Palm Beach Polo Holdings, Inc. v. Equestrian Club Estates Property Owners Assoc., Inc. (Fla. 4th DCA Nov. 18, 2009)

In this case, a property owner sued a homeowner’s association for injunctive and declaratory relief seeking access to a landlocked lot of land, as well as for damages for an alleged tortious interference of the owner’s attempt to sell the lot.  The association successfully defended the case, and the trial court awarded attorneys’ fees based upon offers of judgment covering “all claims” – including non-economic claims – in the litigation.

The appellate court reversed, holding that the damages claim did not convert the case into “an action for damages” that would permit an attorneys’ fee award under s. 768.79:

each offer of settlement filed was general, such that it applied to all claims contained within the complaint which, of course, included both a claim for damages and non-economic claims. Strict construction of the statute leads to the conclusion that when an action seeks non-monetary relief, such as a pure declaration of rights or injunctive relief, then the fact that it also seeks damages does not bring it within the offer of judgment statute.

 

Palm Beach Polo Holdings, Inc. v. Equestrian Club Estates Property Owners Assoc., Inc. (Fla. 4th DCA Nov. 18, 2009)