In Florida, where do you file a breach of real estate contract lawsuit?

Posted By on May 12, 2016

Last Update: 7/18/18

According to the case law as of the date of this article and under the standard FAR/BAR contract, all the litigation shall be in the county where the property is located.

See: Sales v. Berzin, 212 So. 2d 23 (Fla. 4th DCA 1968)

Robert Berzin filed a lawsuit against Nancy E. Sales in the circuit court in Seminole County, Florida, in August 1967.  Mr. Berzin alleged in his complaint that he had entered into a contract to purchase some land in Seminole County from Miss Sales and she refused to close on the deal.  He alleged that he was ready and willing to comply with the contract, and he wanted specific performance as a remedy (a judgment ordering Miss Sales to convey the land to the plaintiff) and she refused to comply, that the judge the order the conveyance of the land to the plaintiff by operation of law.

Miss Sales responded by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  She also filed a motion to change its venue.

She argued that the case should be tried in Dade County, because both parties were residents of Dade County, Florida.  The judge denied both her motions, so she appealed to the reviewing court.

There was no controversy that both Miss Sales and Mr. Berzin were residents of Dade County, Florida, both at the time of the filing of the lawsuit and at the time that the contract was negotiated.  The only connection to Seminole County, Florida, is that this is the county where the land is located.

The reviewing court looked to Florida Statute 47.011, which is Florida’s general venue statute.

This law provides that lawsuits must be filed either in the county (1) where the defendant resides, or (2) where the cause of action accrued, or (3) where the property in litigation is located.

Under Florida’s general venue law, the defendant can be sued in one of the three specified locations.  However, the law does not give the defendant a right to elect which of the locations may be most convenient for him.   Miss Sales does not get to choose between the three options under Florida Statute 47.011.

Instead, the statute allows Mr. Berzin, as the plaintiff, to make the choice, as long as he complies with the statutory language.  Here, Mr. Berzin sought as his primary relief transfer of title to the real property in Seminole County, Florida, pursuant to a contract between the plaintiff and defendant.  He asked that either the court order Miss Sales to make the transfer, or that the judge order the transfer himself.

Accordingly, his complaint clearly indicated “property in litigation” and the Florida general venue statute clearly confers on Mr. Berzin, as the plaintiff, the right to place the venue in the county where such property is located.  If the plaintiff had sought payment of money for relief, venue would be different.  However, Mr. Berzin did not seek any monetary damages, only that the land be transferred to him under the terms of the contract negotiated with Miss Sales.

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