You Won! But Wait – Are you the Prevailing Party for Purposes of Attorneys’ Fees?
There has been much conflict under Florida law regarding the proper determination of who is the prevailing party for purposes of entitlement to attorneys’ fees. The Fourth District Court of Appeal in the recent case of Skylink Jets, Inc. v. Klukan, 2020 WL 7383110 (Fla. 4th DCA December 16, 2020) has confirmed that recovery of an affirmative judgment does not control the prevailing party determination for purposes of attorneys’ fees.
In Skylink, the plaintiff asserted five counts against the defendant: Count I - Breach of Contract; Count II - Breach of Contract; Count III - Unjust Enrichment; Count IV - Money Lent; Count V – Promissory Note. The case proceeded to a bench trial, and the trial court entered a judgment in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $6,617.03, together with interest for $2,624.50, and denied recovery on the remaining four counts. At trial, the plaintiff had sought damages in the amount of $20,419.73 against the defendant. Upon obtaining an affirmative judgment, the plaintiff moved for attorneys’ fees of $45,360.00; however, the trial court denied the motion for attorneys’ fees finding that the plaintiff was not the prevailing party.
The Fourth District of Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision. In doing so, the Fourth District Court of Appeal noted that the plaintiff failed to prevail on four out of its five counts and only partially prevailed on Count I. As to Count I, the Fourth District found that although the plaintiff prevailed on the issue of liability, the parties were mostly disputing the amount of damages and that the defendant largely prevailed on the significant issue of damages by defeating most of the plaintiff’s damages (i.e. plaintiff only obtained $6,617.03 out of the $20,419.73 damages it sought).
When litigating cases and incurring attorneys’ fees, it is vital to analyze issues of entitlement and recoupment of attorneys’ fees. Rosenthal Law Group is here to assist you in this analysis and aid you in the most cost-effective litigation strategy.