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Westland Skating Center, Inc. v. Gus Machado Buick, Inc.

Supreme Court of Florida
542 So.2d 959 (1989)


Facts

Westland Skating Center, Inc. (Westland) (plaintiff) operates a skating center on a parcel of land owned by Hialeah Skating Center, Ltd. (plaintiff). Gus Machado Buick, Inc. (Machado) (defendant) operates an auto dealership on an adjoining parcel of land, which was owned by Seip’s Buick (Seip) at the time this dispute arose. Seip’s parcel was at a lower elevation than Westland’s and, as a result, surface waters flowed naturally through Westland’s parcel onto Seip’s parcel. Prior to the construction of the skating center, the surface waters did not damage Seip’s property. However, in April 1980, after the skating rink was constructed, Seip’s property suffered serious flooding after a rainstorm. In response, Seip built a wall between his property and Westland’s. During heavy rainfall in August 1981, the water hit the wall, which acted as a dam, and flowed back up underneath the floor of Westland’s skating center. The rink suffered heavy damage and, after another episode of flooding one month later, the rink closed down. Westland and Hialeah sued Seip for damages and sought a mandatory injunction to remove the wall. Seip counterclaimed for damages and sought an injunction to prevent Westland from damaging the wall. Machado subsequently purchased Seip’s property and substituted for Seip in this action. Before trial, the court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Westland and Hialeah, declaring that Machado’s lower elevation property was the servient tenement for all surface water that flowed from the skating center. The jury relied on the partial summary judgment in finding for Westland and Hialeah. The Third District Court of Appeal reversed the judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Grimes, J.)

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