MICHAEL J. DENINO and VINCENZA ABBATE-DENINO, Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
ANNA ABBATE, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Highlands County; Peter F. Estrada
and Michael E. Raiden, Judges.
Flores-Dickman and Andrew W. Dickman of Dickman Law Firm,
Naples, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
R. LeConey of Swaine & Harris, P.A., Lake Placid, for
J. Denino and Vincenza Abbate-Denino appeal the trial
court's order denying their amended motion seeking
sanctions against Anna Abbate. The trial court denied the
motion on procedural grounds in reliance on Matte v.
Caplan, 140 So.3d 686 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014). Because this
court subsequently rejected the reasoning in Matte,
we reverse the trial court's order and remand for further
proceedings. See Isla Blue Dev., LLC v. Moore, 223
So.3d 1097 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017); Boatright v. Philip Morris
USA Inc., 218 So.3d 962 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017). In light of
this disposition, we decline to address the issues raised by
Mrs. Abbate's cross-appeal.
case was commenced by Anna Abbate, the mother of Vincenza
Abbate-Denino. Initially, she sued her daughter and
son-in-law alleging that they fraudulently caused her to sign
a deed conveying an interest in a home to them. She alleged
that they duped her by telling her that the deed was a
healthcare-related document. Later, in a deposition, she
withdrew that allegation. Following the deposition, the
Appellants served Mrs. Abbate's counsel with a motion and
notice pursuant to section 57.105, Florida Statutes (2014),
asserting that the complaint was frivolous and demanding that
the lawsuit be dismissed.
section 57.105(4) statutory notice, sometimes called a safe
harbor notice, was sent to Mrs. Abbate's counsel via
email on September 12, 2014. On October 24, 2014, Mrs. Abbate
moved to amend the operative complaint to assert a different
misrepresentation. This action was taken outside the
twenty-one-day safe harbor period set forth in section
57.105, and the Appellants moved for statutory
sanctions. However, Mrs. Abbate asserted that the
Appellants could not prevail because the motion for sanctions
was not served in compliance with the strict email service
requirements set forth in Florida Rule of Judicial
Administration 2.516. The argument was based on the Fourth
District's decision in Matte, which applied the
email service requirements of rule 2.516 to service of a
motion for purposes of section 57.105(4)'s safe harbor
a bench trial on the amended complaint, the trial court
granted the Appellants' motion for involuntary dismissal.
At the sanctions hearing, the trial court properly observed
that this court had not yet ruled on whether rule 2.516
applied to a section 57.105 motion served to provide the
required safe harbor notice. The only issued opinion on the
subject was Matte. Because this court had not opined
on this issue, the trial court was again correct in
concluding that it was required to follow the only existing
appellate decision on the issue. See Pardo v. State,
596 So.2d 665, 666 (Fla. 1992) ("[I]n the absence of
interdistrict conflict, district court decisions bind all
Florida trial courts." (citing Weiman v.
McHaffie, 470 So.2d 682, 684 (Fla. 1985))); Miller
v. State, 980 So.2d 1092, 1094 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008)
("[B]ecause the district courts of appeal in Florida are
intended to be courts of final appellate jurisdiction, the
opinion of a district court is binding on all trial courts in
the state."). Noting that Mrs. Abbate had
actual notice of the motion, the trial court
nonetheless reluctantly denied the amended motion for
sanctions based on the holding in Matte.
that time, this court has weighed in on the issue. Relying in
part on this court's decision in Boatright, 218
So.3d at 967, this court held in Isla Blue
Development, 223 So.3d at 1099, "that the email
service requirements of rule 2.516(b)(1) do not apply"
to a motion filed as part of the section 57.105(4) safe
harbor notice. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's
order denying sanctions and remand for further proceedings
for the trial court to determine whether the Appellants are
able to establish a legal entitlement for fees against any
party and, if so, to hold an appropriate evidentiary hearing
to establish the amount and liability for such an award. We
do not read the trial court's order as having addressed
the latter domain.
did in Isla Blue Development, we certify conflict
with Matte v. Caplan, 140 So.3d 686 (Fla. 4th DCA
2014), in which the Fourth District applied the email
requirements of rule 2.516 to a section 57.105 motion served
to provide the required safe harbor notice.
and remanded with instructions; conflict certified.
CRENSHAW and ...