In Antigoni Stavrakis v. Underwriters at Lloyds London, (27 Fla. L. Weekly D101a M.D. Fla. June 29, 2018), Judge Kovachevich ruled on the amount of attorney’s fees that a plaintiff was entitled to as the prevailing party in a declaratory judgment action. The Plaintiff sought $128,565.00 in attorney’s fees.
Judge Kovachevich first addressed Florida law that adopts the federal lodestar approach for determining reasonable attorney’s fees. The Judge discussed the factors to be considered by the Court and noted that the computation necessarily requires the exercise of judgment because there is no “precise rule or formula.”
Because the Court is “itself an expert on the question [of attorney’s fees] it may consider its own knowledge and experience concerning reasonable and proper fees and may form an independent judgment either with or without the aid of witnesses as to value.” The Court importantly stated that it is the fee applicant who bears the burden of establishing entitlement and documenting the appropriate hours and hourly rates.
The Court made the following determinations:
- Attorney’s fees for pre-suit legal work are not recoverable under Fla. Statute 627.428 or 626.9373 unless the pre-suit work was necessitated by an insurer’s unreasonable conduct.
- The Court should exclude excessive, unnecessary and redundant hours.
- Fees that are the result of excessive meetings between attorneys, billing for administrative tasks, senior counsel’s billing for legal research that could have been assigned to an associate or paralegal, and billing at full rates for non-legal tasks like travel and clerical functions should be cut.
- Time which is block billed (multiple tasks within the same time entry) should be cut because it results in imprecision on the attorney’s time records.
- Travel is a non-legal task, and therefore not compensable.
- An attorney’s reasonable hourly rate is based upon the prevailing market rate in the relevant legal community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skills, experience and reputation. Considering all factors present in the case, $450 per hour was reasonable.
- A multiplier was not warranted because Plaintiff did not request one and because no evidence concerning any of the relevant factors that would support a multiplier was submitted.
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