Syfrett v. Syfrett-Moore ex rel. Estate of Syfrett
Syfrett v. Syfrett-Moore ex rel. Estate of Syfrett, 2013 WL 3389547 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013)
This case involved a dispute over ownership of two apartments owned by a decedent, and centered around whether those properties were properly transferred during the decedent's life, or whether the decedent lacked the capacity to effectuate the transfers. The "Estate" sought a declaratory judgment regarding ownership of the units. The Appellant, one of the purported owners of the units, filed a motion to dismiss for failure to adequately state a claim for declaratory relief. The Court found that the complaint did not meet the pleading standard for declaratory judgment because: (1) the complaint failed to include allegations that there was a bona fide, actual, present practical need for a declaration, (2) the plaintiff designated in the complaint was the Estate, not the co-personal representative of the Estate (citing Fla. Stats. § 733.612(20), granting the personal representative the authority to prosecute or defend for the estate, (3) the complaint does not provide support for its conclusory allegations that the transfers were "in error and/or invalid," and (4) none of the deeds or other documents referenced in the complaint were attached to the complaint (citing Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.130(a)).
The Court also found that the trial court applied the wrong legal standard in ruling on Appellant's motion for summary judgment, which was heard along with the motion to dismiss. Because Appellant had not yet answered the complaint, due to the tolling by her motion to dismiss, the Apellee was required to establish that there was no answer that Appellant could serve and no affirmative defense that she could allege which would raise an issue of material fact. Because Appellant did raise issues in an affidavit, even though that evidence may not be sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment, that evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that Apellant may be able to raise disputed issues of material fact if she is permitted to answer the complaint.