Palm Beach jury: FPL must pay $1.5M after failing to pay real estate commission on handshake deal

FPL owes real estate agent Samuel McRoberts the sum after an agreement made at an FSU Parents Weekend party

A handshake deal
A handshake deal

A Palm Beach jury found that Florida Power & Light Co. owes $1.5 million after failing to pay a commission on a handshake deal concerning parcels of land on a ranch in Hendry County.

Realtor Samuel J. McRoberts and Jorge “Buck” Martinez, the former director of project development at FPL, agreed to the deal at a Florida State University tailgate party at 2008 Parents’s Weekend, the Daily Business Review reported.

According to Florida law, an oral agreement is a binding contract.

According to the verdict filed on June 28, Juno-based FPL paid about $75 million for the McDaniel Ranch parcels in 2011 and 2013 but paid no commission to McRoberts who let Martinez know about the land. The case was tried in Palm Beach Circuit Court as Samuel J. McRoberts v. Florida Power & Light Co.

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No bystanders heard the conversation, though McRoberts’ wife said she saw an ‘intense’ exchange between Martinez and McRoberts at the 2008 Parents’ Weekend tailgate. At the time, Martinez’s daughter was roommates with McRobert’s daughter.

McRoberts is an agent with Walter Point Realty Group who deals with large-volume vacant land sales, according to the Daily Business Review. McRoberts had said that he learned about the McDaniel Ranch land through a former colleague.

FPL counsel Charles Schlumberger argued that the company found out about the land through a 2009 meeting with Eddie Garcia, a representative of the land owner. McRoberts’ attorneys Gregory Weiss and Lou Mrachek of Mrachek, Fitzgerald, Rose, Konopka, Thomas & Weiss, argued that the attendees gave inconsistent accounts of the meeting.

“It’s truly a trial lawyer’s case because it was a ‘he said versus he said’ issue … a classic [case of] two sides telling a distinctly different story and the jury having to decide who’s more credible,” McRoberts’ West Palm Beach attorney Gregory Weiss told the Daily Business Review. [DBR] – Grace Guarnieri