Attorney fees, appraisals
Florida has improved its reputation for abusive lawsuits, some clarification on attorney fees in settlements and whether appraisals are limited to incomplete repair work, and if you’re a washed-up disbarred trial attorney (or other non-lawyer), you still can’t own a law firm in Florida. It’s all in this week’s Legal Briefs.
State of Litigation: The American Tort Association is out with its annual Judicial Hellholes report and for the first time in at least three years, no Florida jurisdiction is on the list of the eight worst spots in the country. The report does have the Florida Legislature on its watch list, explaining in the Florida section that “Despite all the work done by the Florida Supreme Court and Governor DeSantis to mitigate lawsuit abuse, much-needed reforms continue to stall in the Florida Legislature.” Necessary reforms include deflating medical damages, bad faith, litigation finance, and contingency fee multipliers.
Attorney Fee Mystery: Speaking of needed reforms, the recent case of Safepoint Insurance Company v. Williams is an example of where evolving legal opinions trump the plain-reading of Florida Statutes. In this case, the Third District Court of Appeal relied on the former in opining on entitlement to attorney fees under section 768.79 FS. The Court expressed that a plaintiff attorney need not quantify their fees to date when making a settlement offer. Yet a trial court must consider those fees in ascertaining the final judgment later obtained, against which the offer should be measured in determining the percentage formula under the statute. Read more here.
Repaired or Not, Appraisals Matter: In reading the plain language in the insurance policy in First Call 24/7, Inc. v. Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the Fourth District Court of Appeal sided with the insurance company. This is an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) case where the water mitigation company charged $6,200 for a job valued at $950. When Citizens invoked appraisal to determine the remaining amount owed, the contractor cried foul. The Court found that nothing in the policy limited appraisal only to disputes where the repair work had not been completed, as First Call contended. Read more here.
You Can’t Own a Law Firm If…: The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors last month said no to a proposal that would have allowed non-lawyers to own law firms and to share legal fees. The recommendation came from a special committee created by the Florida Supreme Court, to test-out new ideas being tried in other states to help make legal help more affordable and accessible for consumers. Read more here.
LMA Newsletter of 12-13-21