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What We Can Learn from Supreme Court’s Thinking in Gilchrist Timber Company v. ITT Raynor

August 3, 2017 Posted in Blog


In the Florida Supreme Court decision, Gilchrist Timber Company v. ITT Raynor [696 So. 2d 334 (Fla. 1997)], Gilchrist purchased more than 22,000 acres from ITT. Prior to the closing, ITT sent Gilchrist a year-old appraisal. This assessment erroneously indicated that the property was zoned “agricultural,” which allowed residential uses. In actuality, it was zoned “preservation.”

Big difference.


Thanks to the preservation zoning, the property could not be used for residential, and the timber could not be forested.

Gilchrist could not prove that the misrepresentation was intentional.

The Court grappled with the issue of whether a defendant can be held liable for a representation that was made without knowing it was false – a negligent misrepresentation – when the recipient could have learned that the representation was false if he had investigated. The zoning designation, after all, was a matter of public record.

The Court held that the negligent misrepresenter could be liable, even if the falsity could have been determined by investigation.

The Court also held that the trial court should determine the comparative fault of the parties and weigh the percentage of liability for each party’s negligence.

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