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Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Miami

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

December 13, 2017

Fraternal Order of Police, Miami Lodge No. 20, Appellant,
v.
City of Miami, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Rosa I. Rodriguez, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 98-7760

          Klausner, Kaufman, Jensen & Levinson, and Robert D. Klausner and Paul A. Daragjati (Plantation), for appellant.

          Victoria Méndez, City Attorney, and Kerri L. McNulty, Assistant City Attorney, for appellee.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and SALTER and LINDSEY, JJ.

          ROTHENBERG, C.J.

         The Fraternal Order of Police, etc. ("the FOP") appeals from the trial court's entry of a final order determining that the FOP lacks standing to seek damages against the City of Miami ("the City") on behalf of some of the FOP's members. Based on our review of the record on appeal and the relevant case law, we agree with the trial court's determination that the FOP lacks standing to pursue damages on behalf of its members because the determination of damages will require the individual participation of the affected FOP members.

         BACKGROUND

         This appeal concerns a promotional exam for the position of police sergeant administered by the City in 1994. In 1996, the FOP filed a complaint, and ultimately a second amended complaint, seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages against the City, alleging that the oral portion of the exam was unlawful. Following discovery, the trial court entered an order bifurcating the liability and damages phases of the litigation. After conducting a bench trial on liability, the trial court entered a partial final declaratory judgment in 2007 in favor of the FOP, declaring the oral portion of the exam invalid.

         Thereafter, the City sought clarification as to the FOP's associational standing to recover damages on behalf of its individually affected members. The trial court entered an order in 2008 finding that, although the FOP may possess associational standing to seek declaratory, injunctive, or other prospective relief for its members, it lacks associational standing to recover damages on behalf of the members affected by the flawed promotion examination. Specifically, the trial court found that because the determination of the damages sought by the FOP will require extensive and individualized discovery to determine whether and to what extent each individual member was damaged, the FOP does not have standing to recover damages on their behalf.

         Five years after the trial court entered its order finding that the FOP lacked standing to pursue damages on behalf of its affected members, the FOP filed a motion for reconsideration of that order, but failed to set the motion for a hearing. Three years later, at the City's prompting, the motion was heard and denied. The FOP now seeks a reversal of the trial court's determination that it lacks standing to seek damages in its representational capacity on behalf of its members.

         ANALYSIS

         "Generally, the determination of whether a plaintiff has standing is a legal issue subject to de novo appellate review. . . . To the extent that the trial court's standing determination involves factual findings, we uphold such findings only if supported by competent, substantial evidence." Citibank, N.A. v. Olsak, 208 So.3d 227, 229 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016) (citations omitted).

         At the outset, we note that this case appears to present an issue of first impression. Neither of the parties on appeal have cited to any Florida case that directly addresses whether and in what circumstances a union has standing to seek damages on behalf of its members, nor have we found such a case. However, based on our review of other union standing cases and related case law in the context of associational standing, we conclude that a union does not have standing to seek damages ...


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