Legal Tales from the Sunshine State Eight Stories from Florida Residential Buildings

Work in any business long enough, and chances are nothing will surprise you anymore. This is especially true of co-op and condo lawyers. Along with property managers, attorneys are keepers of some of the best stories to come out of South Florida's co-ops, condos and HOA communities. They hear and see (and litigate) it all, from the crazy cat lady who has imaginary felines running around in her backyard to the suspected mobster who may—or may not?—be running a house of ill repute out of his condo apartment.

We asked three seasoned Sunshine State attorneys—Russell M. Robbins, managing partner with the law firm of Mirza, Basulto & Robbins LLP in Coral Springs; Ryan Poliakoff, senior counsel with Sachs Sax Caplan, P.L., and Keith F. Backer, founder and managing partner of Backer Law Firm, both in Boca Raton—for some of their most memorable legal tales. Here are the eight best:

The Widest-Reaching Leash Law

If you’re a dog person, you—and your faithful hound—probably both enjoy it when you let your pooch run around without a leash. If you’re not, unleashed dogs might put you on guard. There's no shortage of stories about supposedly docile canines biting children or savaging other dogs. But Robbins has a leash story from a high-end association involving a dog that never did anything wrong.

“An owner in the building had been in a car accident, and an insurance adjuster came to the property to look at his car,” he recalls. “The two men were standing outside the property’s elevator along with the owner’s dog, who was very well-behaved. The man didn’t keep the dog on a leash—he just used a rope that he tied around the dog’s neck. The rope was trailing on the floor, and suddenly the elevator door closes on the end of the rope. The two men and the dog are on the outside, but the elevator starts going up, and the dog is being dragged by the rope. So they’re frantically trying to untie the knot from the dog’s neck, and the adjuster is trying to pry open the elevator doors. As the rope goes higher up, it hits the sensor, and the doors come open—and the insurance adjuster falls two stories down to the bottom of the elevator pit.”

The dog was fine, says Robbins; the adjuster broke everything on one side of his body. “The association managed to escape any kind of serious lawsuit because the elevator wasn’t at fault, and since the insurance adjuster was there in a professional capacity, rather than as a guest, it was considered a worker’s compensation injury. But because of all this, the association had to send out a letter telling everyone that dogs must be on physical leashes.”

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