IN THE CIRCUIT COUT FOR THE
SEVENTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN
AND FOR BROWARD COUNTY,
CASE NO: CACE -21-021315 Division 3
BEHAR, GUTT, & GLAZER, PA.,
a Florida professional association,
JOSEPH MABE and
AMENDED ANSWER, AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES, ANDCOUNTERCLAIM
COME NOW, the Defendants, MERRILEE ZAWADZKI (“Defendant” “Zawadzki”) and the defendant, JOSEPH MABE (“Defendant” or Mabe”), appearing pro se, and files this Amended Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaim to Plaintiff’s Complaint, as follows:
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
- Admit the allegations in paragraph 1 of the Complaint to the extent it purports to be an action for damages.
- Defendant avers that Paragraph 2 of the Complaint contains information unknown to the Defendants, and is therefore denied.
- Defendants admit the allegations in paragraph 3 of the Complaint that MERRILEE ZAWADZKI is a resident of Wayne County, but deny she is sui juris, as she has a power of attorney used in the underlying case.
- Defendants admit the allegations in paragraph 4 of the Complaint that JOSEPH MABE is a resident of St. Lucie County, Florida and is sui juris.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 5 of the Complaint and demand strict proof of the averments thereof. Defendants state that the underlying dispute involved bankruptcy proceedings for Villas of Windmill Point II Property Owners Association, Inc., which is located in Port St Lucie, Florida. While the bankruptcy proceedings were before the U.S. Bankruptcy court for the Southern District of Florida and the plaintiff’s place of business is in Broward County Florida, this is a dispute that involves Port Saint Lucie, Florida and was litigated from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Southern District of Florida. West Palm Beach Division.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 6 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 7 of the Complaint.
ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS
- Defendants agree in part and deny in part, the allegations in paragraph 8 of the Complaint. It is Admitted that BEHAR, GUTT, & GLAZER, P.A. (“BGG”) and the Defendants entered into an agreement with BBG and agreed to an hourly rate. It is denied that the legal services agreed upon were performed. And admit what purports to be a copy of the Agreement is attached marked as Exhibit “A.”
- Defendants admit the allegations in paragraph 9 of the Complaint but dispute the amount of said invoices and how timely they were filed.
- Defendant admits the allegations in paragraph 10 of the Complaint in part and denies them in part. Defendants agree that BGG preformed ongoing services. However, they deny that there was no objection. See attached. (Exhibit A).
- Defendants admit in part and deny in part the allegations in paragraph 11 of the Complaint. Defendants admit that an order granting Expedited motion was issued. However, they deny that it was (ECF 560) and deny that it was entered on October 24, 2021.
- Defendant admits the allegations in paragraph 12 of the Complaint as to the amount deposited into the trust account.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 13 of the Complaint.
- Defendants aver that there is insufficient information to admit or deny the allegations in paragraph 14 of the Complaint.
- Defendants admit the allegations in paragraph 15 of the Complaint that the Plaintiff provided a notice to the Defendants.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 16 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 17 of the Complaint.
FORECLOSURE OF ATTORNEY CHARGING LIENS
- Defendants admit the allegations in paragraph 18 of the Complaint that this purports to be an action for damages.
- Defendants admit and deny the allegations in paragraph 19 of the Complaint. Defendants admit that an agreement was entered into. However, they deny that the length of time for performing the services was part of the agreement.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 20 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 21 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 22 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 23 of the Complaint.
FORECLOSURE OF ATTORNEY RETANING LIEN
- Defendants admit the contents of paragraph 24 of the Complaint that this purports to be an action for damages.
- Defendants admit and deny the contents of paragraph 25 of the Complaint. Defendants admit that an agreement was entered into. However, they deny that the length of time for performing the services of the agreement.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 26 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 27 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 28 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 29 of the Complaint.
BREECH OF CONTRACT
- Defendants admit the contents of paragraph 30 of the Complaint to the extent that what appears to be a copy of a retainer agreement is attached. Defendants aver that there is insufficient information to respond to rest of the allegations therein.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 31 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 32 of the Complaint.
- Defendants aver that there is insufficient information to admit or deny the allegations in paragraph 33 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 34 of the Complaint.
- Defendants admit the allegations in paragraph 35 of the Complaint to the extent that before this action there were business transactions. However, the Defendants deny the resulting balances.
- Defendants admit in part the allegations in paragraph 36 of the Complaint to the extent that statements were sent. However, the Defendants aver that there is insufficient information to respond to rest of the allegations therein.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 37 of the Complaint.
SERVICES RENDERED/ QUANTUM MERUIT
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 38 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 39 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 40 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 41 of the Complaint.
- Defendants deny the allegations in paragraph 42 of the Complaint.
STATEMENT OF FACTS COMMON TO AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES AND COUNTER CLAIMS
- The Complaint (Complaint”) in this matter was filed by BEHAR, GUTT & GLAZER, P.A. (The “Plaintiff”, “Plaintiff/Counter- Defendant” or “BGG” or “Mr. Behar”), on December 1, 2021.
- In this matter, MERRILEE ZAWADZKI (“the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff” or “Ms. Zawadzki”) and JOSEPH MABE (the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff” or “Mr. Mabe”) (collectively the “Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs”) on or about February 10, 2021 entered into an agreement for legal services that was reduced to a Retainer Agreement with Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant. Said Retainer is attached as an exhibit to the Complaint.
- Defendant/Counter Plaintiff paid a consultation fee of $800.00 on or about February 2, 2021 to Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant to review documents and Evidence and discuss Defendants/Counter Plaintiffs objectives involving a matter with Villas of Windmill Point Property Owners Association (“the Villas”). The meeting lasted just over 3 hours.
- The documents and evidence was dropped off at Mr. Behar’s office. And on or about February 10 2021 a Retainer fee of $5000.00 was paid to Plaintiff/Counter Defendant.
- There is nothing in the Retainer Agreement that allows the Plaintiff/Counter- Defendant to deduct amounts that are alleged to be due under the Retainer Agreement, from amounts that are deposited into the Trust Account in the Villas Bankruptcy.
- As it relates to the Villas Bankruptcy, there were multiple payments that were made to BGG in excess of $60,000. However there were on going disputes and concerns about the Defendants/Counter-Plaintiff’s Objectives and the excessive billing. Defendants made both verbal and written concerns about the fees. Exhibit “A” shows emails between the Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant as it relates to the scope of the litigation and the billing.
- Funds were placed into Mr. Behar’s Trust Account in the amount of $17,500 for Mr. Mabe and $17,500 for Ms. Zawadzki.
- Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs entered into a settlement agreement, which provided that the funds be placed into the account of BGG. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiffs did not give an option as to the disbursement of these funds. The Settlement Agreement was not entered into voluntarily.
- Immediately, during settlement negotiations, Mr. Behar told Mabe and Zawadzki that the Trustee in the Bankruptcy filed an Expedited Motion, in order to force the approval of the Settlement Agreement.
- Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs requested Mr. Behar to object to the hearing and pleadings approving the claim for voting purposes only filed on or about 8/25/2021 Court document 538 Exhibit “ “ (just include the entire document, but specify the page number); and purporting an amended agreed an objection to claims on numerous occasions between August 25, 2021 and at least September 13. 2021. Mr. Behar did not make such objections and further had to leave for a family emergency during the time the other parties conducted such negations without Mr. Mabe, Ms. Zawadzki or there Counsel, Mr. Behar, present. Exhibit “ ” shows emails of such request.
- As to the Settlement; there was no global agreement consented to, or signed by all Parties on September 17, 2021.
- Mr. Behar states, that an Order granting motion (EFC 560) “was granted on October 24, 2021. This is not true. (ECF 560) was docketed on September 17, 2021.The Motion was approved on September 29, 2021 and (EFC 585) was signed on October 1, 2021 and entered on October 4, 2021 (Exhibit B).
- Proceeds totaling $35,000 from the settlement were never dispersed to Ms. Zawadzki or Mr. Mabe.
- Throughout the Villas bankruptcy, BGG: refused to file a pleading to seek a dismissal of the entire bankruptcy case; fought off numerous requests to seek an evidentiary hearing to submit evidence to the Court; and refused to object to various motions, or to join or file a proper lawsuit as requested by Defendants/Counter- Plaintiffs. Exhibit “C” is one example of these requests. [You may include any other evidence you have]
- On Mr. Behar’s initial meeting with Mr. Mabe and Ms. Zawadzki’s representative, he spent in excess of 3 hours looking through Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs Evidence and Documents. He shared with Mabe and Zawadzki that he had been a lawyer for over 40 years of relevant experience. He further stated that he was familiar with Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcies and made it clear he was a litigator.
- On July 20, 2021, Defendants Counter-Plaintiffs were discussing objections to a motion being held the next day in regards to a confirmation set for July 21, 2021. Defendants/counter Plaintiffs had previously asked Mr. Behar to file an Objection to that Motion, which Objection did not get filed. Accordingly, Mr. Behar was thwarting the efforts and refusing to submit the information and the evidence. On that day, Mr. Behar informed us his wife was diagnosed with COVID so he had to cancel our discussions and continue the hearing. This Objection and the evidence never got heard, to the detriment of the Defendants/Counter –Plaintiffs. Exhibit “ ”. (include evidence that the hearing was continued for the said reason).
- Defendant/Counter-Plaintiffs presented evidence of bad faith on multiple occasions and requested Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant file a motion to dismiss the case. Plaintiff/Counter- Defendant failed to file such motion. Exhibit “ ” (include evidence of Bad faith that you presented).
- It should be noted that the Trustee represented to the bankruptcy Court that there was a Settlement Agreement, even before the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff had ever agreed to it. The Plaintiff refused to Object to the filing of the motion and did not respond to emails sent to him about it. (Exhibit D) (include any other evidence you have). There was no single agreement of all of the parties at the time the motion was filed.
- There never should have been an Expedited Motion to Approve a Settlement as parties were still negotiating.
- The Plaintiff/Counter-Plaintiff did not have the consent from the Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs to settle. Itis clear that the Defendants wanted to be the ones that decided any and all issues. The Defendants have several exhibits showing verbal and written requests to the Plaintiff, which the Plaintiff disregarded. Exhibit “ ”. (include any relevant evidence).
- Accordingly, Defendants had not agreed on a settlement. Instead, Defendants were coerced into the Agreement. They did not settle on their own accord. They were under duress, and were financially threatened. At the same time, the legal billing was extremely exaggerated and was not reflective of the services the defendants requested. Notably, the Plaintiff told the Defendants that they would not represent them if they did not sign the agreement.
- Defendants made payments to the Plaintiff on a monthly basis. As it has already been observed hereinabove, the billing was extremely excessive and not reflective of what was agreed upon.
- Defendants aver that Mr. Behar fraudulently devised a way to force a settlement and then to take all of the fees awarded.
- Plaintiff has been paid over $60,000 by Mr. Mabe and Ms. Zawadzki and misappropriated the $35,000 from the Settlement agreement, which was entered under duress and undue influence. The Plaintiff then filed the instant lawsuit on December 1, 2021 and had it served on Mr. Mabe and Ms. Zawadzki a few days before the holidays, likely hoping to get a Default judgment.
- It is worth noting that no legal work was undertaken by the Plaintiff that justifies the $95,000 in legal fees that they are seeking. The have already been paid $60,000, and added $35,000 from the Settlement.
- Mr. Mabe and Mr. Zawadzki were to receive the names of the new owners of the Villas as one of the terms of the Settlement agreement. Notably, the Plaintiff assured Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs they would get the names immediately upon signing. The Plaintiff further told Mabe and Zawadzki they had to sign the Settlement agreement before they could get the names. Mabe and Zawadzki did not want to sign the agreement because, among other unresolved issues, there was no assurance that they would receive the names and it was not in their best interest.
- As part of the settlement agreement a confidentiality agreement was required to be signed prior to giving the names. Mabe and Zawadzki continually asked Mr. Behar for this agreement. He failed to provide it. Mr. Behar continued to assure Defendants the names would be provided upon signing. Consequently, the confidentiality agreement was never provided for review prior to court’s approval of the Settlement agreement.
- As the day approached for the expedited hearing to enforce the Settlement Agreement, Mabe and Zawadzki again set forth that they were promised the names of the owners. Mr. Behar made the representation that the names would be provided upon signing the settlement agreement.
- Notably, Mr. Behar sent an email requesting the names and received a response they had to have the stipulation signed first. Mr. Behar shared this email and reiterated that “as soon as you sign you will get the names.” Defendants/Counter plaintiffs relied on those representations made by Mr. Behar. Mr. Behar continued to pressure Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs into signing the Settlement Agreement. Under extreme pressure and duress Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs signed so that they could get names prior to the Expedited hearing.
- The foregoing notwithstanding, Defendants/Counter Plaintiffs never received the names or the Confidentiality agreement. They were unfairly deceived, misled and pressured by the improper motion, which was illegally expedited to force a Settlement that Mr. Behar refused to object to. Exhibit “ ”. (include any relevant evidence).
- Further, the Plaintiff did not object to the approval of the agreement without the production of the names requested by Defendant/Counter- Plaintiffs.
- The Plaintiff did not also object to an erroneous item added to the Court order (docket #586) giving an extra 14 days to produce the Names. The additional 14 days was not mentioned in the court hearing and can be verified in the court transcript of September 29, 2021. Exhibit “ “ (the transcript)and Exhibit “ ” (the Court Order).
- Mr. Mabe and Ms. Zawadzki further asked the Plaintiff to request on numerous occasions from the Bankruptcy court, recovery of statutory damages under Fla. Stat. 720.303. There were multiple violations under this statue, whose redress was properly requested by Defendant/Counter Plaintiff. However the Plaintiff failed to diligently pursue the recovery of these damages to the detriment the Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs. The same Court awarded creditors in this same over $245,000, based on the same statute.
- Fla. 720.313 5(b) Production of records specifically states in pertinent part thus:
A member who is denied access to official records is entitled to the actual damages or minimum damages for the association’s willful failure to comply with this subsection. The minimum damages are to be $50 per calendar day up to 10 days, the calculation to begin on the 11th business day after receipt of the written request.
- This request was made numerous times to the Trustee in the Bankruptcy case and was denied the official records in each request. Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs requested on numerous occasions that Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant properly request recovery pursuant to Defendants request. Plaintiff did not properly pursue recovery to the Defendants/Counter –Plaintiff’s determent
- On or about June/July Plaintiff filed an erroneous motion for the production of Documents. Mr. Behar was told by the court that as an attorney with his experience that he should have known better and asked him to file the proper subpoenas for such production. The Defendants were charged for this wrong filing including for wasting the court time. Exhibit “ ”.
- The Plaintiff took additional time to issue such subpoenas and upon attempting to do so was told by the subpoenaed Counsel that his client would not be available for 60 days. During this time, the Property in question in the Bankruptcy was sold creating a very costly controversial and costly sale to the Estate.
- No legal work that was undertaken by the Plaintiff that justifies the $95,000 that was already paid. The Plaintiff already has in excess of $60,000 and is in possession of the $35,000 that he is seeking in this action.
- Further, the Plaintiff did not request a charging lien or a retaining lien prior to withdrawing from the Bankruptcy case where the fees he is claiming originated from and therefore is not entitled to such Liens.
- Plaintiff avers that the money was removed from the jurisdiction of the Court that presided over the subject matter of the case without noticing the court of such liens, rendering the liens unenforceable. Besides, the Plaintiff did not reserve jurisdiction with the bankruptcy court to consider a charging lien before accepting the money and withdrawing from the case.
- The Plaintiff is not entitled to foreclose on the funds in trust that were not earned or were derived by improper conduct. Pursuant to American Bar Association Rule 1.5; attempts to collect unreasonable fees are improper when derived by improper Conduct as well as Florida’s Rule 4-1.5 (a), which prohibits illegal, prohibited, or Clearly Excessive Fees and Costs. Accordingly, the fees charged by the Plaintiff were not reasonable, were not necessary for the request Defendants Retained the Plaintiff for and were derived in an unethical manner.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE NUMBER 1
(FAILURE TO STATE A CAUSE OF ACTION)
- Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff’s Complaint and each cause of action therein fail to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against the Defendant for which relief can be granted. The Plaintiff is not entitled to the money they seek in the Complaint. Notably, they violated Florida rules of professional conduct (“FRCP”) 4-1.2 by failing to abide by the client’s decisions. For instance, the Defendants provided Mr. Behar with evidence and asked him to file a claim, and get the evidence in front of the judge. Mr. Behar failed to follow Defendants’ instructions. Mr. Barr also failed to plead Defendants’ legitimate bad faith concerns, and instead intimidated Defendants that they did not know about the bad faith claim.
- On the other hand, contrary to FRPC 4-1.5(1), the Plaintiff charged fees obtained by intentional misrepresentation or fraud upon the Defendants. They did this unconscionably. For instance, in one particular month, nothing was literally done in the case except a hearing that lasted about 2 hours and a 1 hour meeting. The Plaintiff decided he needed to review document that he previously had, and charged about $16,000 for that month.
- Also, contrary to FRCP 4-8.4(c), the Plaintiff engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. For instance, when seeking the names of the new owners of the association, Mr. Behar reiterated that “as soon as you sign you will get the names.” Defendants relied on those representations made by Mr. Behar, and approved the Agreement. However, the Defendants never received the names or the Confidentiality agreement.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE NUMBER 2
- Defendants invoke the Doctrine of Unclean Hands and allege that the Plaintiff acted in a dishonest or fraudulent manner with respect to the dispute at issue in this case.
- The Plaintiff’s conduct was unfair and not in good faith when they failed to provide the service Defendants asked for. Notably, they acted without Defendants’ consent, failed to follow Defendants’ instructions, failed to make requested objections of material nature.
- For instance, on September 17, the trustee in the bankruptcy case filed an expedited motion to enforce the agreement that did not exist. All parties had not agreed. That notwithstanding, the Plaintiff insisted, falsely, that Defendants had consented to the Agreement. It is clear that the Plaintiff settled the agreement without the consent of the Defendants. This can be seen from the fact that he failed to object to the Expedited Motion.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE NUMBER 3
(VENUE IS NOT PROPER IN BROWARD COUNTY)
- Pursuant to Fla. Stat. §47.011, “[a]ctions shall be brought only in the county where the defendant resides, where the cause of action accrued, or where the property in litigation is located. This section shall not apply to actions against nonresidents.”
- In this matter the Villa Bankruptcy case involved an association located in Port Saint Lucie, County, Florida, and was litigated before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division. One defendant lives in Port St Lucie County and both the properties owned by the Defendants are in Port St. Lucie County
- This matter should therefore have been filed in Port Saint Lucie County, Florida or Palm Beach County, Florida and the Defendants intend to file a Motion for Change of Venue in that regard.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE NUMBER 4
(FAILURE TO MITIGATE DAMAGES)
- The Plaintiff failed to mitigate damages in this matter.
- At all times material herein, Plaintiff failed and neglected to mitigate damages so as to reduce and or diminish his claim. Notably, the Plaintiff had an obligation to abide by the dictates of the rules of professional conduct, which Plaintiff was subjected to. Instead, Plaintiff further carried out blatant violations of the said rules, as already alleged hereinabove.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE NUMBER 5
(FAILURE TO ABIDE BY CLIENT’S DECISIONS)
- The Plaintiff failed to abide by client’s decisions, and thus violated Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 4-1.2, which requires that a lawyer must abide by a client’s decision concerning the objectives of representation and reasonably consult with the client as to the means that they are to be pursued and abide by a client’s decision whether to settle a matter.
- The Defendants provided Mr. Behar with evidence and asked him to file a claim, and get the evidence in front of the judge. Mr. Behar failed to follow Defendants’ instructions. Mr. Barr also failed to plead Defendants’ legitimate bad faith concerns, and instead intimidated Defendants that they did not know about the bad faith claim.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE NUMBER 6
(CHARGING A CLEARLY EXCESSIVE FEE AND COSTS)
- Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 4-1.5, provides that a lawyer may not charge a clearly excessive fee or costs.
- The Plaintiff failed to abide by the Defendants’ decisions, and was therefore not entitled to the amount of fees they claimed. The Plaintiff now demands the amounts from the Trust Account, after already being paid large amounts. It follows; the Plaintiff is seeking additional and clearly excessive fees or costs. Fees and cost are not reflective of what Defendants asked Plaintiff to do and were derived by improper conduct.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE NUMBER 7
- The Defendants did not agree to the terms of the Settlement Agreement. The Plaintiff told the Defendants that if the Settlement Agreement was not signed he would not represent them. The Defendants sent emails telling the Plaintiff that they were under duress, and that he was using undue influence to get them to sign, including telling the Defendants that the Bankruptcy Trustee is going to file a motion to enforce the settlement. Defendants told Plaintiff they can’t do that as there was no agreement. Plaintiff contended there was an agreement, however the Defendants had not given consent to Plaintiff and did not agree to the settlement. Plaintiff badgered the Defendants with numerous calls, emails and texts and increased the bill and used undue influence to obtain a signature for the Settlement Agreement. The Settlement Agreement was therefore not entered into voluntarily, and it was the desire of Mr. Mabe and Ms. Zawadzki to have the funds that were paid into the Trust Account of BGG.
- Immediately, and with no approval from Mr. Mabe and Ms. Zawadzki, the Bankruptcy Trustee filed an Expedited Motion to Approve/Enforce the Settlement Agreement. Defendants requested Plaintiff to object to this motion. Plaintiff refused to object with the knowledge there was not an agreement of all parties. Trustee received an Order granting said motion.
- The Plaintiff stated that an Order granting said motion (EFC 560) “was granted on October 24, 2021. However this is not true because (ECF 560) was docketed on September 17, 2021 and the Motion to Approve Settlement Agreement was approved on October 4, 2021 (EFC 586) in original complaint this was in error as 585. Exhibit “B”.
- Throughout the Villa Bankruptcy case, BGG refused to file a pleading to seek a dismissal of the entire bankruptcy case and fought off numerous Defendants’ requests to seek an Evidentiary Hearing in which to submit evidence to the Bankruptcy Court. Exhibit “C”.
- Defendant reserves the right to assert additional defenses and claims as they become evident through discovery.
WHEREFORE, DEFENDANT demands judgment against the Plaintiff as follows:
- Dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety;
- Costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees and cost as permitted by law, contract or applicable statute(s); and
- Such further legal and equitable relief as this Court may deem just and proper.
JURISDICTION & VENUE
- This is an action for damages in excess of $30,000, exclusive or interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.
- Venue is proper in this Court as this is an action for Breach of Contract, Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, and seeking an award of money damages, including actual damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs; an award of compensatory damages under common law, all stemming from conduct that occurred in Florida, in Saint Lucie County, Florida.
- By filing this Counterclaim, the Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs do not waive any arguments as to jurisdiction and venue, or waive the right to file a Motion For Change of Venue.
- The previously set forth Statement of Facts Common to Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaim are fully incorporated as if fully set forth herein.
CAUSES OF ACTION
BREACH OF CONTRACT
- Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff repeats and realleges the allegations of the preceding paragraphs, as through fully set forth herein and sue Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant for Breach of Contract as follows:
- Plaintiff/Counter-Plaintiff materially breached the Retainer Agreement by failing to undertake or perform the services required thereunder and by failing to fulfill the obligations thereunder.
- As a direct and proximate result of the material breach of contract, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff have incurred damages, substantially in excess of $30,000.00, which included, inter alia, direct and consequential damages.
WHEREFORE, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff respectfully requests that this Court declare that Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant breached their contractual agreement, and award Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff with an amount fair and just to account for its money damages, interest, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and costs incurred herein, and for such other relief as this court deems just and proper.
VIOLATIONS OF FLORIDA’S UNFAIR AND DECEPTIVE TRADE PRACTICES ACT, CHAPTER 501, PART II, FLORIDA STATUTES
- Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation in the above paragraphs, as if set forth fully herein.
- Pursuant to § 501.204 (1), Florida Statutes, “Unfair methods of competition, unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful”
- As set forth in the above paragraphs, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant has engaged in a pattern of misinformation, deception and unconscionable acts and practices, and unfair and deceptive acts and practices in the conduct of trade and commerce with regards to the lease agreement and the failure to make repairs to the Property.
- Pursuant to § 501.211 (1), Florida Statutes, “Without regard to any other remedy or relief to which a person is entitled, anyone aggrieved by a violation of this part may bring an action to obtain a declaratory judgment that an act or practice violates this part and to enjoin a person who has violated, is violating, or is otherwise likely to violate this part.”
- Furthermore, pursuant to § 501.211 (2), Florida Statutes, “In any action brought by a person who has suffered a loss as a result of a violation of this part, such person may recover actual damages, plus attorney’s fees and court costs as provided in s. 501.2105.”
- Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant has willfully engaged in the acts and practices as outlined in the above paragraphs, when they knew or should have known that such acts and practices were unfair and deceptive or otherwise prohibited by law.
- These above-described acts and practices of the Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant have injured and will likely continue to injure and prejudice the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.
- Unless the Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant is temporarily and permanently enjoined from engaging further in the acts and practices complained of herein, the Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant’s actions will result in irreparable injury to the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff for which there is no adequate remedy at law.
- As a direct and proximate result of Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant’s unfair and deceptive practices, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff have incurred damages substantially in excess of $30,000.00, which include, inter alia, direct and consequential damages, extra expenses, loss of profits, attorney’s fees and damages.
WHEREFORE, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff request that this Court enter judgment in its favor and against Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant for compensatory damages substantially in excess of $30,000.00, including direct and consequential damages, extra expenses, loss of profits, attorney’s fees and damages and for temporary and injunctive relief prohibiting Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant from continuing to engage in activities against the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.
BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTIES
- Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs repeat and reallege each and every allegation in the above paragraphs, as if set forth fully herein.
- The elements of a claim for breach of fiduciary duty are: the existence of a fiduciary duty, and the breach of that duty such that it is the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages. See Gracey v. Eaker, 837 So. 2d 348, 353 (Fla. 2002) and Fla. Std. J. Inst. (Civ.) 451.5
- A breach of fiduciary duty can be negligent or intentional. See Palafrugell Holdings, Inc. v. Cassel, 825 So. 2d 937, 939 n. 1 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001)
- The existence of a fiduciary duty can be proven if a relationship exists between the Plaintiff and Defendant in which the Plaintiff put his/her/its trust in Defendant to protect financial or property interests, secrets, confidences or private information and Defendant accepts that trust. See Fla. Std. J. Inst. (Civ.) 451.7
- Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant, by and through its employees, agents, representatives and collectors owed Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff a fiduciary duty and the breach of that duty is the proximate cause of the damages of the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.
WHEREFORE, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff request that this Court enter judgment in its favor and against Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant for compensatory damages substantially in excess of $30,000.00, including direct and consequential damages, extra expenses, loss of profits, attorney’s fees and damages, and for such other relief as this court deems just and proper.
- Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs repeats and reallege each and every allegation in the above paragraphs, as if set forth fully herein.
- The Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant was employed by the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff as their legal counsel.
- The Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant neglected a reasonable duty owed to the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.
- The negligence of the Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant was the proximate cause of the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.
- The Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff compensatory damages – and – to the extent applicable – special damages, include, but are not necessarily limited to: a) the loss on the Villa Bankruptcy, b) the loss of monies paid to the Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant, c) attorneys’ fees in defending against legal actions related to the Villa Bankruptcy and e) ongoing financial damages related to the Villa Bankruptcy.
WHEREFORE, the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff demand entry of a Final Judgment against the Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant, jointly and severally, due to legal malpractice and in that Final Judgment award the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff its compensatory damages, special damages, the costs of this action, pre and post judgment interest, and such other relief that the Court deems just and equitable.
DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs demand trial by jury of all issues so triable as of right.
DATED this ___day of January, 2022.
|Respectfully submitted, /s/Merrilee Zawadzki Merrilee Zawadzki 101 S. Union Street, Ste. 106 Plymouth, MI 48170 Respectfully submitted, /s/Joseph Mabe Joseph Mabe 174 SW Colesbury Avenue Port St. Lucie, FL 34953|
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I HEREBY CERTIFY that a true and correct copy of the foregoing has been served via the indicated method on this ______ day of January, 2022 on the following parties:
Via Florida E-portal
BEHAR, GUTT & GLAZER, P.A.
IRA GUTT, ESQ.
STACEY L. GLADDING, ESQ.
1855 GRIFFIN ROAD
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL 33004
COMPOSITE EXHIBIT “A”
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