40 Fla. L. Weekly D782a
this Court will not stand idly by and permit a party to file forged and fraudulent documents, to delay proceedings and to provide falsified responses to discovery requests. [Appellants] ha[ve] interfered with [FPH’s] discovery in the matter, as well as this Court’s ability to fairly adjudicate the pertinent issues. While this Court, in no way, condones the actions of [the appellants,] Florida courts have long recognized that where a less restrictive alternative is available for assuring the fair trial guarantee and the use of the alternative does not unduly burden the expeditious disposition of the cause, the alternative procedure should be opted for. Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Lewis, 426 So. 2d 1, 8 (Fla. 1982). Other remedies to [FPH] would include vigorous cross-examination of [the appellants] on their interrogatory and deposition responses. As such, this Court finds that [FPH] is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees for the extra work [it] had to undertake.
Attorney’s Fees Hearing
Following the final judgment, FPH moved for attorney’s fees and prejudgment interest pursuant to its prior demands for judgment. In October 2010, two years before the bench trial, FPH served the appellants with a demand for judgment pursuant to section 768.79, Florida Statutes (2006), offering to settle the case for $1,000,000.00. In the offer, FPH agreed not only to resolve all claims between the parties but also to dismiss its “pending Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint to Add a Claim for Punitive Damages.” November 2011 and July 2012 demands for judgment specifically addressed the punitive damages count. In its motion, FPH requested $660,756.50 in attorney’s fees based upon 2,362.60 attorney hours and 203 paralegal hours over an 84-week period. Since the appellants contested this amount, the trial court addressed the matter via evidentiary hearing.
To combat Spector’s testimony, appellants called Damerau himself to shed light on the nature of the depositions taken and discovery requested. Damerau testified that he was deposed by FPH’s prior counsel four to five times “pretty thorough[ly]” and that he provided prior counsel with requested discovery. Nevertheless, FPH’s current lawyers decided to depose him over ten additional times. While admitting that appellants’ disclosures were not always accurate, Damerau blamed such inaccuracy on the fact that his “accountant had died at the time, and [he] had to figure out how [he] was going to” get all the records. Nevertheless, Damerau was adamant that appellants “provided all the discovery that was actually used at trial,” and that FPH’s additional discovery “was more of a harassment overbilling abusive process.” To support this contention, he contrasted the $175,000 he had paid his attorneys over the six years of litigation with appellee’s request for over $600,000.
The Trial Court’s Order
The trial judge did not abuse his discretion
in the award of attorney’s fees
to determine a “lodestar figure” by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate for the services of the prevailing party’s attorney. [Rowe, 472 So. 2d at 1151]. The fee applicant bears the burden of presenting satisfactory evidence to establish that the requested rate is in accord with the prevailing market rate and that the hours are reasonable. Id. at 1150-51; Norman v. Housing Authority of City of Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1303 (11th Cir. 1988).
The trial court did not abuse its discretion
by not reducing FPH’s attorney’s fee award for
time spent on the accounting claim
upon which it did not prevail
Where a plaintiff has obtained excellent results, his attorney should recover a fully compensatory fee. Normally this will encompass all hours reasonably expended on the litigation, and indeed in some cases of exceptional success an enhanced award may be justified. In these circumstances the fee award should not be reduced simply because the plaintiff failed to prevail on every contention raised in the lawsuit. Litigants in good faith may raise alternative legal grounds for a desired outcome, and the court’s rejection of or failure to reach certain grounds is not a sufficient reason for reducing a fee. The result is what matters.
If, on the other hand, a plaintiff has achieved only partial or limited success, the product of hours reasonably expended on the litigation as a whole times a reasonable hourly rate may be an excessive amount. This will be true even where the plaintiff’s claims were interrelated, nonfrivolous, and raised in good faith.
(Internal citation and footnote omitted).
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