Chames v. DeMayo
Florida Supreme Court
972 So. 2d 850 (2007)
Henry DeMayo (plaintiff) retained Deborah Chames and her law firm, Heller & Chames, P.A. (Chames) (defendants). DeMayo signed Chames’s six-page, single-spaced, unsecured retainer agreement, which included a provision stating that he “knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waives his rights to assert his homestead exemption” against a charging lien imposed by Chames. The waiver clause appeared at the end of a 118-word sentence. Chames ultimately obtained a charging lien against DeMayo, and the trial court applied the lien to DeMayo’s home based on the waiver in the retainer agreement. DeMayo appealed, arguing that the waiver of his homestead exemption was invalid and that the trial court could not enforce Chames’s charging lien against his home. Chames countered, arguing that (1) the amendment to Florida’s Constitution applying the homestead exemption to “a natural person” instead of “the head of a family” changed the protection into a waivable personal right; (2) Florida’s sister states allow homestead-exemption waivers in unsecured contracts; and (3) other constitutional rights can be waived, so the homestead exemption should also be waivable. The district court reversed, finding the waiver invalid. Chames appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Cantero, J.)
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