Florida Appellate Court decision (November 18, 2015).
In this case, a homeowners association (“Association”) sued two owners of a condominium unt within the Association (“Owners”) for injunctive relief under Florida state laws. The action was brought because one of the two Owners did not meet the 55+ age requirement that was contained in Association’s governing documents. The Association prevailed in the trial court and obtained an order that directed the Owner that was not 55 years old to “vacate” the subject unit within 30 days following the date of the court’s order.
Owners appealed the trial court judgment and lost. The appellate court also awarded the Association appellate attorney fees, subject to the trial court making a determination that the Association was the prevailing party. While Owners appeal was pending, the Association sought and obtained an order from the original trial court holding the Owner who had not vacated the unit in contempt.
The Owner who had been held in contempt by the trial court appealed that ruling and the appellate court found in favor of the Owner and reversed the contempt citation after finding that the wording contained in the injunction was “imprecise and ambiguous.” Having prevailed on the appeal of the contempt ruling, Owners sought an order from the trial court awarding them attorney fees that were incurred in defending against the contempt citation. The trial court awarded Owners $41,529.50 in attorney fees to be paid by the Association.
The Association appealed the award of attorney fees to Owners contending that there can only be one prevailing party in enforcement litigation between a condominium association and a unit owner. The appellate court ruled against the Association in finding that the contempt proceeding related to different facts than the original proceedings that gave rise to the injunction. Thus, it was possible to have two different prevailing parties. The Association was entitled to recover attorney fees for expenses relating to obtaining the injunction, and the Owners were entitled to recover fees that they incurred in connection with defending the contempt action. To implement the ruling, the case was remanded to the trial court with instructions to award attorney fees to Owners for prevailing in the contempt action, and then reduce the amount awarded by the amount of fees awarded to the Association for prevailing in the original action for the injunction.
See case decision: Environ_Towers_I_Condo._Ass’