I. On Dec. 27, 2012, Heller Waldman won summary dismissal in Miami-Dade Circuit Court of a multi-million dollar lawsuit that had been ongoing for 3 years charging an estate family trust with fraud in a previous inheritance settlement.
In 2009, the plaintiff had charged the personal representatives of the estate in trust of her deceased mother, with de-frauding her of a share of the proceeds of three insurance policies on her mother's life. The plaintiff argued that at the time she settled her share of her inheritance from the trust in 2000, she was led to believe that the three policies would remain in force to provide her millions in further inheritance upon her mother's death, even though the policies had already been lapsed for several years by the time of her 2000 settlement and release of claims.
After a full day hearing, the judge in the case entered summary final judgment on all four counts in the plaintiff's 2011 amended complaint: breach of contract, conversion, fraud in the inducement, and fraudulent misrepresentation in favor of the Estate as represented by Heller Waldman. The judge ruled there was no material fact supporting the plaintiff's claim that she was duped into signing a settlement agreement and release with the expectation of future insurance payouts.
Accepting a focal Heller Waldman argument, the court noted in its ruling that the plaintiff had no reason in 1999-2000 to accept at face value any representations from her mother, her lawyers or the parental trust, with whom she was already involved in litigation. "The law does not impose an obligation (on counsel for the trust) to advise his opposition about the details of an item in a settlement negotiation..," the judge rules. To the contrary, the court found, "Plaintiff and her counsel had the obligation to confirm whether the policies were in place before signing the settlement agreement and release if she sought to rely on their existence as a material term of the settlement agreement."
The judge also agreed with Heller Waldman's alternative arguments that the release the plaintiff signed in connection with her 2000 settlement protected the Estate from any further claims, and that each of the plaintiff's four claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitation.
Heller Waldman had previously defeated one prior appeal which put the case on hold for a year and expects, based on pending motions, to secure a substantial money judgment against the plaintiff in favor of the Estate.
II. Heller Waldman wins declaratory judgment in Miami-Dade Circuit Court enforcing a lease for business premises.
Following a protracted bench trial, the Judge in late December ruled for Heller Waldman's client against its Miami River landlord in this complex commercial litigation. The Court also awarded Heller Waldman's client "reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred in the interpretation and enforcement of its rights under the Lease."
The dispute revolved around the landlord's contention that areas around and between two leased buildings were common areas under its control, not the tenant's. The landlord also objected to the use of these areas by the tenant's sub-lessee business.
On a key legal point argued by Heller Waldman, the Court overruled what it called "boilerplate" language in the parties' "form" lease in favor of negotiated clauses establishing Heller Waldman's client as sole tenant with an exclusive right of use over areas around the leased buildings, including a driveway, parking lot and sidewalks.
In essence, the Court found that boilerplate sections were not accurately and properly customized to reflect that the adjacent buildings were being leased in order to create a sole tenancy and leasehold for its client over such "common areas."
As a further result of its finding for the negotiated terms over the boilerplate sections of the lease, the Court ruled that the tenant had the right of business use of its leased properties because the parties had not, in the negotiated clauses of their lease, established any restrictions on business use of the properties. Pending motions to resolve the amount of fees and costs to be awarded to Heller Waldman's client remain to be heard.