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Muchnick v. Goihman

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

May 2, 2018

Michael Muchnick and Valerie Muchnick, Appellants,
v.
Richard Goihman, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 14-2925, Antonio Marin, Judge.

          International Law Partners LLP and Zahra Khan (Hollywood), for appellants.

          Nexterra Law, Steven M. Liberty, and Eric A. Jacobs, for appellee.

          Before LAGOA, EMAS and LUCK, JJ.

          LUCK, J.

         Michael and Valerie Muchnick, former tenants in a Williams Island apartment, appeal the trial court's summary judgment in favor of their former rental agent, Richard Goihman, on their claims that Goihman fraudulently induced the couple to rent the apartment, and negligently repaired the water intrusion and mold problems with the apartment. We affirm the summary judgment on the fraud in the inducement claim, but reverse on the negligence claim and remand for further proceedings.

         Factual Background and Procedural History

         Goihman was a real estate agent working for Fortune International Realty. He knew the Muchnicks because they lived in the same apartment building in Aventura. When Goihman learned the Muchnicks needed to move from their current apartment because it was being sold, he approached them about renting a different unit in the same building. In April 2012, the Muchnicks entered into a two-year lease agreement to rent the new apartment for $7, 500 a month. They paid their rent in six-month installments. Fortune International Reality was listed as the broker on the transaction.

         During a walk-through of the apartment with Goihman, the Muchnicks pointed out cosmetic issues with the unit - scuffed floors; paint touch ups - which Goihman assured them would be addressed prior to them moving in. But the issues were not resolved, and when the Muchnicks moved in, they discovered that the problems were greater and more serious than they first realized. Most significantly, leaks in the bathroom resulted in water damage and mold in the ventilation system. The mold, according to the Muchnicks, affected their children's health and required that they be put on medication. The Muchnicks communicated primarily with Goihman regarding issues with the unit because the owner lived abroad. Due to the mounting repairs and Goihman's failure to quickly resolve the issues, the Muchnicks terminated the lease about six months early and, in February 2014, filed suit against Goihman and the owner of the apartment.

         The complaint alleged the following against Goihman: fraud in the inducement; breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment of the premises; breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing; unjust enrichment; and negligence. Goihman moved for summary judgment on all counts, which the trial court granted. The Muchnicks appeal only the trial court's summary judgment on their fraud in the inducement and negligence claims.

         Standard of Review

         "The determination of duty, as an element of negligence, is a question of law, and is therefore subject to de novo review. We also review de novo a trial court's granting of summary judgment." Chirillo v. Granicz, ...


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