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You Prevailed in Your Case, but Don’t Forget to File a Motion for Your Prevailing Party Attorneys’ Fees on Time, or It May Be Too Late!

Generally, under Florida law, pursuant to Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.525, a prevailing party seeking a judgment taxing costs, attorneys’ fees, or both must serve a motion no later than thirty days following the filing of the final judgment.

There is an exception to this thirty-day requirement if the final judgment determines that the prevailing party was entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs, but reserved jurisdiction to determine the amount.

A Second District court recently confirmed that this exception is limited and not applicable where the final judgment does not contain a specific finding of fee entitlement.

In Lyons Heritage of Tampa, LLC v. Olurotimi Phillips, the circuit court entered a final judgment in favor of Phillips, but the final judgment did not mention attorneys’ fees or costs and did not reserve jurisdiction for any purpose. Eighteen months after the final judgment was entered, Phillips filed a motion to clarify the final judgment and confirm entitlement to attorneys’ fees. The circuit court, which was a successor judge to the original judge at this point, granted the motion finding that the exception to thirty-day requirement to file a motion seeking prevailing party attorneys’ fees was applicable and that no specific language was necessary regarding attorneys’ fees since the final judgment granted all relief requested in the motion for summary judgment, which included the request for attorneys’ fees and costs. The Second District disagreed.

Lyons Heritage clarified that the exception to the thirty-day requirement for serving a motion seeking prevailing party attorneys’ fees following a final judgment is inapplicable without a specific finding of entitlement to attorneys’ fees in the final judgment. Since Phillips’ motion for attorneys’ fees and costs was filed after the thirty-day deadline, it was untimely and thus, Phillips was not entitled to prevailing party attorneys’ fees and costs despite having prevailed in the action. Additionally, the court found that the final judgment could not be amended to reflect an award of attorneys’ fees because the motion to amend the final judgment was also untimely filed as the failure to determine entitlement to attorneys’ fees specifically was not a clerical mistake and thus such motion was to be filed within fifteen days of the filing of the final judgment.

There are many important deadlines and requirements that must be complied with even after prevailing and the failure to do so can result in a waiver of your right to prevailing party attorneys’ fees and costs. Rosenthal Law Group is here to assist you with all your litigation needs.