EDWIN BEJARANO, VITO CHIECO, RONNY HUDSON, AKEELIA JEFFREY, PIERRE MARQUEZ, ROBERT MATSON, ALEKSANDR MELNIKOV, ELIZABETH MIDDLETON, EDSON MOODIE, RAMON PEREZ and DEREK DUNSTON, Appellants,
CITY OF HOLLYWOOD and HOLLYWOOD CIRCLE, LLC d/b/a TOWNHOUSE APARTMENTS, Appellees.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; John J. Murphy, III, Judge; L.T. Case No.
14-008722 CACE (19).
G. Crabtree, Charles M. Auslander, Brian C. Tackenberg and
Emily Cabrera of Crabtree & Auslander, LLC, Key Biscayne,
B. Kula and Ashley P. Singrossi of Kula & Associates,
P.A., Miami for appellee, Hollywood Circle, LLC d/b/a
plaintiffs in a circuit court action appeal the summary final
judgment dismissing their circuit court action. We reverse in
part, holding that the proper remedy was not dismissal but
the transfer of the action to the county court.
plaintiffs are all former tenants of an apartment complex
owned by Hollywood Circle, LLC d/b/a Townhouse Apartments
(the "Developer"). They were unhappy with the
Developer's plan to demolish the apartment complex to
build a new luxury apartment building. Each plaintiff made a
separate claim under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade
Practices Act ("FDUTPA") asserting that the
Developer's agents misrepresented the timeline for
demolition of the building.
plaintiff's individual claim was below the jurisdictional
threshold of the circuit court. The plaintiffs sought to
aggregate their claims to meet the jurisdictional limit.
there are some similarities between the plaintiffs'
claims,  the plaintiffs resided in
different units, their leases were for different terms, and
representations to the plaintiffs by the Developer's
agents were made at different times, under different
circumstances, and by different people. The plaintiffs sought
different sorts of damages, for example, some pursued
reimbursement for furniture left behind; some wanted to be
paid for items needed in their new home; and some sought
Developer moved for summary judgment on the ground that the
circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the
plaintiffs' individual claims were below the circuit
court's monetary threshold for jurisdiction. The circuit
court granted the motion.
a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law
reviewed de novo." Sanchez v. Fernandez, 915
So.2d 192, 192 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005).
courts have original jurisdiction of "all actions at law
in which the matter in controversy does not exceed the sum of
$15, 000." § 34.01(1)(c), Fla. Stat. (2014).
Circuit courts have "original jurisdiction not vested in
county courts." Art. V, §5(b), Fla. Const.
issue in this case is whether multiple plaintiffs alleging
the same cause of action against a single defendant can
aggregate their claims to meet the monetary threshold for
circuit court jurisdiction.
plaintiffs rely upon State ex. Re. City of West Palm
Beach v. Chillingworth, 129 So. 816 (Fla. 1930), but
they read that case too broadly. The plaintiffs in
Chillingworth had identical causes of
action. Each owned a bond issued in 1920 by West Palm Beach;
each sued to recover for an identical amount, a missed
interest payment. The Supreme Court permitted aggregation of
the plaintiffs' claims under the "rule that, if the
demands from their nature or character are joint or
composite, or are in some way related to each ...