The Supreme Court of Florida has put the stamp of legitimacy on an argument long disfavored by large institutions when they lose a case and are faced with having to pay attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party.
Whether based upon an Offer of Judgment, by contract, or by statute, the issue of the reasonableness of attorneys’ fees sought by the prevailing party is often a contested matter. Unfortunately, as both a delay tactic and a means to reduce the amount the prevailing party may recover, larger institutions all too often argue that the amount of attorneys’ fees sought by the entitled party is unreasonable.
On March 24, 2016, the Supreme Court of Florida issued its opinion in the case of Paton v. GEICO General Insurance Co. In Paton, the plaintiff sued its insurance company for failing to pay a claim. After winning at the trial level the Plaintiff sought attorneys’ fees from the defendant insurance company, as provided by statute. As part of the Plaintiff’s preparations for presentation as to the amount of attorneys’ fees sought, Plaintiff propounded paper discovery on the insurance company related to their attorneys’ billing records and other related attorneys’ fees discovery. The insurance company objected to the discovery propounded by the plaintiff, and the basis for the objection is the subject of the Supreme Court of Florida’s review.
At the Supreme Court of Florida level, Florida’s high court ultimately held that, in light of the objections raised by the insurance company, as to the amount of attorneys’ hours expended by the Plaintiff, the amount of hours expended by the insurance company’s attorneys was relevant to the issue of the reasonableness.
Although the court noted that this is an issue that falls within the decision of the trial court, the fact that the Supreme Court of Florida, the highest court in the State of Florida, one of the most densely populated states in the nation, recognizes the legitimacy of this argument will help prevailing party’s attorneys to argue these records should be produced when the issue is contested.
If you wish to discuss this opinion or any other attorneys’ fees issue, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
ERIC N. ASSOULINE, ESQ., Assouline & Berlowe, P.A., Miami – Ft. Lauderdale – Boca Raton