Firm shareholder Georg Ketelhohn is quoted in an article in today’s Daily Business Review discussing the firm’s efforts on behalf of the condominium association for the 537-unit Midtown Doral in its construction defect lawsuit against the community’s developer, builders and design professionals. The firm’s suit, which was filed in December, alleges defects including leaky plumbing with erratic water pressure, rooftop pools of rainwater on the roof, and exposed rebar in cracked concrete.
Located at Northwest 107th Avenue and 74th Street, Midtown Doral was completed in 2016 with four eight-story condo buildings and 70,000 square feet of retail space.
The firm’s lawsuit on behalf of the association is against general contractor Delant Construction Co. in Miami, architectural firm Pascual, Perez, Kiliddjian & Associates in Doral, and MD Residential II LLC, an affiliate used by the development partnership. The suit alleges breach of implied warranties against the developer and general contractor as well as a professional negligence count against the architect.
The firm’s Michael L. Hyman authored an article that was featured as the “Board of Contributors” guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “Owner Who Sells During Foreclosure Litigation Still Entitled to Legal Fees,” focuses on a recent case illustrating how associations can become liable for the attorney fees and costs of unit owners who prevail in foreclosure actions for past-due assessments even if the owners sell their unit during the pendency of the litigation. His article reads:
. . . In Victor Tison v. Clairmont Condominium F Association, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s final order denying Tison’s motion for attorney fees and costs. The appellate panel found that as the prevailing party in a lawsuit brought against him by his condominium association for unpaid assessments, Tison was indeed entitled to recover prevailing party attorney fees even though he sold his interest in the condominium unit during the pendency of the foreclosure action.
The case began in December 2015 when the association filed a lawsuit against Tison and another defendant seeking to foreclose on an assessment lien against their residence and recover damages for unpaid assessments. The defendants responded by filing an answer with affirmative defenses, which they later amended, and they alleged that they would be entitled to recover attorney fees and costs.
More than a year later in March 2017, the trial court denied the association’s motion for summary judgment, and the defendants sold the residence. Another entire year after that, the trial court entered a final order dismissing the action for lack of prosecution.
Firm shareholder Marc A. Smiley authored an article that was featured as the “Board of Contributors” guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “Association Protected by Business Judgment Rule Against Disgruntled, Litigious Homeowner,” discusses how the enforcement of restrictions against property improvements that are in violation of association covenants can become very contentious in single-family home communities. It notes most of these disputes are between a homeowner seeking approval for alterations and their association’s architectural review committee, but some of the cases stem from third-party unit owners who become dissatisfied with their association’s decisions. His article reads:
A recent ruling by Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal involved just such a dispute brought by a homeowner who was disappointed with his association’s approval of a neighbor’s new garage. In Miller v. Homeland Property Owners Association, the appellate panel affirmed the lower court’s partial final summary judgment in favor of a homeowner that had secured the association’s prior approval and built the garage on his property.
The Fourth DCA only addressed whether disputed issues of material fact precluded the entry of summary judgment and the proper application of the business judgment rule. Owners in the community of Homeland Property Owners Association are required to obtain approval of their plans by the association’s architectural review board prior to commencing any work. Restrictions that are in place in the community include a maximum building height of 32 feet and a prohibition against flat roofs.
Firm shareholders Helio De La Torre and Lindsey Thurswell Lehr, together with associate Berenice M. Mottin-Berger, have worked for more than four years in representing the BrickellHouse Condominium Association in litigation over the property’s failed robotic parking garage. Their work yielded a truly exceptional result last week when a Miami-Dade Circuit Court jury awarded the association $40,590,990 in damages against BrickellHouse Holding LLC, the developer of the 46-story tower in Miami’s Brickell area, and many of South Florida’s most respected media organizations took notice. The verdict yielded major articles this week in the Miami Herald, Daily Business Review, South Florida Business Journal, The Real Deal and Law 360 about the trial team’s success in demonstrating to the jury that the developer, a subsidiary of Newgard Development Group, breached statutory warranties owed to the association and its unit owners.
“The association has been left without parking for its residents in the promised 480 vehicle garage since November 2015,” explained De La Torre to reporters after the verdict. “Since that date, residents have been parking offsite and incurring increased costs due to the failed robotic parking system sold by the developer. The board of directors and a team of consultants have worked very hard to find a solution for the garage and bring the owners the justice they deserve.”
Thurswell Lehr concluded:
“As a result of the verdict, the condominium association will now be able to move forward with the replacement of the garage in order to restore the parking for the building that the owners and residents deserve.”
BrickellHouse is located at 1300 Brickell Bay Drive and features 374 residences. The 46-story tower was one of the first post-recession condo buildings constructed in the Brickell area. After its completion in October 2014, the problems with the 480-space robotic parking system were immediately apparent. The developer retained control of the condominium association through September 2015, and the robotic parking system was completely shut down in November 2015.
Below is a video depicting how the garage was designed to use a fleet of autonomous robots that move beneath the vehicles to lift and move them throughout the building and elevators. Click here to read the Miami Herald article in the newspaper’s website, click here for the Daily Business Review article (registration required) and click here for The Real Deal.
Firm shareholder Laura Manning-Hudson authored an article that was featured as the guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “HOA Dispute Over Backyard Playset, Other Amenities Snowballs Into Federal Lawsuit,” discusses an HOA’s dispute over the installation of a backyard playset, spa pool, barbecue and other amenities in a Georgia community that has escalated into a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act due to discriminatory housing practices. Laura’s article reads:
. . . As was chronicled in a recent article in the Gainesville Times newspaper, Martin Moreira and his wife Zulema filed suit against the Pointe West Homeowner’s Association after their plans for a backyard makeover were nixed by the association. They filed the discrimination complaint in federal court in April after the HOA had issued fines and placed a lien against their home in the community located in Oakwood, in northern Georgia.
The dispute arose in the spring 2017 when the Moreiras submitted plans to the HOA to install a play area for their grandchildren as well as a barbecue, spa pool, fireplace, gazebo and other amenities in their backyard. The architectural control committee for the association rejected the project and requested additional information on several items for continued consideration.
The committee continued to reject the project after the supplemental information was submitted, but the complaint alleges that its members then went further than ever before. It states: “In deviation from established practice, ACC members went to the Hall County Building Department and demanded all information regarding Moreira’s application. Hall County Building Department staff later confided with Moreira’s architect, Jack Bailey, that ACC members were looking for something to kill the project.”
The firm’s Susan C. Odess authored an article that appeared as the featured guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “Court Opens Citizens Property Insurance to Claims for Consequential Damages,” focuses on a recent precedent-setting ruling with a certified question to the Florida Supreme Court by the state’s Fifth District Court of Appeal. Her article reads:
. . . The appellate panel overturned the trial court’s decision and remanded the case back to the lower court for hearings on whether the claimant is entitled to consequential damages for lost rental income caused by the insurer’s delays and denials.
The case began with an insurance claim by Manor House with Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which accepted responsibility for the loss and paid $1.93 million. The property owner later reopened the claim seeking $10 million, and the insurer subsequently made additional payments for approximately $345,000. However, Citizens’ adjuster estimated the actual cash value and replacement cost value of the policyholder’s loss to be in the $5.5 to $6.5 million range.
The property owner eventually sued in 2007 seeking prompt payment of the allegedly undisputed amount of $6.4 million and asking the court to compel Citizens to engage in the appraisal procedures called for under the policy.
The firm’s Nicole R. Kurtz authored an article that was featured as the guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “New Laws Spurring Florida Community Associations to Implement E-Voting, Websites,” focuses on the recent changes in state law allowing community associations to implement electronic voting and requiring condominium associations with 150 units or more to have a website containing digital copies of certain official records. Her article reads:
. . . The condominium association website laws mandate that compliant websites should have been operational as of Jan. 1 of this year. The laws call for association websites that are accessible only to unit owners and employees where certain notices, records and documents are posted. These must include the declaration of condominium, bylaws, articles of incorporation, rules and regulations of the association, as well as all executory contracts or documents to which the association is a party, or under which the association or unit owners have an obligation or responsibility.
Condominium association websites must also feature the association’s annual budget and proposed annual budget; financial reports; monthly income or expense statements; copies of bids, or summaries of bids, exceeding $500; association meeting notices, and board member certification forms.
An article authored by shareholder Susan C. Odess was featured as the “Board of Contributors” guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “Florida Legislature Passes Assignment of Benefits Insurance Claim Reform,” discusses the ramifications of the new state law to reform the insurance industry practice known as assignment of benefits, or AOB. Her article reads:
. . . The AOB process, which has been in place for decades, has become controversial in recent years because of an increase in residential water-damage claims, primarily for broken water pipes and leaks. Property owners sign over their claim benefits to contractors, which are then able to pursue payments directly from the insurers.
The proponents of AOBs say they help to ensure claims are properly paid, but the legislators supporting the bill have said it is aimed at curbing abuses of the AOB process. Insurance carriers have contended for many years that AOB fraud and the excessive litigation it generates have led to higher property-insurance rates.
The new law limits attorney fees in AOB lawsuits filed by contractors against insurers. The legal fees will be calculated using a set formula, but the caps would not apply to lawsuits filed by policyholders.
Shareholder Jeffrey S. Respler authored an article that is featured as the “Board of Contributors” guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “Association Construction Contracts Require Deft Negotiation by Legal Counsel,” focuses on the nuances of construction contracts that community associations execute with general contractors for major renovation and remodeling projects. It reads:
. . . Construction contracts often represent some of the costliest expenses that condominium associations will ever approve, yet many associations fail to utilize the necessary legal resources and expertise to craft and execute the most effective terms and agreements. Instead, they focus merely on obtaining competitive bids, as most associations are required to do for projects exceeding 5% of their total annual budget (10% for HOAs), and often neglect to consult with highly qualified and experienced legal counsel to negotiate and finalize every aspect of their agreement with a general contractor.
Without a lawyer involved, a poorly negotiated and written construction contract can have serious consequences. Having a qualified and experienced attorney draft or review an association’s contract can help avoid risks and expensive disputes. Dealing with the aftereffects of a poorly negotiated or poorly written contract can be far more expensive than paying a lawyer to do it correctly in the first place. An experienced attorney can draft and negotiate a contract that will protect an association’s interests and be legally sound.
Attorneys write contracts in ways that favor their clients. Attorneys with experience in the construction industry will know the customary contract terms, and they will draft a contract in their client’s favor. If the contractor is drafting the contract, its lawyer will be doing exactly that.
Firm partners Stuart Sobel and Susan C. Odess won a $3.67 million jury verdict in federal court in Miami for the St. Louis Condominium Association, which sued its insurer Rockhill Insurance Co. over a denied claim for extensive damage to the Brickell Key tower caused by Hurricane Irma. The verdict was filed last Wednesday, June 5, and it is chronicled in an article in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article reads:
. . . the judgment is good news for the association since it stood to get nothing from its insurer, said Stuart Sobel, who was part of the Siegfried Rivera team representing the association.
“I believe in juries, and I am pretty pleased with the results. In light of the alternative where the insurance company basically said, ‘We are not paying any money.’ They said we suffered no damage form Hurricane Irma,” Sobel said.
He said the hurricane churned in the condominium’s vicinity for 24 hours. The building sits on Biscayne Bay east of downtown Miami.
Sobel worked on the case with Siegfried Rivera’s Susan Odess . . .