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Williams v. Skylink Jets, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

November 15, 2017

ADRIAN S. WILLIAMS, Appellant,
v.
SKYLINK JETS, INC., Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; John B. Bowman, Judge; L.T. Case No. CACE15-013943.

          Robin F. Hazel and Jesmany Jomarron of Jomarron Lopez, Miami, for appellant.

          Bruce D. Green of Bruce D. Green, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellee.

          Forst, J.

         Appellant Adrian S. Williams appeals an order denying his motion to vacate a default final judgment brought under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540. In addition to challenging the trial court's finding of default, Appellant also argues that the specific damages requested by Appellee Skylink Jets, Inc. and awarded by the trial court were unliquidated and, thus, notice and the opportunity to be heard prior to entry of default final judgment was required.

         As discussed below, we summarily affirm the trial court's decision to deny Appellant's motion to vacate the default final judgment entered against him. Further, we hold that Appellee provided a precise damages figure and, although Appellee failed to attach proof of the specific expenses incurred to arrive at the damages requested, Appellant "admitted" that this figure was accurate, converting unliquidated damages into liquidated damages. Finally, we hold the attorney's fees and costs are unliquidated and must be determined by the trial court after notice and hearing.

         Background

          Appellant, an aircraft pilot, was hired by Appellee on October 2, 2014. As part of his engagement with Appellee, Appellant executed a Pilot Training Expense Agreement ("Agreement"). The Agreement required Appellant to reimburse Appellee for all expenses incurred in pilot training if Appellant terminated his employment without cause or was terminated for cause within twenty-four months of his hiring. The Agreement provided a specific explanation of what constituted "training expenses."

         On July 3, 2015, Appellant's employment was terminated. Subsequently, Appellee notified Appellant of the $15, 176.52 incurred for Appellant's training expenses and demanded repayment pursuant to the Agreement. Due to Appellant's failure to repay the training expenses (or offer any response to Appellee's demand letter), Appellee filed a complaint for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Appellee listed damages of $15, 176.52 in the complaint. Shortly thereafter, Appellant was served with a summons, complaint, interrogatories, and request for admissions. Appellant failed to respond to any of the discovery requests.

         Due to Appellant's failure to respond to the complaint, a default was entered against him on January 7, 2016. Appellee next filed a motion for default final judgment. Appellee requested damages of $15, 176.52, court costs of $547.23, interest of $1, 042.29, and attorney's fees of $2, 565.00. A hearing was scheduled on Appellee's motion, and Appellant, again, failed to appear. A default final judgment was entered, and Appellee was awarded its requested damages. Appellant finally responded, filing a motion to vacate the default final judgment. At the hearing on his motion, the trial court found the damages to be liquidated and as such, notice was not required. Further, the trial court found that the default was properly served on Appellant.

         On appeal, Appellant argues the trial court committed fundamental error by denying his motion to vacate the default final judgment where the judgment grants unliquidated damages and Appellant was not given notice before entry of the default. He asserts that the mailing addresses on the certificates of service for the motion for default final judgment and the notice of hearing on the motion were incorrect. Appellant also argues that, although the trial court did not address the clerk's default, it should also be vacated, or the case should be remanded with instructions for the trial court to consider his arguments for vacating the clerk's default.

         In response, Appellee argues the trial court correctly denied Appellant's motion because the damages were liquidated; thus, Appellant was not entitled to notice. Nevertheless, Appellee argues that notice was given. In addition, Appellee contends that Appellant ...


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