A Canadian husband and wife, Paul and Beverly Cutler owned a townhome in Wellington Florida. The husband signed a lease with a Mr. and Mrs. Roger Pelletier listed as the tenants. In reality. the property was occupied by Mrs. Pelletier and her single friend Pamela Caputo. Ms. Caputo was Mr. Cutler’s mistress and no rent was ever paid. When Mrs. Cutler discovered this, she had the locks changed and the ladies belongings removed to the garage.
The ladies then proceeded to sue the Cutlers for wrongful eviction and the theft of some items they claimed were missing. The court entered a judgment against the Cutlers for $178,500 as treble compensatory damages and $300,200 as punitive damages. The sting of a mistress scorned!
Most of that sting was reversed on appeal. The 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that as Mrs. Cutler did not sign the lease to the jointly owned townhome, that Pelletier and Caputo, were “guests” of Mr. Cutler, but not lawful tenants. Property held by husband and wife as tenants by the entireties cannot be leased without both spouses joining in the contract. Thus, the judgment for unlawful eviction was overturned. The court also noted that the civil theft statute was changed after the complaint was filed, but before the judgment was entered eliminating punitive damages, so that portion of the judgment was also reversed. The case was remanded to determine the actual value of the missing items at the time of loss, rather than their replacement cost and the judgment was reduced to $12,510.00 plus interest.
CUTLER v. PELLETIER
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
507 So.2d 676
12 Fla. L. Weekly 1255