40 Fla. L. Weekly D796a
As compensation for their services, I agree to pay my said attorney from the gross proceeds of recovery, the higher of such fee as is determined to be a reasonable fee pursuant to any contract, statute or decisional authority which does or may provide for recovery of a “reasonable attorneys’ fee” or such fee as follows and agree that a reasonable fee for such services is $350.00/hour for Kara D. Phinney, Esq.:
i. 40% of any recovery
. . . .
In the event a counter-claim is filed by a Defendant, the client hereby agrees to pay the undersigned attorney the sum of $350.00 per hour in defense of the claim.
[T]he trial court should consider the following factors in determining whether a multiplier is necessary: (1) whether the relevant market requires a contingency fee multiplier to obtain competent counsel; (2) whether the attorney was able to mitigate the risk of nonpayment in any way; and (3) whether any of the factors set forth in Rowe are applicable, especially the amount involved, the results obtained, and the type of fee arrangement between the attorney and his client.
In its exclusive focus on Quanstrom‘s first prong, TRG argues that Sifontes presented no evidence to demonstrate that the relevant market required a contingency fee multiplier to obtain competent counsel. Appellate courts have found that Quanstrom‘s first prong is not satisfied where such evidence is absent. See, e.g., Sun Bank of Ocala v. Ford, 564 So. 2d 1078 (Fla. 1990); USAA Cas. Ins. Co. v. Prime Care Chiropractic, P.A., 93 So. 3d 345, 347 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012) (“If there is no evidence that the relevant market required a contingency fee multiplier to obtain competent counsel, then a multiplier should not be awarded.”).
In this case, however, evidence was adduced during an evidentiary hearing that many South Florida lawyers were taking condominium deposit recovery cases on a contingency fee basis, intending to settle those cases for a tiny percentage of the full deposit without going to trial. The trial court heard direct evidence that competent counsel willing both to take such cases on a contingency fee basis and to try such cases to final judgment were few in number. Thus, with particular regard to Quanstrom‘s first prong, the trial court’s finding in favor of a contingency fee multiplier is supported by competent substantial evidence. Quanstrom, 555 So. 2d at 834. Affirmed.
1A “lodestar” is determined by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on the matter times the reasonable hourly rate. Fla. Patient’s Comp. Fund v. Rowe, 472 So. 2d 1145, 1150-51 (Fla. 1985).
2If certain conditions are met (as discussed, infra) and counsel is hired pursuant to a contingency fee contract, a trial court may enhance a lodestar by applying a contingency fee multiplier of up to 2.5 times the lodestar fee. Standard Guar. Ins. Co. v. Quanstrom, 555 So. 2d 828, 834 (Fla. 1990).
3Sifontes’s counsel testified that the $350 per hour rate identified in the fourth paragraph of the contract applied only to a situation in which Sifontes was required to defend against a counterclaim. As TRG asserted no counterclaim, this $350 per hour rate had no application here.
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