Title Agent and Law Firm Not Liable in Florida Real Estate Dispute
Successfully defended a title/closing agent and his law firm in a South Florida real estate transaction after a week-long jury trial. The plaintiffs were private hard money lenders who contended that the title agent failed to advise them and failed to list as an exception on the title policy that a conditional certificate of reoccupancy was obtained due to zoning violations, rather than a full certificate of reoccupancy pursuant to the City's ordinances. The plaintiffs brought claims for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation and constructive fraud, seeking $300,000 in damages. Numerous defenses were asserted, including that the City ordinance specifically provides for conditional certificates to pass title. Furthermore, the defense argued that the plaintiffs were aware of the code violations with the property, failed to conduct sufficient due diligence when making the loan, and received a valid, first mortgage lien on the property, thus satisfying the title agent's duties to the lender. After two hours of deliberations, the jury found no breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation or constructive fraud, and they apportioned 50% fault to the plaintiffs for negligence.