DUNEDIN – In a non-final opinion entered April 13, the Florida Second District Court of Appeal overturned a Sixth Judicial Circuit Court order to allow dismissal of a negligent misrepresentation claim filed against the city of Dunedin by Pirate’s Treasure Inc.

The reversal was not based on the facts of the case, but because the appellate court found the city owed no duty of care to the company, which wanted to improve a marina and restaurant, according to the opinion.

Florida Second District Court of Appeal Judge Edward C. Rose.
Florida Second District Court of Appeal Judge Edward C. Rose. | Florida Second District Court of Appeal

Pirate’s Treasure approached Dunedin city officials in 2006 to seek approval to “renovate its commercial property to accommodate a refurbished marina and a new restaurant," court documents state. 

Although the city said it outlined the entire process that Pirate’s Treasure would need to go through before it could start construction on any renovations, the appeals court ruling said Pirate’s Treasure argues that its meeting with the city “was simply to determine whether each renovation ‘would be allowed’ as a permitted or a conditional use under the development code.”

Also, Pirate’s Treasure claims that it moved forward with a “costly and time-consuming” plan related to the proposed renovation project based on its conversations with former Dunedin employee Matthew Campbell and other city employees, the order said.

A final site plan was approved by Dunedin’s engineers in August 2009, the appeals court said, but the city raised issues with the plan one month later, including “concerns with the proposed restaurant’s square footage and the sufficiency of parking.”

“Pirate’s Treasure demanded final approval of the site plan, claiming that the city had never raised these issues before,” the opinion said.

To help Pirate’s Treasure move forward with the project, the appeals court said Dunedin and the company agreed to proceed with two separate plans for the marina and restaurant projects. The city approved the marina project in May 2010.

On April 11, however, Dunedin told Pirate’s Treasure it would need to resubmit its plans for the restaurant project “in compliance with a revised development code that became effective in December 2010.”

As a result, the appeals court said Pirate’s Treasure filed a lawsuit against Dunedin, arguing that the city led the company to believe that the entire “site plan was approved on multiple occasions.”

“Pirate’s Treasure contended that the city and Mr. Campbell engaged in a bait-and-switch, with ‘such misrepresentations [made] in order to induce [Pirate’s Treasure] into beginning construction on the marina development,’” the appeals court opinion said.

Dunedin subsequently sought dismissal of Pirate’s Treasure’s lawsuit, claiming immunity from the fraud and negligent misrepresentation allegations.

The Sixth Judicial Circuit Court - Pinellas and Pasco counties - dismissed the fraud count, but allowed the negligent misrepresentation claim to stand.

The appeals court said it disagreed with the trial court on the city’s liability to Pirate’s Treasure in connection with the alleged negligent misrepresentation.

“Because the city owed neither a common law nor statutory duty of care to Pirate's Treasure, we reverse,” Chief District Court Judge Edward C. LaRose wrote in the opinion.

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