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Trigeorgis v. Trigeorgis

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

March 28, 2018


         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal and cross-appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; William W. Haury, Jr., Judge; L.T. Case No. CACE 12-019414.

          Michael B. Buckley of Buckley Law Group, P.A., St. Petersburg, for appellant.

          Peter A. Tappert of Weissman & Dervishi, P.A., Miami, for appellee.

          Damoorgian, J.

         Lenos Trigeorgis ("Father") appeals the final judgment entered in George Trigeorgis' ("Son") slander of title action. Son cross-appeals the final judgment entered on Father's money lent counterclaim. Because Son failed to establish all of the elements for a slander of title claim, we reverse the slander of title judgment. We also reverse and remand the money lent judgment for recalculation of the prejudgment interest.

         At its core, this case involves a bitter dispute between Father and Son regarding repayment of money lent. In late 2009, Father and Son decided to purchase a condo as an investment property. The original plan was for the condo to be purchased in both of their names and for each party to contribute towards the purchase price. Ultimately, however, it was decided that Father would fund the entire purchase price and that the condo would be purchased in Son's name only. This arrangement was contingent on Son agreeing to repay the loan within three years at an 8% annual interest rate. To that end, Father drafted a loan agreement memorializing the above described terms and transferred a total of $231, 000 to Son. On April 23, 2010, Son purchased the subject condo for $185, 000. At the time of closing, Son had not yet signed the loan agreement.

         After the closing, Father asked Son to sign the written loan agreement and Son assured him that he would. On July 13, 2011, nearly fifteen months after the closing, Son took it upon himself to revise and sign the loan agreement drafted by Father. That agreement, titled "Loan Agreement for Purchase of Symphony Condo Unit 1704-S" ("the Agreement"), provided as follows:

[Son] hereby agrees to borrow $187, 908 from [Father] for the purchase of Unit 1704-S at the Symphony Condominium, 600 West Las Olas Boulevard #1704-S, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, using the property as collateral.
The loan is due and payable in 3 years with an accrued 8% annual interest. If the amount due is not paid in 3 years, [Father] will receive ownership of the property. That is, [Father] can obtain the property in lieu of the amount due (principal plus interest) in 3 years.

         Shortly after signing the Agreement, Son had a falling out with Father and decided to sell the condo. Upon learning that the condo had been listed for sale, Father filed a notice of interest in real property in the public records claiming to have an interest in the subject condo. Attached to the notice was a copy of the Agreement drafted and signed by Son.

         In July of 2012, Son sued Father for slander of title and to quiet title. In his complaint, Son alleged that had Father not filed the notice of interest, he would have been able to sell the condo. Father answered the complaint and raised as an affirmative defense that the Agreement attached to the notice of interest was a true and valid agreement. Father also counterclaimed for money lent, arguing that Son owed him $187, 908 plus interest for the money lent to purchase the condo.

         The matter proceeded to a bench trial. With regard to Son's slander of title action, Son testified, generally, that as a result of the notice of interest, he was unable to sell the condo. No specific evidence was presented showing how or if the notice of interest induced others not to deal with Son. With regard to Father's money lent counterclaim, Father testified that in total, he lent Son $231, 000 for the purchase of the condo. Father later admitted that $70, 000 had already been paid back, thus reducing the amount owed to $161, 000. Son readily admitted that he owed Father money, however testified that he had already paid back $97, 000 and therefore only owed a remaining $134, 000. Son also acknowledged that at the time of closing, the plan was for there to be a formal loan agreement in place similar to the one that he signed in 2011.

         At the conclusion of the trial, the court found in favor of Son on his slander of title action and awarded him a total of $64, 720.33 in attorney's fees and costs as damages. The court, however, offered no analysis to accompany its finding. The court also found in favor of Father on his money lent claim and awarded him the principal amount of $134, 000. The court did not award Father the 8% accrued interest provided for ...

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