46 Fla. L. Weekly D1602b
KYLECOVEY SMITH, Appellant, v. GADSDEN COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, Appellee. 1st District. Case No. 1D20-1481. July 13, 2021. On appeal from the Circuit Court in Gadsden County. David M. Frank, Judge. Counsel: Kylecovey Smith, pro se, Appellant. William B. Armistead of Coppins Monroe, P.A., Tallahassee, for Appellee.
(LONG, J.) Mr. Smith sued the Gadsden County School Board in 2013 alleging that they were negligent in failing to protect him from physical and emotional abuse from other students. The case endured for six years until 2019 when Mr. Smith’s attorney withdrew from the case and Mr. Smith insisted, over the trial judge’s advice, on proceeding to a jury trial pro se. The jury found no liability for the Board, and the trial court entered judgment for them. Mr. Smith did not appeal the judgment.
The Board later sought attorneys’ fees and costs based on a settlement offer they served on Mr. Smith in 2015 that was not accepted. See § 768.79(1), Fla. Stat. (2020) (“[I]f a defendant files an offer of judgment which is not accepted by the plaintiff within 30 days, the defendant shall be entitled to recover reasonable costs and attorney’s fees incurred . . . if the judgment is one of no liability . . . .”). Though there was clear evidence of entitlement, the trial judge went out of its way to give Mr. Smith an opportunity to present evidence and argument regarding the fees. The trial judge ordered briefing on whether the court “could consider equitable principles regarding facts such as the young age of the plaintiff, that the plaintiff was pro se for the trial and post-trial motions, and that plaintiff is very likely without the resources to pay a significant fee award.” Mr. Smith took the opportunity to disparage and accuse of wrongdoing every person involved in his case — the Board’s attorney, his former attorney, the witnesses, and especially the trial judge. These attacks were offered without any factual or legal basis.
The trial court ultimately concluded it had no authority to consider equitability. The court then awarded costs and fees to the Board and entered judgment against Mr. Smith.
The trial court expended considerable time explaining the legal process and procedural posture to Mr. Smith. Despite that, in hundreds of pages of briefing below and with this Court, Mr. Smith devotes only a handful of sentences to the issue before the Court — entitlement to and amount of attorney’s fees. And the only claim he makes is unpreserved and meritless. We affirm the judgment, and grant the Board’s motion for appellate attorney’s fees, leaving the amount to be decided by the trial court. See Mark C. Arnold Constr. Co. v. Nat’l Lumber Brokers, Inc., 642 So. 2d 576 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994).
AFFIRMED. (RAY and TANENBAUM, JJ., concur.)* * *