Legal Updates

LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION In 2014, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment which required a portion of documentary taxes from real estate transactions to be used for land and water conservation purposes. Environmental groups sued after the Legislature included all recurring funding in the total. The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the Legislature and the Florida Supreme Court has refused to hear the case, leaving the decision intact.

PARKLAND SUIT A state appeals court has determined that a former campus security guard at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School must face a lawsuit filed by a victim’s family. The Court ruled that sovereign immunity did not apply in this case.

RED LIGHT CAMERAS A Florida appeals court has determined that variations in municipalities’ instructions to vendors on sorting images from red-light camera violations do not contravene the state’s requirements for uniform traffic laws, reversing a lower court’s finding against the practice.

DISNEY HOTEL APPRAISAL In a sweeping victory for the Disney company, the 5th District Court of Appeal has ruled that the method the Orange County property appraiser used to value a Walt Disney World hotel to be invalid and against Florida law. The method, used by a majority of property appraisers throughout the state, includes intangibles, such as the brand of the hotel, in determining valuations. Orange County has asked for a clarification as to whether the ruling applies to all hotels, or just to the one in question. If universally applied, hotel property valuations throughout the state could be significantly reduced.

UNIVERSITY LAWSUITS There are currently three pending lawsuits filed against the University of Florida and Florida International University by students seeking refunds of paid spring tuition as a result of the COVID-19 campus shutdowns. UF has responded to the lawsuit citing sovereign immunity against such claims.

EVICTION MORATORIUM The Governor, at the eleventh hour, extended the eviction case moratorium he implemented on April 2nd, to August 1st. There is currently a significant backlog in cases, with thousands more expected once such cases begin to move forward. Tenants will have five days to place the past due rent in the court registry should they elect to contest the eviction.