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N. Am. Philips Corp. v. Boles - 405 So. 2d 202 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1981)

Rule:

Matters constituting an avoidance of an affirmative defense must be set forth in a reply pleading.

Facts:

Boles filed a two-count complaint asking for damages or specific performance of the stock option agreement. The defendant answered and asserted three affirmative defenses, one of which was that Boles had not fulfilled certain conditions precedent. Boles, in turn, filed a pleading styled, "Reply to Affirmative Defenses," which denied the affirmative defenses. At trial, Boles introduced a letter from his attorney addressed to defendant's predecessor-corporation wherein he sought to exercise the stock option agreement. Unquestionably, the letter does not satisfy all of the conditions precedent required by the agreement, however, Boles took the position that strict compliance had been waived due to certain action by the defendant corporation. Defense counsel objected to this line of testimony on the ground that it was irrelevant to the issues framed by the pleadings. The court overruled the objection and ultimately entered a verdict for the plaintiff. On appeal, the defendant contended that the trial was infected with reversible error when the trial court overruled its objection and admitted testimony relating to waiver of the conditions precedent, an issue which the defendant suggested was not framed by the pleadings. 

Issue:

Did the trial court commit a reversible error when it admitted testimony relating to waiver of the conditions precedent, which had not been framed by the pleadings?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court reversed the judgment for appellee. The court held that it was error to overrule appellant's objection and to admit testimony relating to waiver of the conditions precedent because this issue was not framed by the pleadings because all matters constituting an avoidance of an affirmative defense must be set forth in a reply pleading. The court explained that this was necessary in order to lay a predicate for such proofs so that the parties might prepare accordingly.

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