Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees in Florida Litigation
In Florida, the recovery of attorneys’ fees is governed by a mix of statutory law and case law. The general rule is that each party to a lawsuit must pay their own attorneys’ fees, unless a statute or contract provides otherwise. However, in certain types of cases, Florida law allows for the recovery of attorneys’ fees by the prevailing party.
One common example is in contract disputes. Section 57.105 of the Florida Statutes provides that if a party is the prevailing party in a lawsuit based on a contract, that party is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs from the non-prevailing party. This provision applies even if the contract itself does not contain an attorneys’ fees provision. The purpose of this statute is to encourage parties to honor their contractual obligations and to discourage frivolous lawsuits.
It’s important to note that the prevailing party in a contract dispute does not automatically receive an award of attorneys’ fees. Rather, the party must file a motion with the court requesting an award of fees and costs, and the court will then determine the reasonableness of the fees requested. This determination is typically based on factors such as the complexity of the case, the time and labor required, and the skill and experience of the attorneys involved.
Another common example of fee shifting in Florida is in cases involving discrimination. Under both state and federal law, if a plaintiff prevails in a discrimination lawsuit, the plaintiff is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs from the defendant. This provision is intended to ensure that victims of discrimination have access to the courts and are not deterred by the prospect of high legal fees.
In addition to these specific statutory provisions, Florida courts have also developed a common law doctrine known as the “offer of judgment” rule. Under this rule, if a party makes a written offer of settlement to the other party and the offer is not accepted, and the ultimate judgment obtained by the offeree is less favorable than the offer, the offeree must pay the offeror’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred after the offer was made.
The purpose of the offer of judgment rule is to encourage parties to settle their disputes early on, rather than proceeding to trial. By making an offer of settlement, the offering party can shift the risk of litigation costs to the other party, incentivizing the offeree to seriously consider settling the case.
It’s worth noting that the offer of judgment rule only applies to certain types of cases, including personal injury, wrongful death, and breach of contract cases. Additionally, the rule only applies if the offer of settlement is made within a certain timeframe and meets certain other requirements. For example, the offer must be made in writing and must specify the amount of the offer and the claims to which it applies.
In conclusion, the recovery of attorneys’ fees in Florida litigation is governed by a mix of statutory law and case law. While the general rule is that each party must pay their own fees, there are certain situations where the prevailing party can recover their attorneys’ fees from the non-prevailing party. These situations include contract disputes, discrimination lawsuits, and cases where an offer of settlement is made and not accepted. If you are involved in a lawsuit near Jacksonville, Florida, it’s important to contact the experienced attorneys at Purcell, Flanagan, Hay, & Greene P.A. to determine whether you may be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees.