LAKELAND – The Florida Second District Court of Appeal agreed in an April 4 opinion that the Circuit Court for Pasco County erred when the judge denied procedural due process to trustee Gaspar's Passage LLC, as well as its denial of Gaspar's request to add expert witnesses and exhibits.
The court reversed and remanded the case back to Pasco County. At its core, the issue involves the wrongful sale of commercial trust property to RaceTrac Petroleum. A trustee who sold the property to RaceTrac Petroleum was not authorized to do so, according to court documents.
Gaspar's Passage was named a successor trustee and filed a claim against RaceTrac and the title insurance company involved in the transaction.
RaceTrac responded by filing two counterclaims, as well as a cross-claim against the original trustee and a trust beneficiary. RaceTrac wanted to be reimbursed for various liens, back taxes and certain mortgages it paid. The total amount is more than $1.8 million, according to court documents.
The Pasco County judge determined the original trustee was not authorized to sell the property, but he also agreed RaceTrac was entitled to be reimbursed for its expenditures.
After the county court entered its order, the appeals court said RaceTrac was allowed to add witnesses and the trial was postponed for that purpose.
“In this appeal, Gaspar argues that the trial court erred by refusing to permit it to take a deposition of RaceTrac’s expert witness or to add additional witnesses or exhibits after granting the continuance of the trial,” the appeals court said in its opinion. “We agree and therefore reverse on this issue.”
Specifically, District Judge Robert Morris wrote in the appeals court opinion that “because Gaspar was denied procedural due process and because the trial court denied Gaspar’s requests to add additional expert witnesses and amend its exhibit list without making any findings regarding whether RaceTrac would be prejudiced by the changes, we must reverse and remand for further proceedings.”
Although it upheld the lower court’s ruling on the other issues raised in the lawsuit, the appeals court said those issues might need to be reconsidered when the issue is sent back to the Pasco County court because of the reversal of the deposition order.
Among other issues ruled on by the Pasco County court were the voiding of quitclaim and general warranty deeds, and the granting of a $1.84 million lien on behalf of RaceTrac to cover its costs associated with the purchase. The lower court also left the lien amount “subject to an upward adjustment if the trial court later determined that an adjustment was necessary,” the appeals court opinion said.