of $13, 695.58.
than a year after entry of the final judgment, Appellants
filed a motion to vacate. They asserted that the circuit
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Appellee
stated in her summary judgment motion that she was due $7,
092.56 in damages for unpaid royalties. Appellants argued
that Appellee effectively acknowledged that the court was
without jurisdiction because the amount in controversy did
not exceed the $15, 000 threshold needed to invoke the
circuit court's jurisdiction.
trial court entered an order denying the motion to vacate
without explanation. This non-final appeal follows.
See Fla. R. App. P. 9.130(a)(5).
generally review a trial court's ruling on a motion to
vacate for an abuse of discretion. Vercosa v.
Fields, 174 So.3d 550, 552 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015). However,
"[w]hether a judgment is void is a question of law
reviewed de novo." Id.
may move at any time to vacate a final judgment as void due
to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Kathleen G.
Kozinski, P.A. v. Phillips, 126 So.3d 1264, 1268 (Fla.
4th DCA 2013). Florida circuit courts have subject matter
jurisdiction over actions at law in which the matter in
controversy exceeds $15, 000, exclusive of interest, costs,
and attorney's fees. See §§
26.012(2)(a) and 34.01(1)(c), Fla. Stat. (2016). "[A]
court's subject matter jurisdiction over a case generally
depends on the good-faith allegations in the complaint as to
an amount in controversy." Bogdanoff v. Broken Sound
Club, Inc., 154 So.3d 410, 411 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014).
"The test in determining the jurisdiction of the court
'is the amount in good faith claimed or put in
controversy when ...