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Ortiz v. Weiss

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

October 10, 2019

Adeena Weiss Ortiz, etc., et al., Appellants,
v.
Caroline Weiss, et al., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 14-11578, Migna Sanchez-Llorens, Judge.

          Kula & Associates, P.A., and Elliot B. Kula, Ashley P. Singrossi and William D. Mueller, for appellants.

          Schlesinger Law Group, and Michael J. Schlesinger and Alexander I. Cohen, for appellees.

          Before SALTER, MILLER and GORDO, JJ.

          SALTER, J.

         This appeal arises from a circuit court lawsuit involving disputed claims of ownership of property (eight contiguous lots; the "Property") along Royal Road in Coconut Grove, Florida. The primary parties to the dispute are members of the Weiss Family: the late Jack Weiss ("Father"), his wife Caroline Weiss ("Mother"), and their daughters Adeena Weiss Ortiz ("Ms. Ortiz") and Alitza Weiss ("Sister").

         The final judgment ruled for the Mother and other defendants, and against Ms. Ortiz as plaintiff. Ms. Ortiz appealed. The legal issues presented are (1) whether the claims of Ms. Ortiz were required to be filed and determined in the probate estate of her Father, who passed away in 1995, and (2) if so, whether those claims are barred by the special statutes of limitation applicable to claims in a probate proceeding, sections 733.702 and 733.710, Florida Statutes (2014). The trial court answered each of those questions, and we answer them, in the affirmative.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Ms. Ortiz, herself a licensed Florida attorney, [1] filed a circuit court action against her Mother, the Estate of her Father, her Sister's trust, and other parties who might claim an interest in the Property. Ms. Ortiz's Third Amended Complaint ("Complaint"), filed in 2016, included two counts: fraudulent transfer of the Property, and an action to quiet her title to the Property. Her Mother filed a counterclaim against her to quiet title and for slander of title.[2]

         Ms. Ortiz's Complaint attached and referred to a bewildering assortment of recorded and unrecorded documents, but the trial court found that all were ultimately dependent on the probate proceedings in the Father's Estate. The Mother was appointed personal representative of the Estate, and the Estate was administratively closed by the probate court in 2000.

         It was undisputed that, at the time of the Father's death in 1995, record title to the Property resided in a Florida corporation, "JAAC, Inc.," Ms. Ortiz alleged in the Complaint that the corporate name stood for "Jack-Adeena-Alitza-Caroline," and that each Weiss family member was a 25% shareholder. Based on her own alleged entitlement to those shares, Ms. Ortiz's Complaint also purported to include derivative claims on behalf of JAAC against her Mother, Sister, and the other defendants.

         In the course of the lawsuit, Ms. Ortiz testified that she had no physical shares, no tax returns, and no other documents confirming such an interest. Her Mother and Sister contended that her Mother and Ms. Ortiz's Father had owned the shares as tenants by the entireties. The Father, an attorney, formed JAAC in 1973, a time when he and the Mother purchased the property through JAAC[3] and Ms. Ortiz was a child. It was also uncontroverted that Ms. Ortiz had never paid any part of the property taxes, insurance, or maintenance relating to the Property.

         The Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment and Motion ...


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