Casa Clara Condominium Association, Inc. v. Charley Toppino & Sons, Inc.

620 So.2d 1244 (1993)

Quick Summary

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Casa Clara Condominium Association (plaintiff) sued Charley Toppino & Sons, Inc. (defendant) for damages resulting from defective concrete that led to structural damage in condominiums. The plaintiff alleged breach of warranty, products liability, negligence, and building code violations.

The dispute centered on whether homeowners could claim economic losses from a supplier based on negligence without any physical injury or damage to other property. The Supreme Court of Florida concluded that under the economic loss rule, such recovery in tort was not permissible.

Facts of the Case

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Casa Clara Condominium Association, Inc. (plaintiff) is the owner of condominiums that were constructed using concrete supplied by Charley Toppino & Sons, Inc. (defendant), a concrete supplier. The concrete contained excessive salt levels, leading to rusting of the reinforcing steel and subsequent cracking and breaking of the concrete.

The plaintiff suffered damages due to this defective concrete and filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging breach of common law implied warranty, products liability, negligence, and violation of the building code.

The damage sustained by the condominiums owned by the plaintiff, which was allegedly caused by the defective concrete supplied by the defendant. This dispute centers on the liability of the concrete supplier for the damages incurred by the condominium association due to the use of the substandard building material.

Procedural Posture and History

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  1. The circuit court dismissed all counts against Toppino.
  2. The Condo Association appealed to the district court.
  3. The district court held that there was no cause of action in tort because no person was injured and no other property was damaged, and that Toppino had no duty to comply with the building code as a supplier.
  4. The Condo Association then appealed to the Supreme Court of Florida.

I.R.A.C. Format


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Whether a homeowner can recover for purely economic losses from a concrete supplier under a negligence theory.

Rule of Law

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The economic loss rule prohibits tort recovery when a product damages itself, causing economic loss but not causing personal injury or damage to any property other than itself.

Reasoning and Analysis

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The Supreme Court of Florida agreed with the district court that homeowners cannot recover purely economic losses from a concrete supplier in tort when no physical injury or damage to other property has occurred. The court emphasized that tort law is designed to encourage citizens to avoid causing physical harm to others and is not intended to protect economic expectations, which are safeguarded by contract law.

The court noted that there are sufficient protections for homeowners, such as statutory warranties and duties to disclose defects, which are more appropriate than tort principles for recovering economic loss without accompanying physical injury or property damage.

The Court also highlighted that allowing tort recovery for purely economic losses would blur the fundamental boundary between contract law and tort law, potentially leading to an unmanageable expansion of tort liability.

Furthermore, the Court rejected the argument that Toppino’s concrete damaged ‘other’ property, asserting that the homeowners purchased finished homes, not the individual components, and thus any damage was to the product itself rather than to other property.


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The Court affirmed the decisions of the district court, holding that the economic loss rule applies and preventing recovery in tort for purely economic losses in this context.

Dissenting Opinions

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Chief Justice Barkett dissented in part, arguing that denying a remedy for homes allegedly crumbling due to negligently manufactured concrete is unacceptable. The dissent emphasized that wrongs should have remedies and that homeowners should be able to claim damages when their homes are falling apart due to defective concrete.

Justice Shaw also dissented in part, contending that the economic loss rule should not apply when innocent third parties suffer damage beyond economic loss to a product—here, their homes—due to a foreseeable consequence of a defective product.

Key Takeaways

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  1. The economic loss rule limits recovery in tort for purely economic damages when no physical harm or damage to other property has occurred.
  2. Homeowners’ protections against economic disappointment in real estate transactions are governed by contract law rather than tort law.
  3. The Supreme Court of Florida held that homeowners cannot recover purely economic losses from a concrete supplier under a negligence theory.

Relevant FAQs of this case

What are the limitations of tort law in addressing purely economic losses?

Tort law primarily addresses harm resulting from wrongs that lead to personal injury or property damage. It has clear limitations when it comes to purely economic losses, where the harm suffered is financial rather than physical. In cases of economic loss without accompanying injury or damage to other property, contract law, not tort law, is typically the avenue for seeking redress.

  • For example:If a poorly designed software causes a company to lose business data, leading to financial losses, the company would generally seek compensation through breach of contract rather than a tort claim, as the software has not caused physical harm or damage to other property.

How does contract law differ from tort law in terms of protecting economic interests?

Contract law is designed to uphold and enforce agreements between parties and to protect their economic interests as defined by those agreements. It provides remedies for breach of contract that result in economic loss. Tort law, on the other hand, seeks to remedy wrongs that cause direct harm to persons or property and is not primarily concerned with economic expectations.

  • For example:When a wedding photographer fails to show up, causing the couple to incur additional costs for last-minute replacement, they would likely seek damages for breach of contract rather than pursue a tort claim since the issue pertains to a failure to fulfill agreed-upon services.

Why is the economic loss rule significant in determining the boundary between contract and tort claims?

The economic loss rule serves as a demarcation line that prevents overlaps between contract law and tort law. By limiting tort claims to cases involving physical harm or property damage, it ensures that parties rely on contract terms they agreed upon for pure economic loss disputes. This preserves the integrity and predictability of business transactions and legal obligations.

  • For example:A homeowner cannot sue a home inspector in tort for failing to detect issues during an inspection that later result in costly repairs; instead, they would pursue a breach of contract claim based on the inspector’s failure to provide services as agreed.


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