Force boat-seller to deliver
Now we are almost 6 months further, and every time we get a different story from the broker. Also every time they estimate it will take max 2 weeks.
I have the impression that the broker simply cannot fulfill the order and might be out of funds in order to have the vessel shipped. If i call with my own number, the phone is not answered, they stop replying on email etc. If i call with a US-number I do get a response but every time a similar story (the boat is ready to ship and we will ship it on short notice).
I am residing in Bonaire (Dutch Caribbean) and the broker is has the boat in Cape Canaveral (Florida). I am considering to hire legal in order to have the boat finally shipped, or to cancel the order. There is a contract and of course a lot of emails confirming that the broker has received the funds in time.
Especially since I do not live in the US, it is very hard for me to push harder.
2 attorney answers
There is a lot to unpack in your question, and many unanswered questions. First, is the sale/purchase completely fulfilled except for delivery? You mentioned that "the broker received the finds in time." Is there anything left for you to do as your part of the agreement. This is a significant question because the sale or purchase of a vessel is not a maritime contract within admiralty jurisdiction. Have you received a bill of sale, vessel title federal ship's document or other proof that you actually now own the vessel? If you own the vessel, have paid for the vessel, and have fulfilled all other aspects of the purchase agreement, then it is no longer a contract dispute but a suit for possession of the vessel (a possessory action) that is an admiralty matter.
Given the problems you have had and continue to have, it may be a wise course of action to walk away from the sale if you can get all of your money back. If you cannot get all of your money back or if buying thus particular vessel was a particularly good bargain, contact an attorney and sue both the seller and the broker for "specific performance" of the contract or the return of your money. You may be able to sue the seller and broker in admiralty (in the federal) court for possession of the vessel. In any event, you will need to speak with an attorney -- this question is beyond the scope of a simple answer on a public website.
When you consult with an attorney, I suggest you choose one who is thoroughly knowledgeable and experienced in Admiralty and Maritime Law, one who can give you specific legal advice based on the particular facts and circumstances of your case. You can find such an attorney through the Florida Bar. Go to https://www.floridabar.org/directories/find-mbr/. Use the drop-down menus to select “Admiralty and Maritime” in the Board Certifications and Practice Areas menus. You posted from Cape Canaveral, Florida. There are three Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime Attorneys in that area: Stephen "Steve" Moon, Patricia "Trisha" Olney, and Theodore "Ted" Shinkle. I know each of them and they are all excellent attorneys. You could also check with the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute (http://www.seali.com/page-1084527?&tab=2) or the Maritime Law Association of the United States (http://mlaus.org/member-directory/); just fill in the city and state. Finally, you can also use the "Find a Lawyer" link at the top of this web page.
Don't contact just any attorney -- be certain that your attorney is well versed in Admiralty and Maritime Law. Adding navigable waters to your case can give it the "genuinely salty flavor" that invokes maritime law that displaces and preempts the application of land-based law. Admiralty and Maritime Law is substantially different from land-based law. The standard of care is different; the burdens of proof are different; even the amount of time you have to file the case is different. Be very careful in your choice of attorneys to ask specifically how well versed they are in Maritime Law.
Finally, discuss with your attorney whether or not to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Business Regulation, That is the agency that licenses and disciplines yacht brokers. The complaint is a simple three-page form (http://www.myfloridalicense.com/Dbpr/lsc/documents/complaint_003.pdf). Just fill it out and mail it to the address on the bottom of the third page. Florida DBPR advises: "Complaints come from the buying and selling public, licensees, anonymous sources or tips, other enforcement agencies, or may be opened internally. Investigations may address ownership of the vessel; unlicensed activity; escrow violations, such as commingling of funds or failure to return deposits; fraud or dishonest acts; misrepresentation; improper conduct; or any other violations of the Yacht and Ship Brokers’ Act [chapter 326, Florida Statutes]." For more information, go to http://myfloridalicense.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/405.
This answer is general information for discussion purposes only; do not construe it as legal advice. The applicability of the legal principles discussed will differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented in this answer without consulting an attorney about your particular situation. I am not your lawyer, you are not my client, and no attorney-client relationship is established. Do not construe anything in this answer as creating an attorney-client relationship. Again, this answer is only general information for discussion purposes.
I agree with Mr. Richard. Your question is many questions. The specifics are important. Is the broker in possession of the vessel, or does the broker just know where it is? A 'down payment' is not necessarily the same thing as a deposit, and it is not at all clear that a closing of the sale has taken place. You did not mention anything about surveys or sea trials. The question about your receipt of a bill of sale is important, but I think the answer is "No" just based on your description. It also sounds like you expected the broker to pay to ship the vessel, and that is highly unusual. Usually, the Buyer pays, though of course your contract might say otherwise. Is this a new or used boat? In other words, is it something still being finished? A broker is just a broker. They are not typically the seller, and may not have the authority to deliver that you expect. That does not excuse refusing to take your calls, but brokers often occupy a ridiculous position in the middle.
As it happens, I do not think an action for specific performance will assist. It almost certainly would not apply to the broker, unless that broker happens to be the Seller, and actions for specific performance are seldom successful. The apparent fact that no delivery date was specified suggests that there may be other missing elements to your contract, and as noted, those questions demand answers and the gaps make specific performance much harder. I also agree that getting your deposit back may be the best option.
There are several good maritime attorneys in the Canaveral area. I suggest a few phone calls and a review of your contract (plus emails) to get a better idea of how to proceed.
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