The policyholders suffered at water loss that was denied by their insurance carrier. The policyholder filed suit, and the parties engaged in “minimal discovery.” No substantive motions or expert reports were filed and there was no trial in the matter. The insurer served a Proposal for Settlement in the amount of $25,000.00 exclusive of attorneys’ fees that the policyholder accepted. (Entitlement was likely found upon the payment of policy benefits post denial and post suit or as a function of the PFS.)
The policyholders’ lawyers submitted bills reflecting 469 hours for five attorneys and one paralegal. At an evidentiary hearing, the trial court accepted a 10% reduction of the fees per the testimony of the policyholder’s expert without a finding. The fee expert also opined that a 2.0 multiplier was appropriate based on the favorable outcome achieved and the likelihood of recovery at the outset of the case. After lodestar multiplier of 2.0, the Court awarded $415,495.00 in fees and costs. The Court disregarded the Defendant’s fee expert who opined that the number of hours billed should be reduced from 469 to 101 hours. Further, the Defense expert testified regarding objections to specific itemized entries and concluded a reduced number of hours was warranted for trial preparation, deposition preparation, duplicative billing by multiple attorneys and ministerial tasks.
On appeal, the Third DCA approved the trial court’s findings as to the reasonable hourly rates. The Court then found the record failed to contain competent, substantial evidence that 469 hours were reasonably expended in this case by the policyholders’ lawyers. The Court pruned those hours that were “excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” The appellate court found that policyholders failed to present evidence that it was reasonable for five attorneys to expend 469 hours in this first-party property insurance case that settled after minimal discovery and in which no significant motions were litigated. The appellate court entered the findings from the Defense expert’s testimony reducing the hours to 101 without a multiplier as the Quanstrom factors were not supported by evidence.
The matter was reversed and remanded.