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Inc. v. Gonzalez

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

May 9, 2018

COCONUT KEY HOMEOWNER'S ASSOCIATION, INC., Appellant,
v.
GONZALEZ, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Michael L. Gates, Judge; L.T. Case No. 09-061407(12).

          Joseph D. Garrity of Garrity Traina, PLLC, Coconut Creek, for appellant.

          Alexis Fields of Kopelowitz Ostrow, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellee.

          Klingensmith, J.

         Coconut Key Homeowner's Association, Inc. ("the Association"), as the appellant/cross-appellee, seeks review of an order imposing a mandatory injunction against it. Gonzalez, as appellee/cross-appellant, appeals the denial of her request for attorney's fees and costs. Accordingly, there are two issues presented in this appeal and cross-appeal. First, whether the trial court erred in issuing the injunction against the Association. Second, whether Gonzalez prevailed in the underlying action for purposes of an award of attorney's fees when the jury found that the Association breached a contract, but awarded no damages to Gonzalez. We affirm as to the entry of the injunction, and also find that Gonzalez was the prevailing party for purposes of awarding both attorney's fees and costs.

         Gonzalez filed a complaint against the Association. Under count one, "Breach of Governing Documents, " Gonzalez alleged that the Association had "breached, and continue[d] to breach the Governing Documents by failing to properly manage the surface water management system, " which caused her property to consistently flood when it rained, and led to significant damage to her home.[1] She sought monetary damages for the breach. Under count two, "Injunction, " Gonzalez alleged that the Association failed to address the issue of the existence of several unauthorized wood decks and other alterations on other properties, and failed to rectify the chronic flooding problems arising in her own backyard area; consequently, she sought enforcement of the various applicable covenants and restrictions in the Association's governing documents.[2]

         In their joint pretrial stipulation, both parties agreed on the underlying issue in the case:

This case involves [the Association]'s alleged violation of its [governing documents]. Defendant is a duly formed homeowners association, of which [Gonzalez] is a resident member. In this action, it is alleged by [Gonzalez] that the [Association] has failed to comply with the [A]ssociation's governing documents by failing to properly maintain the surface water management system behind her residence which has resulted in a flooding problem. [Gonzalez] seeks an injunction requiring the Association to cure the alleged surface water management violations and stop the flooding problem.

(Emphasis added).

         After a trial on these issues, the jury found that the Association breached its governing documents by failing to maintain and operate the surface water management system on Gonzalez's property, but that the breach was not a legal cause of damage to Gonzalez. As a result, Gonzalez was awarded no monetary damages on count one.

         The trial court conducted a post-trial hearing on whether to issue an injunction against the Association pursuant to count two. After the hearing, it granted Gonzalez's motion for entry of a mandatory injunction. The court's decision was in accord with the jury's finding that the Association violated clear legal rights in its governing documents, which caused Gonzalez irreparable harm without an adequate remedy under the law.

          Gonzalez then filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to section 720.305(1), Florida Statutes (2008). Following a hearing, the trial court denied Gonzalez's motion for attorney's fees and costs. Gonzalez timely appealed the denial of fees and costs, and the Association timely appealed the entry of the injunction.

         1. Issuance of the injunction

         "'[A]n order imposing a permanent injunction lies within the sound discretion of the trial court and will be affirmed absent a showing of abuse of discretion.'" Smith v. Coal. to Reduce Class Size, 827 So.2d 959, 961 (Fla. 2002) (quoting Operation Rescue v. Women's Health Ctr., Inc., 626 So.2d 664, 670 (Fla. 1993)). Gonzalez sought a mandatory injunction to command specific conduct, specifically compliance with governing documents. "In order to establish entitlement to a mandatory injunction there must be a clear legal right which has been violated, irreparable harm must be threatened, and there ...


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