final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from non-final orders from the Circuit Court for
Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 19-23245, Reemberto
Clayton-Johnston, P.A., and Leonard E. Ireland, Jr.
(Gainesville), for appellant.
Office of Mark V. Murray, and Mark V. Murray (Tallahassee);
Law Office of Terry P. Roberts, and Terry P. Roberts
(Tallahassee); Rawsi Williams Law Group, and Rawsi Williams;
Kaire & Heffernan, LLC, and David R. Heffernan, for
EMAS, C.J., and SALTER and SCALES, JJ.
the defendant below, Florida High School Athletic
Association, Inc. ("FHSAA"), appeals an August 20,
2019 non-final order denying its motion to transfer venue of
the instant action to Alachua County. FHSAA also appeals an August
20, 2019 non-final order granting a temporary injunction of
favor of appellees, plaintiffs below, Luther Johnson, IV,
Antionette Johnson and Luther Johnson, V. For the following
reasons, we affirm the venue order, and reverse and remand
the temporary injunction order with instructions.
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
declared Luther Johnson, V ineligible to participate in
interscholastic athletic competitions during Johnson's
senior year in high school because of Johnson's alleged
unsportsmanlike conduct while playing high school lacrosse in
the spring of 2019. After pursuing administrative remedies,
Johnson and his parents filed the instant action in the
Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. The verified complaint seeks
emergency injunctive relief and damages against FHSAA,
alleging claims for racial discrimination under Florida's
Educational Equity Act (Count I), denial of equal protection
under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution
(Count II), denial of due process rights (Count III), and
defamation per se (Count IV). The Johnsons also filed an
emergency motion for a temporary restraining order seeking to
enjoin FHSAA's suspension of Johnson from participating
in interscholastic sports. FHSAA filed a motion, with
supporting affidavits, to transfer venue to Alachua County.
The motions were filed before any answer or affirmative
defenses were filed by FHSAA.
August 20, 2019, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing
on both FHSAA's motion to transfer venue to Alachua
County, and the Johnsons' emergency motion for a
temporary restraining order against FHSAA. Because no court
reporter was present at the evidentiary hearing, there is no
hearing transcript. The same day, following the evidentiary
hearing, the trial court entered separate orders denying
FHSAA's motion to transfer venue and granting a temporary
injunction. FHSAA appeals both non-final orders. For the
following reasons, we affirm the venue order and reverse the
temporary injunction order.
The Venue Order
a trial court is presented with a motion to transfer venue
based on the impropriety of the plaintiff's venue
selection, the defendant is arguing that, as a matter of law,
the lawsuit has been filed in the wrong forum."
Tobin v. A&F Eng'g, 979 So.2d 967, 968 (Fla.
3d DCA 2008) (quoting PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP v. Cedar
Res., Inc., 761 So.2d 1131, 1133 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999)).
Where the facts relating to such venue motion are in dispute,
the trial court shall hold an evidentiary hearing to resolve
the factual dispute and then make a legal determination on
venue. Id.; see also Fla. Gamco, Inc. v.
Fontaine, 68 So.3d 923, 928 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011). We
review the trial court's factual determinations to assure
they are supported by competent, substantial evidence; we
review the trial court's legal determinations de
novo. See Fla. Gamco, Inc., 68 So.3d at 928.
applicable venue statute in this case is section 47.051 of
the Florida Statutes (2019), which provides, in relevant
part, that "[a]ctions against domestic corporations
shall be brought only in the county where such corporation
has, or usually keeps, an office for transaction of its
customary business, where the cause of action
accrued, or where the property in litigation is
located." (Emphasis added). Because FHSAA provided
affidavits controverting the complaint's allegations
relevant to where the underlying causes of action accrued,
the burden shifted to the Johnsons to prove that venue lies
in the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. See Fla. Gamco,
Inc., 68 So.3d at 928. The record before us at this
preliminary stage of the case reflects, and the parties are in
agreement, that the lower court conducted an evidentiary
hearing at which the parties introduced testimony and other
evidence. Because, however, we do not have the benefit of a
hearing transcript, we are unable to determine either whether
the factual determinations made by the trial court at the
evidentiary hearing are supported by competent, substantial
evidence, or whether the trial ...