I would be remiss not to offer some quick thoughts on yesterday’s article in the Miami Herald which reports on yet another spate of lawsuits brought by condo purchasers in Florida, and which is aptly dubbed a “Condo Lawsuit Serenade” in the South Florida Lawyers Blog.
The statements from the two attorneys quoted in the article are worth reflecting on, because they reveal something of the tenor of the general morality play unfolding in the ever-growing crop of lawsuits pitting buyer against developer.
From Susan Mortensen (one of the top developer-side attorneys in Miami, and I am not just saying that because my law partner and wife used to practice with her): “They [the buyer-plaintiffs] are really profiteers. They are not victimized consumers.”
From Robert H. Cooper (representing buyers): “They [developers] were, across the board, signing contracts with purchasers they knew did not have the ability to consummate the transaction.”
As presented in the Herald article, the condo lawsuits revolve around mutual finger-pointing in a battle to portray the other side as greedier and less responsible.
In truth and (in my experience) in practice, Florida condo contract litigation is and will be about the extent to which condo sales should be regulated under state and federal law, and whether condo sales should be properly viewed as investment vehicles or consumer transactions (or perhaps a mixture of both). As I have posted previously on this blog, for example here and here, there are Florida and federal laws in place specifically intended to protect condo buyers. Many of the nuanced twists and turns of these statutes have not been litigated to date, or have been litigated rather sparsely. In dealing with the current explosion of condo lawsuits, the courts will inevitability fill in some of the blanks in these statutes. Exactly how the law will evolve — and how Florida condo purchases will be judicially regulated in the future — remains a very open and contentious question, and not necessarily driven by the morality play on view in the newspaper reports like yesterday’s Miami Herald article.
This article does not constitute legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship, and is not for re-publication without express permission of the author.
Mr. Beck has a law degree from Harvard Law School, and practices law in the courts of South Florida. A significant portion of his practice is devoted to issues arising under condominium purchase agreements. He can be reached at 305-789-0072 or firstname.lastname@example.org