Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 23, 2018

FL Appeals Court Finds Successful Assertion of Federal Jurisdiction was not Necessary for State Law Claims to be Tolled in Case Involving Toucan Farmers

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

The Foleys were commercial toucan farmers who attempted to run their business out of their home in Orange County. After a neighbor complained, Orange County Code Enforcement investigated and determined that the Foleys were violating the Orange County Code. Following a public hearing, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (“BZA”) found that the Foleys were in violation of the Code and the Board of County Commissioners (“BCC”) affirmed that decision. After exhausting their administrative remedies, the Foleys filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Orange County, various county employees, and the members of the BZA and BCC in both their individual and official capacities, raising federal and state claims. The district court determined that the County was entitled to summary judgment on all of the Foleys’ federal claims, but that the Foleys were entitled to summary judgment on their state law claims because the relevant Code provisions were void.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the Foleys’ federal claims were frivolous and that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the state law claims, and the district court dismissed the case on remand. Within thirty days of the dismissal, the Foleys initiated a state court action against the County and the Official and Employee Defendants. The Official and Employee Defendants filed motions to dismiss, alleging that Florida’s statute of limitations barred the action.

On appeal, the Official and Employee Defendants contended that the Foleys’ cause of action accrued on February 18, 2008, that all of the claims were governed by the four-year statute of limitations in section 95.11(3), and that the Foleys filed their federal lawsuit within the limitations period. Defendants asserted, however, that section 1367(d) did not toll the limitations period while the federal action was pending because the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the federal district court lacked original jurisdiction. The court foundSection 1367(d) provided for a tolling of state law limitations on any state law claim asserted in federal court under section 1367(a). The only requirements were that the claim be asserted under section 1367(a). Accordingly, the court held that section 1367(d) applied, as its text did not require a successful assertion of federal jurisdiction. As such, since the Foleys brought their state court claims within thirty days of the dismissal of their federal case, the trial court erred in finding that the statute of limitations barred their action.

Foley v Azam, 2018 WL 5090837 (FL App. 5th Dist. 10/19/2018)

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