The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently released their latest opinions. Two opinions stand out from the release, one involving whether a homeowner in Florida is subject to an arbitration agreement and the other involved an employee who was able to sue two different parties for alleging two separate causes for his termination. Below is a summary of the decisions, including important points to keep in mind.
Are You a Homeowner Subject to an Arbitration Agreement?
The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently held that a homeowner who was never provided a copy of and never agreed to a building agreement is not subject to an arbitration provision in that agreement. Jennifer Billings bought a home from a party in Florida who agreed to be bound by the contract with the original builder, including a provision to arbitrate. However, Ms. Billings was never told about the agreement and subsequently sued the builder for several construction defects. The homeowner moved to compel arbitration based on the original agreement.
The court held that Ms. Billings is not bound by the agreement for the following reasons. First, Ms. Billings was never made aware of the agreement and therefore she could not agree to be bound by it. Second, Ms. Billings’ claims against the builder do not depend on the building agreement. Essentially, her claims (including negligence and building code violations) are freestanding and are not based on the building agreement or the warranty provided by the builder in the original agreement. Therefore, the home builder cannot move to compel arbitration.
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.150 – Striking a Sham Pleading
The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently reversed a ruling in which the lower court struck a pleading as a “sham pleading.” A sham pleading is one recognized to be a fraud on the court and therefore stricken in its entirety. Striking a pleading as a sham is considered an extreme measure and it is disfavored in law.
The recent ruling involving a whistleblowing employee imposes a high burden on those litigants who seek to move to strike a pleading as a sham. The case involved an employee who sued two different parties for different causes of action, alleging two different reasons for his termination. In the fourth district’s ruling, Judge Ciklin stated that ultimately, if the allegations in a pleading could be construed as ambiguous, the motion to strike that pleading as a sham pleading will not survive in court.
If you need advice on Employment or Real Estate Law Issues, do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced business attorneys at EPGD Business Law, EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.