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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.”
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.
With offices in downtown Pensacola, Pace and Pine Forest, Clear Title provides professional residential real estate closing services throughout the Florida Panhandle. If you are looking for a professional closing company with a long track record of successful, error-free closings, we invite you to get in touch. To speak with one of our professionals about your closing in Northwest Florida, inquire online or call Pace office (850) 994-3838, Pine Forest office (850) 202-8518 or downtown Pensacola (850) 378-8765 today.
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