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ASA College, Inc. v. Dezer Intracoastal Mall, LLC

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

June 20, 2018

ASA College, Inc., etc., Appellant,
v.
Dezer Intracoastal Mall, LLC, etc., Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from a non-final order from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 15-22197 John Schlesinger, Judge.

          Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A., and Alexandra Valdes and Scott A. Cole, for appellant.

          Coffey Burlington, P.L., and Susan E. Raffanello, for appellee.

          Before EMAS, SCALES and LUCK, JJ.

          EMAS, J.

         ASA College, Inc. ("ASA") appeals the trial court's order denying ASA's motion for temporary injunctive relief and granting temporary injunctive relief to Dezer Intracoastal Mall, LLC ("Dezer"). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the denial of ASA's motion, but affirm the order, insofar as it grants Dezer's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The dispute between ASA and Dezer arose out of their respective ownership of two parcels located within the Intercoastal Mall in North Miami Beach (the "Mall Property"). In 2013, Dezer purchased what is hereinafter referred to as the "Center Parcel" and, thereafter, ASA purchased what is hereinafter referred to as the "Office Parcel." When ASA and Dezer purchased their respective parcels, each was subject to an easement-the Amended and Restated Shopping Center Operation and Reciprocal Easement Agreement ("REA")-executed in 1997 by the prior owners of the Center Parcel and the Office Parcel.

         In 2014, ASA began operating a college on the Office Parcel, and, according to ASA, Dezer thereafter attempted to limit ASA's ability to utilize certain common-area parking areas of the Center Parcel, which it was entitled to use under the terms of the REA. Specifically, according to ASA, Dezer erected fences on the Center Parcel and advised ASA that it would place signage and implement a window sticker system which would limit ASA and its guests to parking only in a specified portion of the Center Parcel.

         ASA sued, seeking, inter alia, temporary and permanent injunctive relief asserting that Dezer violated the REA by interfering with ASA's ability to use the Center Parcel common-area parking. Dezer counterclaimed for, inter alia, temporary and injunctive relief, asserting that, pursuant to the REA, ASA was prohibited from operating a college on the Office Parcel.

         ASA's motion for temporary injunction requested the court to enjoin Dezer from "erecting large green fences on common parking areas which ASA has the right to use, " and from "threatening to remove [ASA's] easement for common parking rights." Dezer's motion for temporary injunction asked the court to enjoin ASA from operating a "post-secondary educational facility, college, or any use other than office use."

         Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied ASA's motion for temporary injunction on the parking dispute and granted Dezer's motion, temporarily enjoining ASA from operating its college on the Office Parcel. ASA appeals, asserting that, as to the parking dispute, the trial court incorrectly construed the terms of the REA, resulting in an erroneous conclusion that ASA could not demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. ASA also contends that the trial court abused its discretion in granting Dezer's motion for temporary injunction on the office use dispute. We address each issue in turn.

         THE PARKING DISPUTE

         Generally, a party seeking a temporary injunction "must establish that: (1) irreparable injury will result if the injunction is not granted, (2) there is no adequate remedy at law, (3) the party has a clear legal right to the requested relief, [1]and (4) the public interest will be served by the temporary injunction." Bay N Gulf, Inc. v. Anchor Seafood, Inc., 971 So.2d 842, 843 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007). "A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy which should be granted sparingly." Garcia v. Dumenigo, 46 So.3d 1085, 1087 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010) (quoting City of Jacksonville v. Naegele Outdoor Adver. Co., 634 So.2d 750, 752 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994)) (additional citation omitted).

         In denying ASA's motion for temporary injunction on the parking dispute, the trial court determined that ASA had proven all of the requisite prongs for obtaining the injunction, with the exception of demonstrating a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. Specifically, the court determined that, although the REA contains general language providing ASA an easement to park in certain common-area parking areas in the Center Parcel, a more specific provision of the REA limits ASA to 100 parking spaces in the Office Parcel, and therefore, ASA could not demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of its action.

         Although we generally review such orders for an abuse of discretion, Anchor Seafood, 971 So.2d at 843, to the extent the order is based on the trial court's interpretation of a contract, we apply a de novo standard of review. Telemundo Media, LLC v. Mintz, 194 So.3d 434, 435 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016). See also Gainesville Woman Care, LLC v. State, 210 So.3d 1243, 1258 (Fla. 2017) (holding: "The standard of review of trial court orders on requests for temporary injunctions is a hybrid. To the extent the trial court's order is based on factual findings, we will not reverse unless the trial court abused its discretion; however, any legal conclusions are subject to de novo review") (internal citation omitted).

         Because the trial court's denial of ASA's motion was premised upon its construction of the terms of the REA, we apply the de novo standard of review. Applying this standard, we conclude that the trial court erred in its construction of the REA, and that, under a correct construction of the terms of the REA, ASA satisfied the "substantial likelihood of success on the merits" prong.

         The relevant sections ...


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