When it comes to buying one particular five-bedroom, five-bathroom waterfront house in Gables by the Sea, one Miami couple isn’t taking no for an answer.
On Jan. 8, Juan Carlos and Natalie Mederos sued the property’s current owner, Douglas Gallagher, for backing out of a deal to sell them the house for $2.19 million last month. The Mederos are seeking a court order to force Gallagher to close and turn over the property.
“He wants to rescind the contract, but won’t give a reason why,” said David Winker, the attorney representing the Mederos. “It’s a pretty unusual case in that rarely does the seller back out at the last minute. I’ve only seen it happen during a boom when someone will come along with a bigger offer.”
A Coral Gables businessman, Gallagher is the brother of former Florida Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher and he is married to Vietnamese Princess Thi-Nga. They own the Poetic Moon winery in Napa Valley and are very active in South Florida’s social scene. According to Zillow, the Gables by the Sea house is currently listed for $2.5 million and is billed as a “Yachtman’s Paradise” featuring 92 linear feet of dock and seawall with direct ocean access. Gallagher’s lawyer Nicholas Siegfried declined comment.
According to the lawsuit, the Mederos entered into a residential sales contract and put down a $200,000 deposit to buy Gallagher’s house at 13061 Lerida Street for $2.2 million. After three addendums, the price was negotiated down to $2.19 million, the complaint alleges.
The Mederos allege Gallagher breached the contract on Nov. 9 by refusing to allow them to conduct an insurance inspection. Instead, Gallagher hired his own inspector who produced a report containing a number of alleged falsehoods. For instance, the report allegedly stated that the home’s entire plumbing system was replaced in 2005 when the property still has its original cast iron pipes, some of which leak, the lawsuit claims.
Despite meeting all their obligations, Gallagher’s lawyer informed the Mederos on Dec. 10 that his client would not be closing the transaction. Both sides attempted to mediate, but could not break the impasse, the lawsuit states.
Florida law allows buyers to request a judge to force sellers to consummate a real estate contract, Winker said. “A judge can force him to hand over the property,” he said. “If he loses, he has to sell the house plus pay all of my clients’ attorney fees so the stakes couldn’t be higher. “