Plaintiff subcontractor sued various Defendants including the owner, general contractor, and a surety arising from the rendition of plumbing services. All Defendants filed Proposals for Settlement against Plaintiff, which were all rejected.
The Plaintiff prevailed against the general contractor, but a Judgment of no liability was entered in favor of owner on the basis that the lien was transferred to the bond of the surety. The trial court denied the motion in part on the finding that attorney’s fees “were billed to and paid” by the general contractor.
The trial court did not make a finding that the PFS was made in “bad faith,” and otherwise, statutory requirements for fees were met as the owner’s PFS was complaint with the rules. The appellate court found under both the statute and rule that entitlement to fees and costs to a qualifying offeror is mandatory when “…. the statutory prerequisites have been meet.” The appellate Court noted that “the…fact that another party or a nonparty may have paid the offeror’s attorney’s fees is of no consequence to the question of whether the offeror is entitled to fees and costs pursuant to the offer of judgment statute. The case was reversed and reminded for the trial court to determine reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The entire opinion may be found at: http://www.3dca.flcourts.org/Opinions/3D13-2589.pdf.
Editor’s notes: It appears the trial court would be limited to those fees incurred on behalf of the owner only. If all the fees were paid by a co-Defendant as implied in the opinion, the Court in theory could an award of entitlement of an amount at $0.00.