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Tison v. Clairmont Condominium F Association, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

November 6, 2019

VICTOR TISON, Appellant,
v.
CLAIRMONT CONDOMINIUM F ASSOCIATION, INC., and ROBERT ORLOFF, Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Martin J. Bidwill, Judge; L.T. Case No. CACE-15-022512.

          Lourdes E. Ferrer of the Ferrer Law Group, PLLC, Weston, and Michael T. Ross of the Law Office of Michael T. Ross, P.A., Hollywood, for appellant.

          Ashley R. Tulloch of Kaye Bender Rembaum, P.L., Pompano Beach, for Appellee Clairmont Condominium F Association, Inc.

          Taylor, J.

         Victor Tison appeals a final order denying his motion for attorney's fees and costs. We hold that Tison, as the prevailing party in a lawsuit brought against him by a condominium association for unpaid assessments, is entitled to recover prevailing party attorney's fees even though he sold his interest in the condominium unit during the pendency of the litigation. We therefore reverse.

         In December 2015, Clairmont Condominium F Association (the "Association") filed a two-count complaint against Tison and another defendant, seeking to foreclose on an assessment lien against the defendants' condominium unit (Count I) and to recover damages for unpaid assessments (Count II). Both counts were brought pursuant to section 718.116, Florida Statutes, and the Declaration. At the time of the complaint, the defendants were the title owners of the unit.

         Shortly after filing the complaint, the Association recorded a notice of lis pendens.

         The defendants filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses, which they later amended. In both Answers, the defendants alleged that they were entitled to recover attorney's fees and costs.

         In March 2017, the trial court denied the Association's motion for summary judgment. Later that month, the defendants sold their respective interests in the condominium unit to a third party.

         Over a year later, the trial court entered a final order dismissing the action for lack of prosecution. Tison then moved for attorney's fees and costs, alleging in relevant part that he was the prevailing party and that he was entitled to an award of fees pursuant to the Declaration and section 718.303(1), Florida Statutes.

         The Association opposed Tison's fee motion on various grounds. In relevant part, the Association argued that Tison was not entitled to attorney's fees under either section 718.303(1) or the Declaration because he was no longer a unit owner. The trial court denied Tison's fee motion, ruling that although Tison was the prevailing party, Tison was not a unit owner and was not entitled to attorney's fees.

         On appeal, Tison argues that he is entitled to recover prevailing party attorney's fees pursuant to the Declaration and section 718.303(1), Florida Statutes, even though he sold his interest in the condominium unit during the pendency of the litigation. We agree.

         "The issue of entitlement to attorney's fees based on the interpretation of a statute or contract is a pure matter of law involving de novo review." Land & Sea Petroleum, Inc. v. Bus. ...


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