Court Denies Condo Association's Motion to Add Defendant in Design-Defect Lawsuit

Article Courtesy of  The Daily Business Review

By Zach Schlein

Published May 31, 2019

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal has upheld an order by a Miami-Dade Circuit judge denying a Kendall condominium association’s request to name an additional defendant in a lawsuit already brimming with parties.

On Wednesday the appellate court affirmed Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas’ order rejecting a request by Toscano Condominium Association Inc. to add Miami-based engineering firm DDA Engineers P.A. to a multi-defendant lawsuit concerning design defects on the property. The opinion found the lower court had not abused its discretion in denying the association’s motion to file a modified complaint, and held “the proposed amendment would have been the fourth time the association amended its complaint to bring in new parties to the litigation.”

“Significantly, the latest request to amend came after the case was set for trial and the trial court had specifically set a deadline for bringing in new parties,” the opinion said. According to the appellate court, the association waited to bring claims against DDA Engineers “until more than two years after the filing of the complaint and more than six months after the trial court conducted its case management conference.”


“Litigants must bear some responsibility in diligently pursuing their cases to resolution in a timely manner,” the opinion said. Prior to the association’s attempt to name DDA Engineers as a defendant, the company was brought into the dispute by Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates Inc., the Coral Gables architectural firm responsible for the design of the Toscano condos. The appellate court noted the business “faced only indemnity claims from the architect of the condominium building” before further action was sought against them by the association, which later dismissed their claims against all other defendants.

“The association is correct that these are qualitatively different from the direct claims it sought to bring against DDA Engineers in its role as structural engineers and threshold inspectors,” the order said. “However, litigation must end at some point, and trial courts must be afforded the discretion to manage their dockets.”

DDA Engineers’ legal counsel, Oramas & Associates attorney John Oramas, said although the order is not final until the time for motions for rehearing have passed, he and his client are “very pleased” with the appellate panel’s findings. He said the outcome was particularly satisfying since the case was in the Complex Business Litigation Division and case management orders “are quite strict in order to move these complex cases more efficiently and without unnecessary delay.”

“Clearly the Third DCA agreed and supported Judge Thomas’ ruling which in this case, favored our client,” Oramas said.

However, the appellate court’s ruling does not mark the end of litigation between the association and DDA Engineers. A separate lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court in January 2018 charges the company with negligence and breach of contract in failing “to verify that the construction of Toscano complied with governmentally approved plans and specifications,” as well as the Florida Building Code. The complaint contends the condo’s defects include, but are not limited to, deficiencies with its “mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire sprinkler, life-safety components” and the property’s post-tension cable assemblies. A motion filed by the design company in response to the suit requested the case’s dismissal and argued the plaintiff failed to include key documents necessary to commence legal action.

Toscano Condominium Association’s attorney, Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel shareholder Jason Trauth, told the Daily Business Review the appeal was filed in addition to the distinct lawsuit against DDA Engineers “to protect our client’s cause of action.”

“The case is limited to its facts, and a separate action is pending along the same lines,” Trauth said. “The association will be forging ahead with the separate action.”