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Summary judgment is not properly viewed as a device that the trial court may, in its discretion, implement in lieu of a trial on the merits. Instead, Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of every element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact, as a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.
The debtor was the owner of a condominium building, and the creditor had purchased three penthouse units in the building with knowledge that the units did not have elevator service. Upon purchase, the creditor, however, attempted to convince the debtor to provide elevator access to the eleventh floor. According to the creditor, on numerous occasions, the debtor committed to providing elevator service at no expense to the creditor. Over the years, the relationship between the parties deteriorated. In connection with his dissatisfaction with the debtor and members of its board of directors, creditor filed a lawsuit, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and damages against the debtor. Subsequently, debtor filed its Chapter 11 petition. Amongst other claims, creditor filed his Proof of Claim # 20 which referenced the State Court Case. The debtor filed a motion for summary judgment as to its objection to a proof of claim filed by the creditor.
Should the debtor’s motion for summary judgment as to its objection to a proof of claim filed by the creditor be granted?
The court granted the debtor's motion. Extension of elevator service to the creditor's units did not constitute maintenance of the common elements under Fla. Stat. § 718.111, and the debtor was not obligated to pay for any extension. The failure to extend the elevator to the creditor's units would not jeopardize the existing common elements, and the only effect of extending the elevator was to provide convenience to the creditor in his private or commercial use of the units. Thus, the extension of the elevator did not fall within the debtor's duty to maintain the common elements, and the creditor's claim for damages under § 718.111 failed as a matter of law. Finally, under the declaration of condominium, the creditor was required to pay for any extension of the elevator to his units because he exclusively or substantially exclusively benefits from the alteration.