MIAMI — The Florida Third District Court of Appeals in Miami gave a multi-faceted ruling on April 4 in response to an appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County involving three related lawsuits resulting from the sale of two oceanfront properties. 

On some issues, the Appeals Court upheld the ruling of the lower court, but disagreed on others. 

The lawsuits all concerned the sale of two Golden Beach homes at auction. The properties were owned jointly by several members of the Fox family, who retained Fisher Auction to oversee the auction and sale of each property separately.

To be eligible to bid on both homes, Haas Automation Inc. deposited $1 million with Newman Guaranty Title Insurance Agency, $500,000 for each property. They also noted on the bidder registration form that the company would be bidding on both properties.

The prospectus concerning the property clearly stated that the highest bidder at the auction would be required to sign a purchase and sale contract with no revisions at the time of the sale. In addition, if the highest bidder did not follow through with the purchase, the seller (the Foxes) would retain the required deposits as liquidated damages.

The auction for both homes was held on Nov. 10, 2011. Fisher Auction explained that the highest bidder in the first round could choose which of the two homes to purchase at that price. If the bidder had registered to bid on both homes, that person could purchase both homes for two times the high bid amount. 

In the auction’s first round, Haas, through Albert Wadsworth, was the high bidder at $6.2 million. He also exercised his option to purchase the second home at the same time.

Wadsworth, however, signed a bid acknowledgment stating that the bid price was $6.2 million instead of $12.4 million.  Francis Santos, Fisher Auction’s vice president who was also in attendance, handwrote “x2” next to the bid price on the form.

When he signed the bid acknowledgment Form, Wadsworth "refused both: (i) to execute the two purchase and sale agreements; and (ii) to pay an additional deposit ($364,000) as required by the General Terms of Conditions of Sale. Mr. Wadsworth stated that he believed that he had purchased both homes for the $6.2 million bid," the suit states. 

The two homes were later sold to other buyers for less than $6.2 million each, according to court documents.

As a result, three lawsuits were filed in the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County withJudge Jacqueline Hogan Scola, presiding.  After the hearings in this court, appeals were filed in a higher court.

In appellate case number 3D16-1692, Haas appealed the final judgment of the lower court entered in favor of the Foxes’ claims for breach of a third-party beneficiary contract. The Appeals Court judges said, “We affirm the trial court’s entry of final judgment in favor of the Foxes and Fisher Auction, concluding that the trial court’s factual determinations are supported by competent, substantial evidence and that the court committed no legal error.”

In appellate case number 3D17-173, Haas appealed the final judgment awarding attorney’s fees and costs to the Foxes.  On appeal, the Appeals Court judges said, “We affirm the trial court’s determination that the Foxes are entitled to recover attorney’s fees from Haas only under rule 1.380(c).  We reverse those parts of the attorney’s fees judgment awarding attorney’s fees pursuant to the purchase and sale contracts and the Foxes’ proposal for settlement.  Pursuant to the parties’ stipulation on amount, we remand with instructions that the attorney’s fees award be reduced to $57,500, plus interest.”

In appellate case number 3D17-174, Haas appealed the final judgment awarding attorney’s fees and costs to Fisher Auction. Hass had also sued Fisher for breach of contract, material alteration, and deceptive and unfair trade practices. 

On appeal, the judges said, “We affirm the trial court’s determination that Fisher Auction is entitled to recover attorney’s fees from Haas only pursuant to Fisher Auction’s proposal for settlement. We reverse that part of the attorney’s fees judgment awarding attorney’s fees pursuant to the purchase and sale contracts. Pursuant to the parties’ stipulation on amount, we remand with instructions that the attorney’s fees award be reduced to $33,635.50, plus interest.”

The ruling stated, “Affirmed in part, reversed in part, remanded with directions.” It was signed by Judge Thomas Logue, Judge Edwin A. Scales, III and Judge Norma S. Lindsey.




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