Baden v. Baden, et al
Baden v. Baden, et al, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 2d DCA 2018)
Ordinarily, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss his or her action pursuant to FRCP 1.420(a)(1) at any time before a hearing on motion for summary judgment. In this case, the Plaintiff tried to dismiss certain trust litigation subsequent to a settlement agreement, but the trial court refused to grant his dismissal and attempted to retain jurisdiction over the subject trust. Ultimately, the Court found that the trial court erred and had no basis for not accepting the Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal.
The Defendants had two arguments about why the voluntary dismissal should be rejected. First, they argued that F.S. 736.0201 gives the trial court discretion to maintain ongoing jurisdiction over trust actions and that jurisdiction applied here where a prior court order had been entered authorizing the court to retain jurisdiction over the trust as part of a settlement. The Court disagreed. It found F.S. 736.0201 unambiguous in that the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure apply to trust actions (but for three exceptions which were not relevant here). The Court held that the trial court had attempted to add an additional exception, not enumerated in F.S. 736.0201, to the mandatory application of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, based on the language of F.S. 736.0201(3) which states that "[a] trust is not subject to continuing judicial supervision unless ordered by the court." The Court felt that such an additional exception would render the actual exceptions provided in the statute meaningless. It held that F.S. 736.0201(3) merely provides the trial court the discretion to continue supervision of a trust, but does not nullify F.S. 736.0201(1)'s mandate as to the applicability of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Defendants also argued that the language in FRCP 1.420(a)(1) which states that a plaintiff may dismiss a lawsuit without an order of the court "[e]xcept in actions in which property has been seized or is in the custody of the court" applied here to prevent the dismissal. The Court held that the phrase "custody of the court" only means assets actually deposited in the court registry, not trust assets over which the court has issued orders.