A Legitimate Stranger: Fourth DCA Holds Non-Party Had Standing to Attack Fraudulently Obtained Judgment

Davis v. M&M Aircraft Acquisitions, Inc.
Case No. 4D11-706

The Fourth District Court of Appeal (“DCA”) reviewed a trial court order denying a non-party’s motion to vacate a final judgment. Robert Davis owned 40% of Aerovision, LLC, and Daniel McCue owned 60%. McCue sold his interest in Aerovision to M&M Aircraft. Davis then sought a declaratory judgment in federal court that he was the only member authorized to manage Aerovision. M&M sued Aerovision in state court seeking a similar declaration of status for McCue. The trial court, unaware of Davis’ interest in Aerovision, granted a final judgment in which it found that McCue was Aerovision’s “sole managing member.” Davis filed a motion to vacate the final judgment on the grounds of fraud, pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540(b). The trial court denied Davis’ motion because it found that the final judgment did not directly affect his rights.

On appeal, the Fourth DCA held that the facts of the case showed that the final judgment directly affected Davis’ rights such that he had standing to bring a motion to vacate the final judgment under rule 1.540(b) if the judgment was obtained by fraud or collusion, despite his status as a non-party to the state court action. The court pointed out that the parties stipulated to Davis’ 40% ownership of Aerovision and authority to manage it, as well as that the final judgment had been fraudulently obtained. The court reversed and remanded, with the instruction that the trial court could consider additional evidence.