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Castro v. Sangles - 637 So. 2d 989 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1994)

Rule:

One may recover upon an apparently illegal contract only if he himself has not been guilty of wrongdoing—that is, that he is not "in pari delicto" with the actual malefactor.

Facts:

Plaintiffs Juan J. Castro and Blanca I. Castro agreed with defendant Jose Sangles, an unlicensed contractor, to build a duplex on their property for the apparently low sum of $ 42,500.00. Mr. Castro then himself "pulled" the building permit from the Dade County authorities on the knowing and sworn-to misrepresentations that he was the "owner-builder" and that no contractor was involved. When Sangles's construction proved unsatisfactory, the Castros brought an action in Florida state court for his breach of the agreement. The case was dismissed on the ground that the alleged agreement was unenforceable under Fla. Stat. ch. 489.128. The Castros appealed.

Issue:

Was the parties' agreement unenforceable?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed, holding that the action was barred by the clear terms of Fla. Stat. ch. 489.128. The court agreed that Castro's improper securing of the building permit precluded his recovery. The court explained that it would not allow one to invoke the judicial process when, for his own financial benefit, he participated in the very activity the law precluded, with the resulting danger that the law sought to avoid.

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