Distribution is improper when there are pending claims that have not been adjudicated

Even when a party prevails on its claims in an action seeking judicial partition of property, it may not be immediately entitled to a distribution when there is a pending counterclaim that has yet to be adjudicated.  In Seiber v. Gil,  2016 WL 1357759 (Fla. 3d DCA, April 6, 2016),  Plaintiff and Defendant together purchased a condominium unit in Miami (the “Property”). The Parties executed a contract to evidence each Party's ownership interest in the Property, which allowed for either party to seek judicial partition of the Property.  In August of 2013, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit to partition the Property.

In February of 2015, the trial court granted Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment, which adjudicated Plaintiff’s partition claim and Defendant’s affirmative defenses thereto, but did not adjudicate Defendant’s counterclaim.  The trial court scheduled a partition sale and determined that Plaintiff was the prevailing party and entitled to attorney's fees pursuant to the Agreement.

At the partition sale, Plaintiff was the winning bidder.  After deducting Plaintiff’s credit bid and the costs associated with the sale, the remaining funds were deposited into Plaintiff’s counsel's trust account.  Plaintiff then filed a motion seeking an order to authorize Plaintiff’s counsel to disburse the adjudicated fees to Plaintiff—an order which the trial court ultimately granted.

The Third DCA reversed the trial court's disbursement order, and ordered Plaintiff and his counsel to return any proceeds disbursed to Plaintiff’s counsel's trust account.   The Third DCA held that without an adjudication of the pending compulsory counterclaims, there was no final judgment upon which to base any execution.

  • Matthew S. Sackel
    Partner

    Matthew Sackel is a partner in the West Palm Beach office of Shutts & Bowen LLP, where he is a member of the Business Litigation Practice Group.

    A Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ Rated attorney, Matthew has extensive trial and ...

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