A Florida federal court recently construed Florida’s competitive bidding statute to include an offer by a design professional to pay real estate commissions. Design professionals must be aware that various incentives offered in connection with professional services may expose the design professional to liability under the competitive bidding statute.
In Community Maritime Park Associates, Inc. v. Mar. Park Dev. Partners, LLC, 3:11CV60/MCR/CJK, 2011 WL 2790185 (N.D. Fla. July 14, 2011), the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida construed Florida’s competitive bidding statute in a case where a design professional offered a $60,000 commission to a realty company in exchange for awarding a contract to that design professional. The design professional relied on the argument that a real estate brokerage contract is not included within the scope of the competitive bidding statute. The Court was not persuaded. Instead, the Court held that Plaintiff’s allegation that a contingency fee paid by a design professional to a brokerage firm violated the competitive bidding statute was sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss, particularly because the design-build contract at issue was for services within the scope of the competitive bidding statute, such as architecture, engineering and site planning.
The impact of this case is to make design professionals aware that incentives offered in connection with services to be rendered by the professional, even if contained in a potentially excluded document or transaction, may be made subject to the strictures of Florida’s competitive bidding statute