County Civil Court: APPELLATE PROCEDURE Ė Preservation of Error Ė lack of transcript - Appellant is unable to demonstrate reversible error or overcome presumption of correctness of trial courtís ruling without a transcript - Final Judgment affirmed.Ellis v. Nanos, Appeal No. 06-0024AP-88A (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. Feb. 7, 2007).








††††††††††††††††††††††† Appellant,

vs.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††† Appeal No. 06-0024AP-88A

††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††UCN522006P000024XXXXCV


††††††††††††††††††††††† Appellee.


Appeal from Pinellas County Court

Small Claims Division


Smokey F.C. Ellis

Appellant, pro se





††††††††††† THIS CAUSE came before the Court on appeal, filed by Smokey F.C. Ellis (Ellis), from the Final Judgment for Defendant, entered March 10, 2006.Upon review of the Initial Brief,[1] the record and being otherwise fully advised, the Court affirms the trial courtís ruling as set forth below.

The record shows that Ellis filed a Statement of Claim in Small Claims Court against Mary Nanos (Nanos) seeking to recover unpaid rent in the amount of $ 495.00, plus costs.After a non-jury trial, the trial court entered its Final Judgment for Defendant.As set forth in the Final Judgment, the trial court found that:

Defendant/Tenant never sued for return of [the] $ 550.00 security deposit.Landlord never sued for damages in excess of the deposit.From the evidence the Court concludes that Landlordís retention of the security deposit more than compensates Landlord for alleged damages.


Landlord has failed to mitigate damages for unpaid rent, but has allowed the premises to remain vacant so that he might make repairs himself when convenient.Therefore, Defendant is not responsible for Landlordís loss of rental income.


Before this Court, Ellisí basic argument is that the trial court erred in entered Final Judgment for Nanos.The trial courtís interpretation of a contract is a matter of law subject to a de novo standard of review.See Jenkins v. Eckerd Corporation, 913 So.2d 43, 49 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005).A trial courtís factual findings are reviewed under the competent substantial evidence standard.See Houlihanís Restuarants, Inc. v. Apac-Florida, Inc., 911 So.2d 816, 818 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005).

The Court finds that the contract attached to Ellisí Statement of Claim and the Notice of Intention to Impose Claim, identified in the record as Exhibit # 1, both show that the security deposit totaled $ 550.00.This is competent substantial evidence to support the trial courtís ruling that the security deposit covered Ellisí claim for damages.See Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Trimble, 821 So.2d 1084, 1087 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002)(providing that competent substantial evidence is such evidence that is ďsufficiently relevant and material that a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to support the conclusion reachedĒ).

Further, Ellis is otherwise unable to demonstrate reversible error or overcome the presumption of correctness of the trial courtís ruling without a transcript of the proceedings below.See Applegate v. Barnett Bank of Tallahassee, 377 So.2d 1150, 1152 (Fla. 1979)(stating that the decision of the trial court has the presumption of correctness and the burden is on the appellant to demonstrate error); see also Smiley v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 704 So.2d 204, 205 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998)(explaining that the appellate court cannot substitute its opinion on the evidence but rather must indulge every fact and inference in support of the trial courtís judgment, which is the equivalent of a jury verdict).

Therefore, it is,

††††††††††† ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Final Judgment for Defendant is affirmed.

††††††††††† DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this ______ of February 2007.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††† ________________________________

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††† R. TIMOTHY PETERS

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††† Circuit Judge, Appellate Division





______________________________††††††††††††††††††††††† ______________________________

GEORGE M. JIROTKA††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† CYNTHIA J. NEWTON

Circuit Judge, Appellate Division†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Circuit Judge, Appellate Division




Copies furnished to:


Judge Walt Fullerton


Smokey F.C. Ellis

3455 Ė 35th Street North

St. Petersburg, FL33713


Mary Nanos

6275 Ė 76th Avenue North

Pinellas Park, FL33781

[1] Nanos failed to file an answer brief even after being directed to do so.However, the Court cannot not reverse the trial court based solely on Nanosí failure to file an answer brief and must review this case on the merits of the Initial Brief and the appellate record.See State, Board of Optometry v. Florida Society of Opthalmology, 538 So.2d 878, 888 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988)(explaining that appellate court must review case on the merits even when no answer brief is filed).