Two major Florida law firms—Holland & Knight and Broad and Cassel—are targets of a $26 million malpractice lawsuit alleging they made serious errors in drafting a lease.
The lawsuit was filed Dec. 13 in Hillsborough Circuit Court by Miami attorney Warren Trazenfeld on behalf of Don Wallace, the former owner of what’s billed as the world’s largest recreational vehicle dealership, Lazy Days R.V. Center in Seffner.
The suit alleges Wallace lost out on $10 million in tenant improvements and $16 million in lease payments due to errors made by the law firms in drafting a ground lease with an option to purchase.
Both firms denied the allegations, some of which date back to 1999 when the original contract was written. It was amended in 2006.
Trazenfeld’s suit does not name individual lawyers as defendants.
Wallace, his late brother and his father opened Lazy Days R.V. Center in 1976 with $500 and two travel trailers. Over the years, the dealership and campgrounds grew to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of annual revenue, attracting 1 million visitors a year.
In 1999, the Wallace family sold the RV empire to Pennsylvania-based Alliance Holdings. As part of the deal, the Wallaces’ holding company, I-4 Land Holdings Ltd. Co., entered into a ground lease with a purchase option for the 140-acre property.
Wallace hired Holland & Knight and Miami partner Bruce Jay Colan to handle the drafting. The ground lease was amended in 2006 by Broad and Cassel and its attorney Chris Green.
In May 2011, the option to purchase was exercised. That’s when Trazenfeld said the Wallace family discovered the lease and contract errors.
The negligence complaint said the contracts neglected to include rental income from the date the option was exercised through the closing, amounting to about $16 million. They also failed to include valuation for tenant improvements valued at $10 million.
Litigation erupted on both sides over the terms of the ground lease in Hillsborough Circuit Court, with the Wallace family seeking to evict the owners. After a bench trial, a Tampa judge ruled against the Wallace family.
“Two of Florida’s top law firms caused my client devastating economic consequences,” Trazenfeld said. “Remarkably, Holland & Knight lawyers prepared a ground lease which ignored case law that allowed a tenant exercising an option to avoid payment of rent thereafter. Broad and Cassel completely botched the definitional sections of the 2006 ground lease amendment.”
Holland & Knight declined comment on the lawsuit. Spokeswoman Olivia M. Hoch said the firm was in the process of hiring counsel.
Broad and Cassel is represented by Isaac Mitrani of Mitrani, Rynor, Adamsky & Toland in Miami.
“I-4 Land Holdings Limited Company had a dispute with its tenant and lost in court,” he said. “It’s unfortunate I-4 is using this approach as leverage to try to obtain a second trial, this time against its former attorneys. We will vigorously contest this claim and demonstrate that it has no merit.”