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Tampa, Fla. (August 2023) – Buchanan litigators Chance Lyman and Josh Smith prevailed on behalf of a homeowners association client after the Florida Supreme Court denied a petition for review filed by the plaintiffs. The precedential decision affects the Merger Doctrine, the legal concept that agreements between the buyer and the seller made prior to the closing of the real estate transaction attach to the deed.

The plaintiffs sued the client seeking a declaration that certain HOA restrictions did not apply to the plaintiffs’ lot, located within the HOA. Plaintiffs argued that their deed did not sufficiently reference the restrictions and, by operation of the Merger Doctrine, the numerous documents plaintiffs had signed prior to the deed, in which plaintiffs agreed they would be subject to the HOA restrictions, had merged away once the deed was delivered. 

The Buchanan team obtained summary judgment on plaintiffs’ claims and plaintiffs appealed to the Second District Court of Appeal, which authored a written opinion in the client’s favor (Davis v. Verandah at Lake Grady Homeowners Ass'n, 354 So. 3d 1140 (Fla. 2d DCA 2023). The Second District agreed with our analysis of the plain language of the deed and also found that plaintiffs’ claims failed due to the fact that they had acknowledged—both before and after delivery of the deed—that the restrictions applied to their lot.  Plaintiffs sought review in the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that the Second District’s decision conflicted with other Florida Supreme Court precedent.  After consideration of Buchanan’s jurisdictional briefing, the court denied review.

By declining to review the Second District’s written decision, the Florida Supreme Court left in place the Second District’s analysis of the Merger Doctrine in Florida and the interpretation of relatively standard deed language used throughout the state. This precedential decision could impact any deed subject to Florida law.  Buchanan’s Real Estate group is already up to date on the decision and can assist clients in understanding its impact on Florida Real Estate law.