Law School Case Brief
White v. Syfrett - 955 So. 2d 1110 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2006)
The liberal rule of construction as it relates to descriptions, as announced by the various Supreme Court of Florida decisions, is that parol evidence is admissible to determine the description so long as the instrument itself shows that the parties were contemplating a particular piece of property rather than an unspecified piece of property or alternative descriptions or property to be obtained later. There are cases holding that where the description of land in a deed or mortgage is in some respect vague, uncertain or indefinite, parol evidence is admissible, to explain and remove, by proof of pertinent facts existing at the time, the uncertainty, and to identify the property intended to be conveyed, thus giving effect to the intention of the parties to the instrument. There are, however, exceptions to this rule.
Buyers, Danny K. White and Laura Michelle White, filed an action for breach of a real estate sales contract against appellee seller, Troy Syfrett. The seller moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. The circuit court dismissed the complaint without prejudice on September 2, 2005. On September 20, 2005, the Whites filed an amended complaint, again alleging breach of contract. The circuit court dismissed the complaint on grounds that the sales contract failed to adequately describe the real estate to be conveyed. The buyers alleged that they had entered into a contract with the seller for the purchase and sale of certain real estate in Bay County. The buyers received a letter returning their $ 30,000 deposit and advising that the seller decided not to develop the property. The buyers advised the seller that they were not accepting return of the deposit and were looking for the seller to perform under the terms of the contract. The buyers alleged that the seller subsequently sold the subject property and surrounding parcels to a third party. The buyers appealed.
Did the buyers fail to state a claim?
The appellate court found that buyers sufficiently stated a cause of action. Although the description of the property included in the contract did appear problematic, the appellate court was not prepared to say it conclusively negated the claim. The contract indicated that the parties were contemplating a particular piece of property and nothing in the complaint or contract indicated that the parties did not understand what property the contract concerned. The parties attached to the contract a sketch of a subdivision plot, with lines drawn thereon and the buyers' initials next to the drawing. The parties agreed to identify the exact boundary points of the property after survey work was completed. Further, if the seller drafted the contract, then he may have been estopped to assert that the contract was unenforceable. The fact that one of the buyers did not sign the contract was irrelevant because the seller, as the party to be charged, signed the contract. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded.
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