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Guardian Ad Litem v. Viajehoy, LLC

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

January 2, 2020

Guardian Ad Litem, et al., Appellants,
v.
Viajehoy, LLC, 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. 16-12617, Rodolfo A. Ruiz, Judge.

          Wicker Smith O'Hara McCoy & Ford, P.A, and Brandon J. Hechtman and Jessica L. Gross, for appellants.

          Blaxberg, Grayson, Kukoff & Forteza, P.A., and Gaspar Forteza and Moises T. Grayson, for appellees.

          Before SALTER, LOGUE, and SCALES, JJ.

          LOGUE, J.

         Joseph Rodriguez Fuentes and Gregory Biniowsky appeal the trial court's order granting final summary judgment in favor of ViajeHoy, LLC. Because the trial court correctly concluded that their cause of action was barred by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. § 515.201., et. seq., and the Trading with the Enemy Act, 50 U.S.C. § 4303, et. seq., we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         Appellants are Cuban nationals who reside in Cuba. They filed suit in Florida circuit court against ViajeHoy, a Florida limited liability company that charters private flights to Cuba. Appellants alleged that ViajeHoy breached a 2013 oral agreement, whereby Appellants would negotiate landing rights with the Cuban government in exchange for a fifty-percent equity interest in ViajeHoy. They sought damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, or promissory estoppel.[1]ViajeHoy denied the allegations and raised the affirmative defense of illegality.

         ViajeHoy ultimately moved for summary judgment and argued that the Appellees' cause of action was barred by the provisions of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, which prohibit any commerce with Cuba except as expressly authorized by a license issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. In support, it submitted an affidavit of its principal Mark A. Elias, an affidavit of a United States and Cuban aviation compliance specialist, and copies of its licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The Appellants cross-moved for summary judgment, each filing an affidavit. In addition, the depositions of the witnesses were filed in the record. The crucial issue was whether the licenses authorized the oral partnership or business agreements alleged by Appellants. Without deciding whether or not those business relationships actually existed, the trial court determined that, assuming those relationships existed, Appellees' claims failed, as a matter of law, because the transactions they alleged violated the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.

         This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A trial court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment is reviewed de novo. Gonzalez v. Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp., 273 So.3d 1031, 1035 (Fla. 3d DCA 2019) (citing Volusia Cty. v. Aberdeen at Ormond Beach, L.P., 760 So.2d 126, 130 (Fla. 2000)). In Florida, "[s]ummary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Gonzalez, 273 So.3d at 1035. "Summary judgment is designed to test the sufficiency of the evidence to determine if there is sufficient evidence at issue to justify a trial or formal hearing on the issues raised in the pleadings." Id. (quoting The Fla. Bar v. Greene, 926 So.2d 1195, 1200 (Fla. 2006)).

          "A court considering summary judgment must avoid two extremes." Gonzalez, 273 So.3d at 1035. "On the one hand, 'a motion for summary judgment is not a trial by affidavit or deposition. Summary judgment is not intended to weigh and resolve genuine issues of material fact, but only identify whether such issues exist. If there is disputed evidence on a material issue of fact, summary judgment must be denied and the issue submitted to the trier of fact.'" Id. (quoting Perez- Gurri Corp. v. McLeod, 238 So.3d 347, 350 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017)). "On the other hand, a 'party should not be put to the expense of going through a trial, where the only ...


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