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Corner Land, LLC v. Annex Industrial Park, LLC

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

June 26, 2019

Corner Land, LLC, Appellant,
v.
Annex Industrial Park, LLC, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 14-23118, Mavel Ruiz, Judge.

          Taylor Espino Vega & Touron, PLLC, and Alejandro Espino, and Vanessa A. Van Cleaf, for appellant.

          Armas Bertran Pieri, and J. Alfredo De Armas, and Eduardo Bertran, for appellee.

          Before SALTER, LINDSEY, and HENDON, JJ.

          LINDSEY, J.

         Corner Land, LLC appeals the trial court's final judgment in an action for trespass only to the extent that the jury did not award punitive damages in Corner Land's favor.[1] Corner Land claims it is reversible error to admit redacted stay orders into evidence. It is not.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Annex Industrial Park, LLC and Corner Land own adjacent properties in Hialeah, Florida. Three roads border the combined properties. Both parcels lie north of N.W. 138th Street, west of N.W. 102nd Avenue, and east of N.W. 105th Avenue. At issue in this case is a strip of land on the southern boundary of Corner Land's property, which runs parallel to N.W. 138th Street. At the time Corner Land filed suit, that strip provided the only access to the Annex Property. There was a time, however, when that strip was not the only means of access to the Annex Property.

         Annex originally had direct access to its property from N.W. 138th Street.[2]When Annex acquired its property in 2005, a bridge connected N.W. 138th Street to the Annex Property, providing for direct access from the south. In 2008, the City of Hialeah requested Annex to deed 35 feet along the southern edge of its property to the City for a right of way. The City sought to widen the canal between the Annex Property and N.W. 138th Street as well as the street itself. Annex deeded the 35 feet to the City and additionally conveyed an easement to Miami-Dade County for canal construction and maintenance.

         Corner Land's predecessor executed similar agreements. Like Annex, the prior owner of the Corner Land property conveyed a similar canal easement and dedicated 75 feet of its southern boundary to the City of Hialeah. Thereafter, the City demolished the bridge providing direct access to the Annex Property and widened the canal and N.W. 138th Street. Although the City constructed a replacement bridge, the City placed the bridge just west of the Annex Property, depriving Annex of its direct access. As a result, the only access to the Annex Property was through a new road, created by the new canal bridge, on the southern boundary of the Corner Land property.

         For several years, Corner Land (and its predecessors) permitted Annex to use a portion of the new road which constituted Corner Land's property. Annex required use of the new road to access the Annex Property, where it operated a truck storage business. Then, in September of 2014, Corner Land withdrew its permission and sent Annex a cease and desist letter demanding Annex discontinue use of Corner Land's property. Annex nevertheless continued to use Corner Land's property and four days after sending the cease and desist letter, Corner Land filed suit seeking damages for trespass and a permanent injunction.

         Corner Land later moved for a temporary injunction seeking to enjoin Annex's use of Corner Land's property. After a three-day evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted Corner Land's motion and entered a temporary injunction precluding Annex from continuing its use of the Corner Land property. Annex subsequently moved to stay the injunction until it was able to find another method of accessing its property. Annex explained that the injunction would hinder Annex's ability to operate its storage business, potentially placing the company in financial ruin. The trial court noted the condition of unfairness that would be created and stayed enforcement of the injunction. The trial court extended the stay seven additional times over a period of 23 months before Annex finally secured access to the property along its northern border.

         Based on the evidence adduced at the three-day evidentiary hearing, Corner Land additionally sought leave to add a claim for punitive damages. Corner Land argued Annex's continued use of the Corner Land property in light of the cease and desist letter warranted punitive damages. That motion was also granted. In response, Annex amended its Answer to include the ...


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