Carmen D. Caruso Law Firm Scores $3.5 Million Victory in Florida Real Estate Fight
Carmen Caruso and Xiaoyin Cao of Carmen D. Caruso Law Firm have won a $3.5 million increase to the price a local real estate developer will pay their clients to acquire approximately 400 acres of undeveloped real estate in Kissimmee, Florida.
Carmen D. Caruso Law Firm represents 3 of 4 trustees of a family trust that in 2015 signed a contract to sell their land to a developer for $12 million, expecting the sale to close within 9 to 12 months as the developer had promised. By March 2017, when the buyer still had not closed on its purchase, the sellers declared default, and the buyer sued for specific performance. The buyer argued the contract did not require closing until the buyer obtained all required governmental approvals to develop the property, which indisputably had not yet occurred. In July 2017, the sellers retained Carmen and his team after several other lawyers advised his clients their legal position was weak. Carmen saw it differently and sought to prove the buyer failed to exercise “good faith and fair dealing” as the law requires.
In June 2018, after taking six depositions (out of a possible dozen) and procuring an expert witness opinion substantiating that the buyer could have obtained all governmental approvals but had deliberately not done so, to purposefully delay the closing, Carmen advised the trial court he was ready for trial, and the case was placed on the trial call for October 2018. This looming trial date prompted settlement discussions in which the buyer agreed to amend the sales contract upping the sales price to $15.5 million – a 34% increase above the original purchase price the buyer has agreed to pay under penalty of forfeiture.
Like most cases involving the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, no one fact standing alone would be dispositive. The trial lawyers’ task is to weave the facts into a compelling narrative the opposing party acted in bad faith. Here, as in so many cases, Carmen exposed bad lawyering on the other side, as a zoning attorney for the real estate developer was caught flagrantly misrepresenting important facts to Osceola County as part of her client’s purposeful delay scheme that Carmen alleged.