Clarification as to Two Important Florida Attorneys’ Fees’ Statutes.
On January 10, 2013, the Supreme Court of Florida issued a 34 page opinion in Diamond Aircraft Industries, Inc. v. Alan Horowitch, wherein the Court answered a number of questions certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. This opinion touches on a number of points that are important to a business law practice.
In response to one of the questions, the Court held that, the Plaintiff was wrong in alleging that the Florida’s Deceptive Unfair Trade Practices Act (which has an prevailing party attorneys’ fees provision) did not apply to the case (and instead Arizona’s similar Act applied). The Defendant, who ultimately prevailed on its claim, was entitled to attorneys’ fees for defending the claim, but only until the time that the trial Court determined that Florida’s statute did not apply (and Arizona’s statute applied, which does not contain an attorneys’ fees provision). This conclusion seems troubling, in that the Court should not limit the defendant’s recovery of fees for successfully defending a claim regardless of any later finding that different law applies.
Another important provision of the opinion made it clear that the Florida Offer of Judgment Statutes, which are used regularly in business litigation practices, ONLY APPLY, in purely legal and not equitable actions. This clarification is important in that a party seeking any type of relief that is not legal in nature, will bar any ability to make an offer of judgment.
The Court also further clarified that if an Offer of Judgment is made in a case where attorneys’ fees may be recoverable by statute or through a contract, and the offer does not contain the required element of whether or not attorneys’ fees are included in the offer the offer is invalid.
The opinion will have an impact on Florida litigation practice and should be read and understood by any business attorney.
ERIC N. ASSOULINE, ESQ.
Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, and Corporate Law
Miami · Ft. Lauderdale · Boca Raton