In a case, how can you recover your attorney’s fees?

In Florida, if an agreement, such as a written contract, or a law, such as legislation, permits them, the winning party will typically be able to recover their legal fees. The American Rule is so named because it modified its cousin, the English Rule, which awarded fees to the winner in all civil trials.

Under procedural rules, such as failure to make a discovery, an attorney’s fee might also be granted in a case. However, in a lawsuit, such payments are restricted to a single occurrence, such as failing to turn over papers, and do not include all reasonable fees expended in the case that have their origins in a contract or statute.

What is the distinction between fees and costs?

To begin, it is necessary to define and differentiate the relevant concepts. Fees are sums paid to attorneys who represent you in a lawsuit. They are often compensated based on a signed retainer or engagement agreement that specifies the job and the fee charged. The agreement can be hourly, fixed or flat, or dependent.

Costs are money paid for events that occur during the course of a lawsuit, such as filing fees paid to the Clerk of Court or deposition transcripts paid to a Court Reporter that are used at trial. Costs may be included in a retainer or engagement agreement and paid from trust funds, but they are incurred by third parties such as a court reporter or the Clerk of Court.

In Florida, the rules that govern attorney fees and charges are known as advocate fee rules.

Fees recoverable in a case are determined by the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar and case precedent. Rule 41.5 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar is the principal Bar Rule that influences the reasonableness of fees claimed in a case. That Rule discusses the considerations to consider when assessing whether fees are reasonable, as well as the fees that may be collected.

The judge has sole authority to determine whether or not to award fees. Cases such as Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund v. Rowe, 472 So.2d 1145 (Fla. 1985), guide the judge in the review and allocation of claimed fees. Such cases specify the areas of investigation that the court should look into in order to evaluate whether the requested fees are reasonable.

The cost regulations

The costs that can be recovered, on the other hand, are principally governed by the Statewide Uniform Guidelines for Cost Taxation. The Florida Supreme Court first adopted this list of taxable and non-taxable charges in 1981, and it has been revised over the years. However, company contracts can and frequently do amend such Guidelines by incorporating costs that would not otherwise be recoverable or taxable.

Investigation expenses, electronic discovery costs, electronic research and telephone charges, delivery service, and courier charges, attorney and expert travel expenses, information technology support charges, and mediation and mediator charges are some examples of costs that do not currently appear in the Guidelines or are not automatically taxed. Business contracts can add these fees to the agreed-upon recoverable costs in a case, allowing the winning party to recover more of the litigation costs than the Statewide Uniform Guidelines allow. Can I get a refund for all of my fees?

Where fees are permitted Only reasonable fees are recoverable under Florida law. This means that a party may not automatically collect all of the costs paid to its attorney in a lawsuit, but only those that are agreed to be fair or that the court determines to be reasonable.

What exactly is a lodestar?

The lodestar approach is used to establish the reasonableness of an attorney’s fees. The lodestar method calculates reasonable hours based on the labor accomplished and multiplies that by the judge’s definition of fair hourly pay. In contingent fee arrangements, the court must also consider if a contingency risk multiplier is acceptable and, if so, by how much the lodestar amount should be multiplied.

The hourly wage of an attorney is frequently indicated in the retainer agreement, and the work accomplished is commonly defined through billing statements or invoices. Your attorney’s hourly rate should be considered reasonable if it is acceptable for the location, the case, and your attorney’s experience. Similarly, if your attorney has meticulously documented the work done in the case and that work is found suitable in the litigation, the total fees should be reasonable and awarded in the litigation.

Can a court lower my legal fees?

However, if a client agrees to pay an attorney an hourly rate that is not consistent with the attorney’s skill or the jurisdiction, the judge may cut the hourly rate to an amount that the judge deems suitable and reasonable. Similarly, if the judge determines that the work undertaken was not necessary in the dispute, the hours awarded may be reduced. The judge may also not award more than the amount agreed upon between the attorney and client, but whether the claimed fees have been paid by that time is irrelevant to the judge.

A judge’s discretionary decision on these issues is based on and supported by expert testimony from an attorney who is not involved in the action. Those experts must be retained by the parties requesting and opposing fees to provide an opinion on the hourly rate and the reasonableness of the work accomplished.

What gives you the right to fees in a Florida business lawsuit?

Attorney’s fees are normally recoverable to a successful party in a matter under American Rule if they are authorized by a written contract or a statute. However, fees may also be derived from settlement proposals made in a lawsuit where there is no contract or applicable statute. Examples include commercial torts, which are discussed in greater detail in my other article on common legal claims in company disputes.

Fees may also be assessed during a lawsuit as a judge-imposed sanction or after the lawsuit if the necessary motion was served and the judge concludes that the case was frivolous. Sanctions imposed during the course of a lawsuit are frequently linked in some way to a failure to produce or provide discovery after being directed to do so. Fees awarded as a sanction at the completion of a case are sometimes based on Florida’s frivolous lawsuit legislation. That statute is Section 57.105 of the Florida Statutes, and cases ruled under the statute define a frivolous motion, pleading, or lawsuit as one that is so lacking in facts and law that it is unfounded and frivolous.

How do I actually get my payments refunded?

When one side wins a trial, the other side is compelled to pay the awarded sum plus reasonable attorney’s fees and authorized costs. However, just like with a final decision, the maximum the court can award is an entitlement to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, which can be added to an existing judgment or granted in their own judgment. You are invited to read my separate post on what you can do with a final verdict.

Actual fee and cost recovery are no different than collecting on a final judgment. Thus, whether a party can ultimately recover fees from a specific litigation and whether those fees can be collected during the term of a judgment are issues that any litigator should consider when deciding whether to file or pursue a lawsuit.