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Padilla v. Padilla

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

September 4, 2019

David Padilla, Appellant,
v.
Francy Padilla, et al., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Reemberto Diaz, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 18-303.

          Cristobal D. Padron & Assoc., P.A., and Cristobal D. Padron, for appellant.

          Avila Rodriguez Hernandez Mena & Ferri LLP, and J. Cooper Green, for appellee Francy Padilla.

          Before LOGUE, SCALES and LINDSEY, JJ.

          SCALES, J.

         David Padilla (the "father"), the plaintiff below, appeals a final order dismissing with prejudice his amended complaint against his daughter, appellee, Francy Padilla (the "daughter"), the co-defendant in the proceedings below.[1] While not a model of clarity, the gravamen of the father's amended complaint is that the daughter duped the father into signing loan documents wherein the father committed to repay a $25, 000 loan that paid for the daughter's tuition. See Siegle v. Progressive Consumers Ins. Co., 819 So.2d 732, 734-35 (Fla. 2002) ("[W]hen presented with a motion to dismiss, a trial court is required to 'treat the factual allegations of the complaint as true and to consider those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs.'" (quoting Hollywood Lakes Section Civic Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Hollywood, 676 So.2d 500, 501 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996))).

         The father's amended complaint against his daughter contains two counts: fraud and fraud in the inducement. The trial court dismissed both claims, concluding that the relief sought by the father was prohibited by Florida's statute of frauds. The trial court surmised that, because the amended complaint essentially sought a judgment compelling the daughter to pay the father's debt, such relief could not be granted unless the daughter had signed a document agreeing to repay the father's loan.[2]

         We agree that the fraud in the inducement claim should be dismissed, but on different grounds from those relied upon by the trial court. See Dade County Sch. Bd. v. Radio Station WQBA, 731 So.2d 638, 644 (Fla. 1999) ("[I]f a trial court reaches the right result, but for the wrong reasons, it will be upheld if there is any basis which would support the judgment in the record."). The father alleges that, when he was executing the documents attached to the amended complaint, he was told by his daughter that the loan was for his daughter, and that he would not be responsible for repaying the loan. But the documents attached to the amended complaint clearly and unequivocally state that the father is the borrower and is required to repay the loan. Florida does not recognize a fraud in the inducement claim when the alleged fraudulent representations are expressly belied by the contract documents. See Hillcrest Pacific Corp. v. Yamamura, 727 So.2d 1053, 1058 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999) (affirming the dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a cause of action for fraud in the inducement where the agreement and other exhibits attached to the complaint demonstrated that the plaintiff did not reasonably rely upon any material misrepresentations made by the defendants).

         As to the fraud count, we note on our de novo review of the amended complaint[3] the following allegation tucked deep in the pleading (at paragraph 56): "The defendant, FRANCY PADILLA then falsified information on other required documents and forged the Plaintiff's signature [on the promissory note] in order to obtain the loan in the Plaintiff's name." The father's amended complaint attaches only the first page of the promissory note to the complaint and alleges that he has been unable to obtain an executed copy of the note.

         Forgery is, indeed, a species of fraud. See Bennett v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 230 So.3d 100, 106 n.3 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017). Without expressing any opinion on the merits of such a claim - or even whether, on remand, the father will be able to state, with requisite specificity, a claim for fraud against the daughter based on the alleged forgery - we are compelled[4] to reverse the trial court's dismissal of the fraud claim and remand to allow the father reasonable time in which to file a second amended complaint to amplify the allegations associated with such a claim.

         Affirmed in part; reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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