LURIA & SON, INC., for the use and benefit of FIREMAN\'S FUND INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation authorized to do business in the State of Florida, and L. LURIA & SON, INC., individually, Appellants, v. ALARMTEC INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, a/k/a HONEYWELL PROTECTION SERVICES, a Florida corporation, Appellee
Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District
384 So. 2d 947; 1980 Fla. App. LEXIS 16416
June 18, 1980
PRIOR HISTORY: [**1]
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Broward County; Otis Farrington, Judge.
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Appellant business sought review of a decision from the Circuit Court for Broward County (Florida), which entered judgment dismissing with prejudice appellant\'s complaint against appellee security company. Appellant\'s suit sought damages on theories of breach of contract, breach of implied warranties, and negligence, and it also sought recovery of punitive damages for gross, wanton, and willful negligence.
OVERVIEW: Appellant business contracted with appellee security company for appellee to install and maintain an electric protective service against burglary. During the contract period, appellant\'s business premises were burglarized, resulting in a loss. Appellant sued appellee for damages on theories of breach of contract, breach of implied warranties, and negligence. Appellant also sought recovery of punitive damages for gross, wanton, and willful negligence. Appellee disclaimed liability based upon an exculpatory clause contained in the parties\' contract. The lower court dismissed appellant\'s complaint with prejudice. On appeal, the decision was affirmed. The appellate court reasoned that the lower court properly determined that the exculpatory clause totally excluded liability on appellee\'s part for losses due to burglary or, alternatively, limited appellee\'s liability to six months\' rental. The appellate court held that, based upon the clear and unequivocal language of the exculpatory clause, appellant could not recover from appellee.
OUTCOME: The lower court\'s dismissal, with prejudice, of appellant business\'s complaint against appellee security company was affirmed. The appellate court held that the exculpatory clause in the parties\' contract was clear and unequivocal in totally absolving appellee from liability under the facts alleged in appellant\'s complaint.
COUNSEL: Joe N. Unger, Miami, and Pomeroy, Betts & Wiederhold, Fort Lauderdale, for appellants.
Richard A. Sherman of Wicker, Smith, Blomqvist, Davant, McMath, Tutan & O\'Hara, Miami, and Thomas D. Lardin of Weaver & Weaver, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellee.
JUDGES: Before MOORE, J. ANSTEAD, J. and TENDRICH, MOIE J. L., Associate Judge, concur.
The appellant, as plaintiff in the trial court, appeals an order dismissing its complaint with prejudice.
Appellants contracted with appellee, Alarmtec International Corporation, for the latter to install and maintain an electric protective service against burglary. In September 1974, during the contract period, appellant\'s business premises were burglarized, resulting in a loss valued in excess of $ 135,000. The present suit sought damages on several theories: breach of contract, breach of implied warranties and negligence. It also sought recovery of punitive damages for gross, wanton and willful negligence.
The contract between the parties contained what has apparently become the usual exculpatory clause in burglar alarm contracts [**2] as follows:
7. It is agreed that Company is not an insurer and that the payments hereinbefore named are based solely upon the value of the services herein described and it is not the intention of the parties that Company assume responsibility for any loss occasioned by malfeasance or misfeasance [*948] in the performance of the services under this contract or for any loss or damage sustained through burglary, theft, robbery, fire or other cause or any liability on the part of Company by virtue of this Agreement or because of the relation hereby established. If there shall, notwithstanding the above provisions, at any time be or arise any liability on the part of Company by virtue of this Agreement or because of the relation hereby established, whether due to the negligence of Company or otherwise, such liability is and shall be limited to a sum equal to the rental service charge hereunder for a period of service not to exceed six months, which sum shall be paid and received as liquidated damages. Such liability as herein set forth is fixed as liquidated damages and not as a penalty and this liability shall be complete and exclusive. That in the event Subscriber desires Company [**3] to assume greater liability for the performance of its services hereunder, a choice is hereby given of obtaining full or limited liability by paying an additional amount under a graduated scale of rates proportioned to the responsibility, and an additional rider shall be attached to this Agreement setting forth the additional liability of Company and additional charge. That the rider and additional obligation shall in no way be interpreted to hold Company as an insurer.
The appellant made no request to amend its complaint and the trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice, relying on the exculpatory clause. The court found that the above clause totally excluded liability on appellee\'s part for losses due to burglary or, alternatively, limited appellee\'s liability to six months rental. We affirm.
Although the eight count complaint in this case is based on several theories it is grounded on appellee\'s negligent failure to perform its contractual duties. HN1Exculpatory contracts which relieve a party of liability for his own negligence are generally looked upon with disfavor. Orkin Exterminating Co. v. Montagano, 359 So.2d 512 (Fla. 4th DCA 1978); Kinkaid v. Avis [**4] Rent-A-Car Systems, Inc., 281 So.2d 223 (Fla. 4th DCA 1973) (dissenting opinion). Such clauses have been upheld, however, as valid and enforceable where the intention is made clear and unequivocal. Middleton v. Lomaskin, 266 So.2d 678 (Fla. 3d DCA 1972).
We find the aforecited clause to be clear and unequivocal in totally absolving the appellee from liability under the facts alleged in this complaint. The trial court was therefore correct in dismissing the complaint. In view of this holding it is not necessary to reach the second issue regarding limiting appellee\'s liability to six months rental payments. Nevertheless, for the benefit of the bar, we adopt the holding in Central Alarm of Tucson v. Ganem, 116 Ariz. 74, 567 P.2d 1203 (1977) and would so limit the liability if we were called upon to do so.
ANSTEAD, J., and TENDRICH, MOIE J. L., Associate Judge, concur.