Judge dismisses quiet title lawsuit involving Freeport Business Park

A QUIET TITLE lawsuit involving Freeport Business Park, also known as Freeport Commons, was recently concluded in favor of Walton County and other parties who operate within the 29-unit business park on SR-20 East.

By DOTTY NIST

There has been a recent dismissal of a lawsuit in which a Brevard County limited liability company had claimed ownership of Freeport Business Park.

In 2017, Walton County had purchased all but a few of the units of the 29-unit business park, which is on SR-20 East in Freeport.

Since Walton County’s acquisition of 24 of the business park units for county office space, the property has also been known as Freeport Commons. Walton County had paid seller Freeport Center, L.L.C., $1.9 million for the 24 business park units. 

As well as serving as the central location for Walton County Planning and Development Services, the business park now houses office and meeting space for the Walton County Board of County Commissioners and other county entities, along with locations for the Walton County Tax Collector and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. Private businesses also operate from a few other units in the business park complex.

T&M United II, L.C.C., the Brevard County-based company that had filed the lawsuit, is owner of the gas station and convenience store property at the northwest corner of SR-20 East and U.S. 331, located to the east of Freeport Business Park. T&M United acquired the gas station/convenience store in March 2018, according to Walton County Property Appraiser’s records.

T&M United filed the lawsuit, a quiet title action, in Walton County Circuit Court in August 2018. Among other parties, named as defendants in the lawsuit were Walton County, individual private party owners of other units in the business park complex, and the Freeport Business Park Owners Association, a nonprofit association representing Walton County as owner of units in the business park and other unit owners.

In a quiet title action, a party claiming ownership of a property may ask a court for a judgment removing any legal interests of other parties to a property.

Presented by T&M United in support of their claims was a quit claim deed related to the property in question, dated July 23, 2018, from grantor Gulf Coast Petroleum to T&M United, grantee. Also presented were a series of warranty deeds and other deeds related to the property dating back to 1947.

While acknowledging that defendants in the lawsuit, including Walton County, “may claim some right, title or interest in the Property,” T&M United maintained that any such right, title, or interest was “inferior” to that of the L.L.C.— and that the title of the property should be “quieted” in T&M United’s favor.

Walton County was represented in the lawsuit by Davis S. O’Quinn, an attorney with the in-house litigation department of the county’s title insurance company.

In a response, Walton County denied that T&M was entitled to the quiet title “relief” sought from the court and asked for dismissal of the lawsuit.

In November 2020, Walton County filed a motion for dismissal of the lawsuit for failure to prosecute, observing that for over 10 months there had been no activity in connection with the case (no filings, orders, etc.). The county asked for dismissal of the case based on expiration of the 60-day period provided for in Florida Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1.420(e), which allows dismissal of a case at the end of the 60 days in the absence of a stay or a party having shown good cause in writing why the case should remain pending.

On Jan. 28, 2021, Jeffrey E. Lewis, presiding judge, issued a ruling in the case, stating that no record activity had occurred in the quiet title action for over a year and that no stay was in effect. Judge Lewis also noted that the plaintiff (T&M United) had “failed to show why the action should remain pending.”

He granted Walton County’s motion for dismissal, resulting in closing of the case.