Article Courtesy of The Daily Business Review
By Samantha Joseph
Published May 11, 2017
After years of litigation, there's finally a winner in a
legal fight pitting a Miami condominium association against two unit owners
over whether receivers can vote in place of delinquent unit owners.
The dispute grew so contentious it cycled through three judges, attorney
substitutions and multiple receivers before landing as a consolidated appeal
before a state judicial panel to determine who won and was entitled to
After about four years of litigation, the association
appeared victorious on the substantial issues, winning a
final judgment for attorneys fees and costs in May 2015.
But that changed April 26 when the Third District Court of
Appeal picked a new winner.
"We find that the owners prevailed on those issues," Judge
Vance E. Salter wrote for a judicial panel that vacated the
Defendant International Park Condominium I Association Inc.
had litigated with Maria Gonzalez and Ida Leal for years
following the members' suit over voting procedures at the
property at 11780 SW 18th St. in Miami. A year earlier, the
association had petitioned for a receiver after 75 of its
312 units fell behind on association payments.
Vance E. Salter of the Third District Court of Appeal.
The court approved the request and later granted the receiver authority to
vote for the units with past-due fees.
That move spawned the first lawsuit—a bid by Gonzalez for an emergency
motion to limit the receiver's voting power in 2013.
The plaintiff's first attempt fizzled when the court agreed with the
association that the issues raised were res judicata, and granted the
defendant's motion to dismiss. But Gonzalez filed an amended complaint that
survived a second challenge.
Fellow plaintiff Teal followed with a separate action to compel the
association to comply with its bylaws, articles of incorporation,
declaration of condominium and other rules stripping voting rights from
units with unpaid balances.
Three Miami-Dade Circuit Court judges — Rodney Smith, Victoria S. Sigler and
Judith L. Kreeger — presided over the litigation as the cases transferred to
The court consolidated the suits in 2014, but not before it discharged the
initial receiver for cause and appointed a successor. A second receiver
suffered a similar fate, with removal on the court's own motion. A third
receiver stepped in, but this time without the power to vote on behalf of
unit owners with delinquent accounts.
"Through no fault of any of the circuit judges who ruled in the two
consolidated cases, three different judges heard different aspects of the
cases at different times," Salter wrote in a unanimous decision with Third
DCA Chief Judge Richard J. Suarez and Judge Edwin A. Scales III. "The last
circuit judge to hear the cases ruled on the attorney's fee motions and
cannot be faulted for lacking the full four-year history of the cases."
The appellate court remanded the consolidated cases to enter a final
judgment that denies the association's motion for attorneys' fees and costs.
Miami attorney Javier Guadayol represented Gonzalez and Leal.
William G. Essig of Essig Law in Miami represented International Park
Condominium I Association.