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Florida Supreme Court Clears Path to Jury Trials for Subsequent Purchasers

The Florida Supreme Court today issued a potential game-changing opinion for subsequent purchasers of homes today in the case of Mendez v. Hampton Court Nursing Center, LLC, 41 Fla. L. Weekly S394a (September 22, 2016).  Until now, the law has largely been believed to be that those who are not original homeowners are still bound by arbitration clauses in the original contracts because a “benefit” was bestowed upon them in the form of a limited warranty.  While many attorneys argued against this inequity in construction defect cases, most courts have compelled subsequent purchasers to arbitration, holding that subsequent purchasers were effectively bound by the original contracting parties because of the warranty “benefits” they received. In Mendez, the Court emphatically struck down such a notion.  While Mendez was a nursing home case, its impact should have far-reaching implications, including construction defect cases.  The language in Mendez is unequivocal that a non-contracting party (i.e., a subsequent purchaser) is the party who gets to enforce a benefit, not the other way around.   “Critically, the third party beneficiary doctrine enables a non-contracting party to enforce a contract against a contracting party — not the other way around.  See, e.g., Espinosa v. Sparber, Shevin, Shapo, Rosen & Heilbronner, 612 So. 2d 1378, 1380 (Fla. 1993);  Shingleton v. Bussey, 223 So. 2d 713, 715 (Fla. 1969).  The third-party beneficiary doctrine does not permit two parties to bind a third — without the third party’s agreement — merely by conferring a benefit on the third party.” Undoubtedly, there will be arguments raised that Mendez does not apply to construction defect cases, but such an argument does not appear to have much support based on...

Taylor Morrison Demands Arbitration Against Itself And Then Denies All Claims

Tampa, FL –  The late Yogi Berra once famously said, “When you see a fork in the road, take it.”  Taylor Morrison Services, Inc. (“Taylor Morrison”) has apparently taken Mr. Berra’s advice and demanded arbitration against itself.  As a bit of background, Ramon Vargas and Solange Matos purchased a home from Taylor Morrison several years ago in Ruskin, FL.  Within the last few years, the stucco on the home has begun to crack, become warped and has progressively gotten so severe that the stucco is at risk of completely falling off the home.  Earlier this year, filed suit on Mr. Vargas’ and Ms. Matos’ behalf in Hillsborough County Circuit Court against Taylor Morrison alleging that the builder violated the Florida Building Code when constructing their home. A circuit court judge ruled that a clause in the plaintiffs’ 10-year structural warranty required arbitration of the matter.  Mr. Vargas and Ms. Matos were in the process of appealing that ruling to the Second District Court of Appeal when Taylor Morrison decided to take matters into its own hands and demand arbitration against itself.  Using the Complaint filed by Mr. Vargas and Ms. Matos in the lawsuit, Taylor Morrison paid the arbitration filing fee and alleged that it had violated the Florida Building Code and breached the underlying sales contract.  Incredibly, a few days later, Taylor Morrison responded to its own demand for arbitration and denied all claims.  All the while, Mr. Vargas and Ms. Matos have watched from the sidelines as Taylor Morrison has sparred with itself. In its answering statement, Taylor Morrison criticized itself for failing to specify the provisions of the Florida Building Code...

Josh Burnett Talks Stucco Defects to NBC-2 News

Josh Burnett, founder of Burnett Law, P.A., recently sat down with NBC’s Ft. Myers affiliate NBC-2 News to discuss the stucco crisis in Florida.  While the story originated in Ft. Myers, NBC-2 News quickly learned that the stucco problem spreads far beyond the boundaries of Ft. Myers, reaching virtually every county in Florida where stucco has been applied over wood framing.  The story focuses on the time limitations imposed by the Legislature and serves as an alert to all who have purchased homes built within the last 10 years.  If you have stucco issues and your home was built within the last 10 years, do not hesitate to reach out to us. In addition to the timing issue, there are many other issues gripping homeowners who have suffered from shoddy stucco work.  The attorneys at Burnett Law, P.A. are extremely familiar with the builders, builders’ litigation tactics and the multitude of issues facing homeowners.  Our firm has experienced trial attorneys to take on the builders.    If you have any questions about a potential stucco problem, please do not hesitate to call us.  Click the link below to watch the story....

5th DCA Rules in Favor of Homeowner on ACV Issue

Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal today reversed a Hernando County judge’s ruling excluding evidence of subsequent payments made by an insurance company after suit had been filed in Jesse Sanchez v. Tower Hill Signature Insurance Company, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D2748a (Fla. 5th DCA December 11, 2015).  Burnett Law, P.A.’s Joshua E. Burnett and Matthew L. Wilson tried the case back in November 2013.  The case dates all the way back to 2009 when Mr. Sanchez noticed damage to his home consistent with sinkhole activity.  After timely reporting the damage to his insurance company (Tower Hill), a sinkhole investigation took place.  After determining sinkhole activity was present, Tower Hill agreed to do some subsurface repairs and sent Mr. Sanchez a check in the amount of $15,106.37 for above-ground damages based on an adjuster’s estimate. Understandably, Mr. Sanchez did not believe that $15,106.37 was sufficient to cover the above-ground damages, so he retained a company named APT to prepare an above-ground estimate.  APT’s estimate far exceeded the amount that Tower Hill paid Mr. Sanchez, but Tower Hill refused to pay any additional money.  Accordingly, Mr. Sanchez sued Tower Hill alleging, among other things, that Tower Hill had failed to pay all benefits due to Mr. Sanchez.  A month and a half before Tower Hill filed its answer, Tower Hill hired a contractor to prepare another estimate.  That estimate was $31,070.72.  Tower Hill answered the Complaint and denied that any payments were due and owing.  Approximately nine months after filing its answer, Tower Hill remitted two additional checks to Mr. Sanchez totaling an additional $16,001.91.  The checks were sent with a cover letter stating that the payments were additional amounts for the...

Burnett Law, P.A. Announces Sponsorship of Liverpool FC West Florida

It is with great pride that Burnett Law, P.A. announces its sponsorship of Liverpool Football Club America – West Florida for years to come.  The Liverpool Football Club, established in 1892, is one of the oldest football (soccer) institutions in England.  In 2006, Liverpool FC made its way to the United States in an effort to promote youth soccer in the states.  The organization quickly expanded and now is home to more than 70 competitive teams and more than 60 academy teams. As the West Florida chapter of Liverpool FC is a new member of the Liverpool Football Club America family, it was imperative that the West Florida chapter find a major sponsor to help cover the start-up costs.  Burnett Law, P.A. was quick to step up to the plate and the West Florida chapter was extremely appreciative.   In a widely distributed e-mail, Dan Gorman, the Florida Commercial Manager of Liverpool FC America – West Florida said, “To pay for [soccer goals, training equipment, field lining equipment, flags, lawn maintenance equipment] simply from basic club dues would have been impossible in a single season, but thanks to a very generous sponsor who stepped forward, the law firm of Burnett Law, P.A., we are able to support these needs.”  The BWR logo will be featured on away jerseys, training outfits and warm-up jerseys. We look forward to helping the future soccer stars of America reach their goals and are very excited to be associated with this historic institution.  ...

Burnett Law, P.A Speaks to American Society of Home Inspectors

The attorneys from Burnett Law, P.A. spoke to a large group of home inspectors on Tuesday, September 1, 2015, about the stucco issues facing Floridians.  The meeting began with some opening remarks by Josh Burnett about the current state of the stucco problem in Florida and what homeowners can do about it.  Lee Reeder followed with some commentary about the trend of the laws in Florida and the importance of home inspectors doing thorough and expert work for their clients.  Matt Wilson concluded the evening’s presentation with a discussion about expert witnesses and how expert witnesses can win or lose a case for a homeowner.  Josh Zudar also joined in the presentation during the question and answer session from the energetic crowd. Burnett Law, P.A sincerely thanks the SunCoast Chapter of ASHI for inviting us out to speak with them about this very important...