Voluntary Dismissal of Florida Lawsuits
Are you involved in a lawsuit in Florida? What is a voluntary dismissal? What should your Florida business lawyer or probate lawyer tell you before you decide to voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit? How does a voluntary dismissal affect an appeal? Can you agree to voluntarily dismiss a case in a settlement agreement?In Florida, can you appeal a trial court’s order after you voluntarily dismissed your lawsuit?
Florida Trial Lawyers and Settlement Agreements
At Pankauski Hauser Lazarus, our West Palm beach attorneys handle litigation and appeals throughout Florida. Although trial lawyers frequent the courtroom, they must also handle other aspects of litigation. For example, outside of the courtroom, experienced litigators prepare for depositions, negotiate settlement agreements, prepare petitions, etc.
Another part of a probate litigator’s job is to provide client’s with legal options. Some clients choose to be more aggressive than others. For example, some clients are dead set on taking their Florida trust lawsuit to trial, while others prefer to settle or end their Palm Beach estate lawsuit as quickly as possible.
Some probate or business lawsuits are resolved with a settlement agreement. An experienced Florida litigation lawyer can help you to negotiate settlement terms, explain to you what the terms in the agreement actually mean (prior to you signing), and ensure that the settlement agreement is executed properly.
Enforcing a Florida Settlement Agreement
What happens if you sign a settlement agreement and then do not comply with the terms? Oftentimes, West Palm Beach probate lawyers will seek approval of a settlement agreement from the Florida court handling the lawsuit.
That way, if you do not comply with the settlement agreement, you are in contempt of the court and the court typically reserves jurisdiction to enforce the agreement. This means that a motion to compel compliance with a settlement agreement can be filed against you in the Florida court.
However, it is important to note that, in some circumstances, the Florida trial court may lack jurisdiction, preventing you from being able to challenge earlier rulings. A recent Third DCA opinion, Metalonis v. Eastgroup Properties, discusses this issue.
Metalonis v. Eastgroup Properties
Here, the parties had entered into a Florida settlement agreement. Eastgroup would pay Metalonis a sum of money in exchange for his voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit with prejudice. Eastgroup paid the agreed upon amount but Metalonis did not voluntarily dismiss the action.
Therefore, Eastgroup filed an emergency motion to compel compliance with settlement agreement. The trial court, after a hearing, approved the terms of the agreement, granted the motion to compel and retained jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. The court ordered that Metalonis file a notice of voluntary dismissal with prejudice in compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement. If Metalonis failed to file the voluntary dismissal, the court would dismiss the case with prejudice.
Metalonis filed the voluntary dismissal. After the case was dismissed, Metalonis tried to appeal the trail court’s order granting the emergency motion to compel. Unfortunately, by filing the voluntary dismissal, rather than preserving his appellate rights by allowing the court to dismiss the case with prejudice, he had lost his chance to appeal.
Voluntary Dismissal and Appeals
Once a party to a Florida lawsuit voluntarily dismisses his or her case, the trial court lacks jurisdiction to do anything. Likewise, once a voluntary dismissal occurs in a Florida lawsuit, no party may appeal a ruling of the trial court, since the Florida district court of appeal lacks jurisdiction to review anything.
The Metalonis v. Eastgroup case teaches those involved in a Florida lawsuit a valuable lesson. If you want relief from an appellate court in Florida, don’t voluntarily dismiss your lawsuit. In other words, do not dismiss your case voluntarily unless you are sure that you want it all to be over.
If you are involved in Palm Beach litigation, you should consult with your litigator and a West Palm beach appellate lawyer before making any sort of decisions that could prevent you from later filing a Florida appeal. Most experienced law firms consider a client’s Florida appellate rights at all stages of litigation.
To consult with a Florida appellate attorney, free of charge, call (561)514-0900 ext.101