final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower
Tribunal No. 09-502, Michael A. Hanzman, Judge.
& Wolk, PL, and Douglas F. Eaton, for appellant.
Office of Jerry D. Haynes, P.A., and Jerry D. Haynes, for
EMAS, C.J., and SCALES and HENDON, JJ.
Velazquez, appellant and plaintiff below
("Velazquez"), appeals a November 8, 2016 final
judgment entered in favor of appellees, defendants below,
Josh Herman and Herman Bail Bonds, Inc. (together, the
"Herman Defendants"). While the jury returned a
verdict against the Herman Defendants on Velazquez's
civil conspiracy claim, the trial court granted the Herman
Defendants' post-trial motions and entered the challenged
final judgment notwithstanding the jury verdict in
Velazquez's favor. We affirm.
son, Darli Velazquez-Armas ("Darli"), was arrested
in January 2007, and charged with federal drug trafficking
violations. The United States District Court for the Southern
District of Florida conditioned Darli's release on the
posting of a $1, 000, 000 corporate surety bond. Once
Velazquez arranged for this surety bond, Darli was released
from custody. Shortly thereafter, in March 2007, Darli
were several stages to Velazquez's effort to secure the
surety bond. Initially, Velazquez contacted a local bail
bondsman, Emilio Faroy of Faroy Bail Bonds. Faroy enlisted
the assistance of Joe Mastrapa and his company Surety
Financial of America Corporation. Mestrapa put Faroy in
contact with the Herman Defendants in California who had a
business affiliation with International Fidelity Insurance
Company ("IF"). Velazquez (and his wife) executed
IF's written application for appearance bond and an
indemnity agreement, and obtained the surety bond from IF.
Velazquez paid a $100, 000 premium (which was split by Faroy,
Mastrapa and the Herman Defendants), and put up as collateral
properties he owned in Miami and North Carolina. After Darli
absconded, Faroy and Mastrapa demanded that Velazquez provide
additional funds toward the apprehension of Darli. Velazquez
raised $441, 211.73 in cash and partial proceeds from a quick
sale of the Miami property to Darli's wife.
paid the $441, 211.73 to Faroy and Mastrapa who, in turn,
forwarded this sum to the Herman Defendants. The Herman
Defendants hired a bounty hunter named Rolando Betancourt who
tracked down Darli and returned him to federal custody in
Darli's capture, Velazquez demanded the return of his
additional funds, less the reasonable costs and fees incurred
in the apprehension of Darli. Although Betancourt's final
bill was for $371, 056.59, the Herman Defendants paid him
only $191, 000. Velazquez filed suit in March 2011. The
gravamen of Velazquez's complaint was that the several
bail bondsmen overcharged Velazquez for the apprehension of
Darli. Velazquez sued ten defendants and raised numerous
legal theories; essentially, Velazquez alleged that the
Herman Defendants conspired with the other defendants to
convert his property. After a series of dismissals and
summary judgments, Velazquez went to trial against only the
Herman Defendants on a lone civil conspiracy count. On August
14, 2015, the jury found in Velazquez's favor and awarded
him $250, 211.73.
Herman Defendants filed post-trial motions seeking a judgment
notwithstanding the jury's verdict, and the trial court
conducted extensive hearings on the motions, resulting in the
trial court rendering a detailed, 36-page order that granted
the Herman Defendants' post-trial motions. Ultimately,
the trial court entered the challenged final judgment in
favor of the Herman Defendants.
trial court essentially determined that, if Velazquez had a
claim against the Herman Defendants, it was not a civil
conspiracy claim, but "a garden variety breach of
contract claim premised upon an alleged failure to return
money advanced pursuant to an express written
agreement entered into between Velazquez and IF - through
IF's agent - Herman."
trial court found that: (i) IF and the Herman Defendants had
a right to protect the $1, 000, 000 surety bond by pursuing
Darli; (ii) IF and the Herman Defendants had a contractual
right to require Velazquez to advance expense money to pursue
Darli; (iii) if the Herman Defendants' investigative
expenses were excessive or unreasonable, the Herman
Defendants' failure to return any excess funds to
Velazquez neither constituted tortious conduct nor provided a
foundation for a civil conspiracy claim; and (iv) "if