Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, No. 85856

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtHARDING; KOGAN
Citation679 So.2d 1160
Parties21 Fla. L. Weekly S357 Donna CERNIGLIA, Petitioner, v. Joseph M. CERNIGLIA, Jr., Respondent.
Decision Date05 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. 85856

Page 1160

679 So.2d 1160
21 Fla. L. Weekly S357
Donna CERNIGLIA, Petitioner,
v.
Joseph M. CERNIGLIA, Jr., Respondent.
No. 85856.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Sept. 5, 1996.

Page 1161

Paul C. Huck and Harley S. Tropin of Kozyak, Tropin & Throckmorton, P.A., Miami, for Petitioner.

Bluestein and Wayne, P.A., and Sam Daniels and Robert F. Kohlman of A.J. Barranco & Associates, Miami, for Respondent.

HARDING, Justice.

We have for review the decision in Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 655 So.2d 172, 175 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995), which certified conflict with the opinion in Lamb v. Leiter, 603 So.2d 632 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992), on the issue of whether allegations of coercion and duress constitute extrinsic fraud or intrinsic fraud. We have jurisdiction pursuant to article V, section 3(b)(4) of the Florida Constitution.

The Cerniglias were married in 1970. Joseph Cerniglia (the husband) filed a petition for dissolution of marriage on July 11, 1990. The parties signed a marital settlement agreement on the same day. At the August 20, 1990, dissolution proceeding Donna Cerniglia (the wife) informed the court that she had voluntarily signed the settlement agreement, had received advice from her attorney, and was satisfied with the husband's disclosure of assets. 1 The court entered final

Page 1162

judgment dissolving the marriage and incorporating the July 11 settlement agreement.

In 1993, the wife brought a five-count civil action against the husband. Counts I through IV were damage claims for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, common-law fraud, and breach of contract. Count V alleged extrinsic fraud or fraud on the court and sought to set aside the marital settlement agreement. The wife also filed a contemporaneous motion for relief in the dissolution action pursuant to the 1993 amendment to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540(b). 2

The wife based count V and the rule 1.540(b) motion on the husband's wrongful acts that were pled in counts I through IV. She alleged that the husband: physically and mentally abused her during the marriage; obtained the marital settlement agreement by duress, coercion, and threats; enticed her to enter the agreement by making oral promises to pay additional sums; and failed to make complete financial disclosure. In his answer, the husband denied the allegations of physical abuse and asserted several affirmative defenses as a bar to the suit. He also moved for summary judgment.

The trial court denied the wife's motion for rule 1.540(b) relief, finding that the 1993 amendment did not have retroactive application. For the same reason, the trial court also denied her motion to amend count V to assert a claim based on the filing of false financial affidavits. The court further concluded that the issues of voluntariness, duress, and full disclosure had been tried in the dissolution proceeding and had to be brought within the one-year time limit prescribed by rule 1.540(b). Accordingly, the court entered summary judgment for the husband and denied rehearing.

On appeal, the district court affirmed the trial court's summary judgment for the husband on all counts. As to counts I through V, the district court found that a release in the marital settlement agreement was intended by the parties to serve as a complete bar to all claims arising from the marriage. Cerniglia, 655 So.2d at 174. Thus, the district court concluded, the wife's tort and contract claims were barred by the release and summary judgment was proper as to those counts. Id. As to count V of the civil complaint, the district court found that the allegations of coercion, duress, and fraud did not constitute extrinsic fraud that would permit the wife to set aside the marital settlement agreement more than a year after final judgment. Id. at 175. However, the court certified conflict with Lamb v. Leiter on this issue. Id. Finally, the district court concluded that the 1993 amendment to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540(b) was inapplicable to this final judgment of dissolution, which was entered August 20, 1990. Id. at 175-76. Thus, the final judgment of dissolution could not be set aside based upon fraudulent financial affidavits. Id.

Lamb v. Leiter, which the district court certified to be in conflict with the instant case, involved a wife's attempt to vacate a final judgment of dissolution and set aside a separation and property settlement agreement three years after final judgment was entered. 603 So.2d at 632. The wife claimed that the husband had forced her to give up

Page 1163

any defense to the dissolution action and procured the agreement through coercion, duress, and deceit. Id. at 632-33. The trial court found the wife's claims constituted intrinsic fraud and thus a motion to set aside judgment on this basis had to be filed within one year of final judgment. Id. at 634. On appeal, the district court reversed, finding that the circumstances alleged by the wife amounted to extrinsic fraud or fraud on the court for which an action to vacate judgment could be brought at any time. Id. at 635.

In DeClaire v. Yohanan, 453 So.2d 375 (Fla.1984), this Court explained the difference between extrinsic fraud and intrinsic fraud. Extrinsic fraud, which constitutes fraud on the court, involves conduct which is collateral to the issues tried in a case. Id. at 377. "...

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34 practice notes
  • Neuroaxis Neurosurgical Assocs., PC v. Costco Wholesale Co., Nos. 11 Civ. 8350(DLC), 11 Civ. 8516(DLC), 11 Civ. 8756(DLC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 23, 2013
    ...of the release is clear and unambiguous, a court will “not entertain evidence contrary to its plain meaning.” Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 679 So.2d 1160, 1164 (Fla.1996). The parties dispute whether the claims made by the plaintiff here “aris [e] from the factual allegations of the [1334] Compl......
  • Hall v. Sargeant, CASE NO. 18-80748-CIV-ALTMAN/Reinhart
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • March 30, 2020
    ...against liability for future, not past, intentional wrongdoings. Indeed, the [Florida Supreme Court] in Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 679 So. 2d 1160, 1164-65 (Fla. 1996), enforced a general release . . . despite the party's common law fraud claim based on nondisclosure of financial assets." Mazz......
  • Crawford v. Barker, No. SC09–1969.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 9, 2011
    ...settled that a marital settlement agreement is subject to interpretation like any other contract.”); see also Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 679 So.2d 1160, 1164 (Fla.1996) (evaluating a release contained within a marital settlement agreement under traditional contract principles). Likewise, the d......
  • Mazzoni Farms, Inc. v. EI DuPont De Nemours and Co., No. SC94846
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 8, 2000
    ...prohibited from contracting against liability for future, not past, intentional wrongdoings. Indeed, the Court in Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 679 So.2d 1160, 1164-65 (Fla. 1996), enforced a general release in a marital settlement agreement despite the party's common law fraud claim based on non......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
34 cases
  • Neuroaxis Neurosurgical Assocs., PC v. Costco Wholesale Co., Nos. 11 Civ. 8350(DLC), 11 Civ. 8516(DLC), 11 Civ. 8756(DLC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 23, 2013
    ...of the release is clear and unambiguous, a court will “not entertain evidence contrary to its plain meaning.” Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 679 So.2d 1160, 1164 (Fla.1996). The parties dispute whether the claims made by the plaintiff here “aris [e] from the factual allegations of the [1334] Compl......
  • Hall v. Sargeant, CASE NO. 18-80748-CIV-ALTMAN/Reinhart
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • March 30, 2020
    ...against liability for future, not past, intentional wrongdoings. Indeed, the [Florida Supreme Court] in Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 679 So. 2d 1160, 1164-65 (Fla. 1996), enforced a general release . . . despite the party's common law fraud claim based on nondisclosure of financial assets." Mazz......
  • Crawford v. Barker, No. SC09–1969.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 9, 2011
    ...settled that a marital settlement agreement is subject to interpretation like any other contract.”); see also Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 679 So.2d 1160, 1164 (Fla.1996) (evaluating a release contained within a marital settlement agreement under traditional contract principles). Likewise, the d......
  • Mazzoni Farms, Inc. v. EI DuPont De Nemours and Co., No. SC94846
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 8, 2000
    ...prohibited from contracting against liability for future, not past, intentional wrongdoings. Indeed, the Court in Cerniglia v. Cerniglia, 679 So.2d 1160, 1164-65 (Fla. 1996), enforced a general release in a marital settlement agreement despite the party's common law fraud claim based on non......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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