The Citizen’s insured, Pulloquinga, sustained a fire loss.  After “contentious” litigation consisting of approximately 27 depositions taken from Jacksonville to Key West and multiple hearings, Summary judgment was eventually entered in the insured’s favor on all of the insurer’s affirmative defenses.  Citizens paid the full policy limits on the “eve” of trial.  The insured then sought fees, including a multiplier, as well as and costs.

After the hearing on the amount of fees, the Trial Court entered a Final Judgment for Plaintiff’s Attorney’s Fees and Costs including a multiplier of 1.5. In determining the amount of fees to be awarded, the trial court applied the factors set forth in Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund v. Rowe, 472 So.2d 1145 (Fla.1985), Standard Guaranty Ins. Co. v. Quanstrom, 555 So.2d 828 (Fla.1990) as delineated in Fla.R.Jud.Conduct 4–1.5(b)(A).

https://www.floridabar.org/divexe/rrtfb.nsf/FV/A8644F215162F9DE85257164004C0429

The Trial Court heard testimony that there were other attorneys who would take the case for a  fee, but the insured was unable to pay. Similarly, there were attorneys that would take the case to seek a partial settlement, but the insured could not agree because of the remaining mortgage on the property. The trial court noted that the evidence demonstrated that there were no other attorneys who were willing to take the case on a contingency and to try it to final judgment. (Emphasis in Original.)

[Editor’s Note: Although costs could have been a detriment, I am curious as to how this factual predicate was developed.]

Trial Court noted it as an “all or nothing” proposition. The Trial Court further found that Citizens’ positions required “significant high quality time, labor and effort” by counsel for the insured, and noted Citizens went “so far” as to contest the value of DVDs destroyed by the fire and valued at $19. The Trial Court found the insured was unable mitigate against non-payment of fees because  the insured was unable to pay. The Trial Court also found the results were the maximum relief, and the fee arrangement was entirely contingent.  The case interfered with Pulloquinga’s counsel’s ability to procure other new business. The Third District affirmed the multiplier of 1.5 awarded by the Trial Court.

The Third District, however, struck travel costs, and back expert fees where the insured failed to establish the necessity of the fee.  The total fee awarded was approximately $760,000.00.

The entire opinion may be found at:  http://www.3dca.flcourts.org/Opinions/3D14-1248.pdf

 

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