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Patel v. Patel

Florida Court of Appeals, Fifth District

August 23, 2019

KETAN PATEL, Appellant,
v.
RAMANLAL PATEL, Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Citrus County, Patricia V. Thomas, Judge.

          Kevin K. Dixon, of Kevin K. Dixon, P.A., Inverness, for Appellant.

          Russell W. LaPeer, of Landt, Wiechens, LaPeer & Ayres, LLP, Ocala, for Appellee.

          CHASE, M., ASSOCIATE JUDGE.

         Appellant Ketan Patel appeals the trial court's order disbursing the proceeds from the sale of property, which was the subject of an action for partition, without first holding an evidentiary hearing. We agree with Appellant that he is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to determine the appropriate liabilities and credits due each party, and therefore reverse for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         The parties were joint owners of commercial real property that was mortgaged to secure a note on which they were jointly and severally liable. In 2014, Appellee Ramanlal Patel filed an action for partition of real property by sale, reimbursement of attorney's fees and costs, reimbursement for rental value during Appellant's tenancy, and equitable distribution of sale proceeds between the parties. Appellant filed a confession of judgment of partition and arrangements were made for the sale of the property.

         The parties first attempted a private sale but when that failed, Appellee moved the court for entry of summary judgment and an order that the property be sold at public auction. The parties eventually reached an agreement on the language to be included in the Second Amended Final Judgment ("Judgment"). The trial court entered the agreed upon Judgment and set the sale at public auction.

         The property was sold at auction to Appellant, as the highest bidder, and the proceeds were placed into the registry of the court. Appellant then moved for the proceeds to be disbursed to satisfy the outstanding mortgage.[1] On the other hand, Appellee moved for the proceeds to be disbursed equally to the parties. The court granted Appellee's motion and ordered the proceeds disbursed equally between the two parties without having held an evidentiary hearing to determine any appropriate credits or set-offs due either side.

         ANALYSIS

         Because partition is a subject of equitable jurisdiction, a trial court will be affirmed unless it is shown that the trial court abused its discretion in determining whether credits or set-offs are appropriate. Wood v. Friedman, 388 So.2d 1355, 1358 (Fla. 5th DCA 1980). Partition principles are applied in a flexible manner "in order to arrive at a fair, equitable, and just decree." Fernandez v. Gonzalez, 758 So.2d 1192, 1193 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000) (citation omitted).

         Appellee argues that the following language in paragraph 4 of the Judgment supports the court's order of disbursement:

The Clerk of this Court . . . shall sell the real property . . . free and discharged of any and all claims, liens, encumbrances, rights, equity and interest of the parties. The mortgage and any and all claims, liens, encumbrances, rights, equity and interest of any person or entity not a party to ...

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