We affirm the summary judgment under review based upon the application of the traditional corporate law rule which does not impose the liabilities of the selling predecessor upon the buying successor company unless: (1) the successor expressly or impliedly assumes the obligations of the predecessor; (2) the transaction is a de facto merger; (3) the successor is a mere continuation of the predecessor; or (4) the transaction is a fraudulent effort to avoid liabilities of the predecessor. Bernard v. Kee Manufacturing Co., 409 So.2d 1047 (Fla. 1982); Anders v. Jacksonville Electric Authority, 443 So.2d 330 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983), review denied, 451 So.2d 847 (Fla. 1984). See also De La Rosa v. Tropical Sandwiches, Inc., 298 So.2d 471 (Fla. 3d DCA 1974), cert. denied, 312 So.2d 760 (Fla. 1975).
It is undisputed that the first three exceptions to the successor corporation rule are not applicable to the present case. The plaintiff claims, however, that the fraudulent transaction exception applies. Although the plaintiff attempted to raise a number of factors argued to be "badges of fraud" in his memorandum of law in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, he has at no time sought to amend the complaint in this regard. At a summary judgment hearing, the court must only consider those issues made by the pleadings. See Accurate Metal Finishing Corp. v. Carmel, 254 So.2d 556 (Fla. 3d DCA 1971); Couchman v. Goodbody & Co., 231 So.2d 842 (Fla. 4th DCA 1970); Turf Express, Inc. v. Palmer, 209 So.2d 461 (Fla. 3d DCA 1968).
It has long been the Florida rule that whenever fraud is relied upon, allegations relating thereto must be specific, and facts constituting fraud must be clearly stated. Fraud is never presumed and where it is the basis of a pleading, the essential facts, and not legal conclusions, which constitute fraud must be set out clearly, concisely and with sufficient particularity to apprise the opposite party of
The only allegation in the plaintiff's complaint that comes close to asserting fraud on Gingerale's part is the allegation that at the time of the sale and transfer of Coconut Restaurant Corporation's assets to Gingerale, Gingerale "had actual and/or constructive knowledge of the existence of a valid and pending cause of action by Plaintiff against [Coconut Restaurant], and was therefore, by operation of law, not a bona fide purchaser under Florida law, and was therefore subject to and assumed the debts and liabilities [of Coconut Restaurant] existing at said time... ." The latter part of this quoted allegation is, of course, merely a conclusion of law. The only factual allegation is that Gingerale had actual or constructive knowledge of the plaintiff's pending suit.
The allegation of actual knowledge was refuted by all the evidence before the trial court, namely, the affidavit of one of the two owners of Gingerale and the deposition of the second owner taken by the plaintiff. The plaintiff presented no affidavit or deposition testimony to support the allegation. In any event, even if the plaintiff could find evidence to support the allegation and, in fact, prove that Gingerale had actual knowledge of his pending suit, this factor alone would be insufficient to support a finding of fraud.
Broughton's Adm'x v. Barclay, Ky., 116 S.W. 320 (1909). Likewise, the Georgia supreme court has held that a grantee's actual knowledge of the pendency of a suit is not, in and of itself, conclusive in law or in fact as to the grantee's participation in a fraud. Jackson v. Faver, 210 Ga. 58, 77 S.E.2d 728 (1953). Cf. Gray v. Folwell, 57 N.J. Eq. 446, 41 A. 869 (Ch. 1898) (holding that even if transferee-wife knew that the transfer of assets was to defeat a pending claim against transferor-husband, transferee is protected at least up to the amount she paid (for the assets) to the transferor's creditors).
Accordingly, the plaintiff has failed to allege the existence of any facts to avoid the application of the successor corporation rule and, therefore, we affirm the summary judgment entered in favor of Gingerale Corporation.