FLORIDA – Inexperienced lawyer wins epic courtroom battle in Lake County

CCFJ.NET:  Inexperienced lawyer wins epic courtroom battle in Lake County

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Lauren Ritchie   

Published February 4, 2017

Three years ago, a Mount Dora attorney who has been a member of the Florida Bar for 35 years but never really practiced law got annoyed by the builder-controlled homeowner association at Sullivan Ranch, where she lives. Sara MacKenzie thought that Centex Homes, owner of vacant lots in the subdivision south of State Road 46, should have been paying its share for those lots into required reserve funds — fees that today are estimated at $1 million. She sued.

And so it began.

“I think this probably might be a little over Mrs. MacKenzie’s head, to be quite candid. … I will offend everybody in the room, but this isn’t something that — to be involved in this kind of litigation at this level, you can’t just walk out and say that ‘I’ve drafted wills,’ or ‘I’ve done real estate closings’ and walk into a courtroom and deal with something like this…
…it’s just that she’s not experienced in this area of law and that became obvious to all of us pretty early on.”
 Lake Circuit Judge William Law
Transcript of July 27, 2016 hearing

The battle with Centex, owned by one of the largest homebuilders in America and represented by a politically high-powered, well-respected Florida law firm, stretched over three long, painful years in which MacKenzie, 71, struggled to litigate a complex question in an extremely specialized area of law. MacKenzie and her bank account were up against the company owned by PulteGroup, which reported $816 million in pre-tax earnings in 2015 along with a $2.3 billion reinvestment in growing the company.  Read more:

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