Key v. Trattmann

Decision Date25 May 2007
Docket NumberNo. 1D04-5130.,1D04-5130.
PartiesGarrison KEY, Appellant, v. Dieter TRATTMANN, Appellee.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Garvin B. Bowden of Gardner, Wadsworth, Duggar, Bist & Wiener, P.A., Tallahassee, for Appellant.

J. Marshall Conrad of Ausley & McMullen, Tallahassee, for Appellee.


Garrison Key sued for real property titled in Dieter Trattmann's name, property that Mr. Key alleged he paid for, and now appeals final summary judgment entered in favor of Mr. Trattmann. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

The complaint alleges that Mr. Key supplied all funds used to acquire certain real property in Tallahassee (the property) from a third party, and seeks specific performance of an alleged, oral agreement under which Mr. Trattmann, who took title, was obligated to convey the property to Mr. Key on demand; or, in the alternative, a decree declaring the property subject to a resulting trust. Mr. Trattmann's answer denies that Mr. Key paid for the property, and sets up both the statute of limitations and the statute of frauds as affirmative defenses.


"A summary judgment should not be granted unless the facts are so crystallized that nothing remains but questions of law." Moore v. Morris, 475 So.2d 666, 668 (Fla.1985). The parties do not dispute that, on July 22, 1994, a third party executed a warranty deed conveying title to the property to Mr. Trattmann; that Mr. Trattmann and Mr. Key both lived in California at the time; that Mr. Key was a real estate broker whose company, Key Properties, operated in Tallahassee; that an employee of Key Properties was responsible for managing the property; and that Key Properties applied rents from the property to management fees and maintenance expenses.

The movant for summary judgment bears the burden of showing, by competent evidence, the nonexistence of any question of material fact. The movant's proof must be conclusive, such that all reasonable inferences which may be drawn in favor of the opposing party are overcome. "[I]f the record raises even the slightest doubt that an issue might exist, summary judgment is improper."

Jackson v. H.L. Bouton Co., 630 So.2d 1173, 1175 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994) (quoting Holland v. Verheul, 583 So.2d 788, 789 (Fla. 2d DCA 1991)) (citations omitted). See also Martin County v. Edenfield, 609 So.2d 27, 29 (Fla.1992) ("A defense is not a sufficient basis for granting a motion for summary judgment unless the evidence supporting that defense is so compelling as to establish that no issue of material fact actually exists."). Summary judgment is appropriate only when no genuine issue of material fact remains. See Clark v. Gochenaur, 623 So.2d 561, 562 (Fla. 1st DCA 1993). We review summary judgments de novo. See, e.g., The Fla. Bar v. Rapoport, 845 So.2d 874, 877 (Fla.2003).

"In determining whether issues of fact precluding summary judgment remain, the facts must be taken `in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.'" Carnes v. Fender, 936 So.2d 11, 14 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) (quoting Turner v. PCR, Inc., 754 So.2d 683, 684 (Fla.2000)). On this basis, we take as true that, in order to help Mr. Trattmann obtain United States' citizenship, Mr. Key negotiated and secured the purchase of the property from a third party, who executed a deed in favor of Mr. Trattmann—who had never set foot in Tallahassee at that point; that Mr. Key provided all of the funds Mr. Trattmann used to purchase the property, including but not limited to a $1000 deposit and cash at closing in the amount of $9,887.30; that Mr. Trattmann and Mr. Key agreed Mr. Key would pay taxes, mortgage expenses, and expenses for maintenance of the property; and that Mr. Key, in fact, made all of the agreed payments, continuously managed and maintained the property, and made substantial improvements to the property, including the installation of new flooring and appliances, all in reliance on Mr. Trattmann's promise to convey the property on demand, that Mr. Trattmann made no payments toward the purchase, maintenance or repair of the property; and that, when Mr. Key demanded that Mr. Trattmann convey the property to him, Mr. Trattmann refused to do so. (While we assume the truth of the foregoing for purposes of decision, these facts were all disputed below.)


The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and entered the Summary Final Judgment for Defendant, ruling that the defenses of the statute of frauds and the statute of limitations were established and that no issue of material fact existed as to either of them. On the limitations question,1 the court ruled:

While it is not clear from the complaint precisely when the cause of action accrued, it was surely more than four years ago. If the defendant has made "no payments toward the purchase, maintenance or repair of the [p]roperty," then the cause of action accrued no later than 1998. This action was filed in 2003, more than four years after the cause of action accrued. Thus it is barred.

The trial court rejected, albeit without analysis, Mr. Key's argument that a resulting trust arose, and went on to rule that any action was barred by the statute of frauds because no writing documented the trust, as well as by the statute of limitations, seemingly on account of the passage of time since the third party originally conveyed the property.


A resulting trust arises where an express trust fails, in whole or in part; where the purposes of an express trust are fully accomplished, without exhausting the trust estate; or, of particular pertinence here, "`where a person furnishes money to purchase property in the name of another with both parties intending at the time that the legal title be held by the named grantee for the benefit of the unnamed purchaser of the property.'" Steigman v. Danese, 502 So.2d 463, 467 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987) (quoting Steinhardt v. Steinhardt, 445 So.2d 352, 357-58 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984)), disapproved of on other grounds by Spohr v. Berryman, 589 So.2d 225, 228-29 (Fla. 1991), and order vacated by In re Estate of Danese, 601 So.2d 570, 571 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992). See also F.J. Holmes Equip., Inc. v. Babcock Bldg. Supply, Inc., 553 So.2d 748, 749 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989) ("A resulting trust may arise in favor of one who furnishes money used to purchase property the legal title to which is taken in the name of another."). A resulting trust can, indeed, be "founded on the presumed intention of the parties that the one furnishing the money should have the beneficial interest, while the other held the title for convenience or for a collateral purpose." Frank v. Eeles, 152 Fla. 869, 13 So.2d 216, 218 (1943) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). See also Restatement (Third) of Trusts § 7 cmt. c (2003).

While disputed, the facts alleged are sufficient, if proven, to give rise to a resulting trust: Mr. Key alleged and the record does not disprove that he and Mr. Trattmann agreed and intended that Mr. Trattmann would hold title temporarily for Mr. Key's benefit; that Mr. Key supplied all moneys for the purchase, mortgage loan repayment, and maintenance (including repairs) of the property, and was entitled to and did receive the rental income. Mr. Key alleged and the record does not disprove that Mr. Trattmann was holding title to the property for the economic benefit of Mr. Key, and that the only reason the property was put in Mr. Trattmann's name was to help him gain citizenship. See, e.g., Willard Homes, Inc. v. Sanders, 127 So.2d 696, 697 (Fla. 2d DCA 1961) ("It is a settled principle of law . . . that where the purchase money of land is paid by one person and title is taken in the name of another a resulting trust arises and the party taking the title is presumed to hold it in trust for him who pays the purchase price."). Facts that would give rise to a resulting trust have not been disproven here.2 In these circumstances, entry of summary judgment was error.

The decision in Harnish v. Peele, 386 So.2d 8, 10 (Fla. 5th DCA 1980), is distinguishable. There Peele signed a contract to purchase a building for use as a chiropractor's office, and made a $300 deposit. He had difficulty getting financing, so his sister and her husband, the Harnishes, agreed to acquire the building. They assumed his position under the contract, executed a mortgage, and purchased the building, by paying $8,100 in cash at closing. They took title in their own names, partly to protect themselves from any claims by Peele's ex-wife. Before closing, Peele and the Harnishes agreed that anytime Peele repaid them the money they were out, the Harnishes would deed the property to him. See id. at 9. Thereafter Peele made monthly payments to his sister and brother-in-law in amounts equal to the monthly mortgage payments plus payments due on another loan the Harnishes took out so that Peele could remodel the building.

Subsequently, Peele demanded a deed to the building from the sister and brother-in-law. The trial court found a resulting trust and ordered the Harnishes to convey title to Peele upon his payment of $9,047 plus interest from the time of closing. See id. at 9-10. But the Fifth District reversed, because the Harnishes had only agreed that, if Peele paid them, they would convey the property to him. There was no understanding that the property actually belonged to him. His sister and brother-in-law had paid for the building and obtained legal title. See id. at 10.

There were no terms of repayment. Peele had no binding obligation to pay the Harnishes. He could either pay or not pay the money paid by the Harnishes at his option. Consequently, . . . the agreement between Peele and the Harnishes is too indefinite upon which to bottom a trust.

Id. Peele had the option—under an oral lease-purchase agreement—of determining if, and when, he would purchase the building by paying his sister and brother-in-law the money they had expended to acquire it. Only if he exercised...

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