Good News For Grove Isle Condo Owners

by Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP
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Grove Isle condo owners, who have been in the middle of a battle over a proposed 18-story condo tower which will replace the low-rise Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, received some good news when the Third DCA overturned the dismissal of Grove Isle Association’s 2009 lawsuit against the owners and former and present managers of Grove Isle’s Club.

In that lawsuit, the Association brought claims for injunctive and declaratory relief, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract, claiming, among other things, that the enjoyment of the Club’s amenities (a restaurant and lounge, private banquet room, health spa, swimming pool and tennis courts) was limited to private members of Fair Isle, and seeking an order prohibiting the defendants from allowing unauthorized members of the public to use the Club’s amenities.  The Association also maintained that it was unfair and unreasonable to require the condo owners to bear all the costs of maintenance, management and operation of Fair Isle’s facilities, amenities and common areas (including the bridge that spans Biscayne Bay and connects Miami with Grove Isle’s private island resort), even though these areas are also used by other Fair Isle guests.  Therefore, the Association sought to recover the value of its maintenance, management and operation payments over the years.

In overturning the trial court’s decision, the Third DCA held that the lawsuit was improperly dismissed based on a statute of limitations defense, where the trial court could not determine from the four-corners of the complaint the date in which the alleged causes of action accrued. Specifically, the Third DCA found that it could not affirmatively be determined from the face of the complaint when allegedly unauthorized members of the public began using the Club’s amenities or whether the payment of assessments dating back to 1979 related to the use of the Club’s amenities by certain unauthorized members of the public.  However, the Third DCA stated that the statute of limitations would bar plaintiff’s claims if the claims accrued before July 2004.

The Third DCA also emphasized the general policy of allowing a plaintiff leave to amend the complaint at least once, in an attempt to state a cause of action, unless it is clear that a plaintiff cannot in good faith allege a set of circumstances sufficient to state a cause of action, and found that the trial court’s dismissal of the Association’s first complaint with prejudice was an abuse of discretion.

Now that the Association may move forward with its lawsuit, it is unclear what the Association’s course of action will be.  What is clear, however, is the interesting situation that the Grove Isle owners are now facing.  This lawsuit deals with the private versus public use of the Club’s facilities and the Association’s responsibility for the payment of total costs and expenses for maintaining, managing and operating the facilities and common areas.  Now with the proposal of replacing the hotel with a private condo tower, many of the condo owner’s concern should be ameliorated, as this proposal means that the private island would only be open to owners, renters and visitors, rather than members of the public who currently have access to the private island due to the amenities offered by the hotel and spa.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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