Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal recently reversed a $4.21 million judgment against WH&C clients holding that Florida law does not permit a party to recover compensatory damages where there is no monetary loss. The case involved allegations that the purchasers of a mausoleum business and paid significantly less to the sellers than the business and land were worth. At the trial, WH&C partner William J. Cornwell argued, among other things, that the purchasers paid more that the fair market value and, therefore, the sellers suffered no harm. The jury found that notwithstanding improper conduct on the part of the purchasers, sellers suffered $0 in damages relating to the sale of the business and land. Nonetheless, the jury awarded $2 million in attorneys’ fees and costs and $2.21 million in punitive damages (which was significantly less that the plaintiff/sellers asked the jury to award). WH&C appealed the trial court’s judgment arguing that because the jury found that the sellers suffered no damages relating to the sale of the business and land they could not recover attorneys’ fees and costs or punitive damages. The Fourth District agreed finding that attorneys’ fees and costs were part of the transaction and, therefore, were not recoverable in the where the sellers elected to affirm the contract rather than rescind. The Court also reversed the punitive damage award because, “the absence of any compensatory damage award, the punitive damages award must also be reversed.” The Fourth District’s opinion can be found here: DFG Group, LLC, et al. vs Heritage Manor of Memorial Park, Inc., et al., 4th DCA Case No. 16-2972.
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