On June 9, 2004, Plaintiff served his Proposal for Settlement upon the Defendant in which Plaintiff requested only $200,000.00 to settle the instant case in accord with Fla. Stat. Sec. 768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.442. A true and correct copy of this Proposal for Settlement is attached hereto as Exhibit “1”. Before this Motion, this Proposal for Settlement has not been filed with the Court by Plaintiff or his counsel in accord with Rule 1.442. The Defendant rejected Plaintiff’s Proposal for Settlement.
A jury trial ensued beginning May 9, 2005, to determine Plaintiff’s damages from the automobile accident and determine whether Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the automobile accident. On May 11, 2005, the jury returned its verdict in favor of Plaintiff for $554,048.00. A Final Judgment was entered in this amount on June 28, 2005. As such, the jury verdict award and Final Judgment exceeds 125% of Plaintiff’s Proposal, and Plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees both at trial and on appeal pursuant to Sections 59.46 and 768.79(1), Florida Statutes.
In addition, Plaintiff is entitled to recover his legal costs and charges pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 57.041 incurred. These costs are taxable by the Statewide Uniform Guidelines for Taxation of Costs and Civil Actions. A copy of the Amended Report of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee on Revised Uniform Guidelines for Taxation of Costs in Civil Actions (setting forth the Statewide Uniform Guidelines for Taxation of Costs in Civil Actions, as adopted on April 2, 2004) is attached hereto as Exhibit “2″.
Plaintiff has filed contemporaneously with this Motion for attorney’ s fees and cost affidavits in support of this Motion. These affidavits detail the exact amount of costs and fees sought. Specifically, supporting affidavits from the following individuals have been filed in support
of this Motion for Attorney’s fees and Costs:
Michael Massey, Lead Counsel
Patricia Duffy, Co-Counsel through trial
Azim Saju, Co-Counsel
The billing records and costs are attached to the affidavit of Michael Massey. The testimonies, and the information set forth herein (including the exhibits thereto), are incorporated as if fully set forth herein.
The affidavit of Michael Massey appropriately refers to those standards outlined in the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, Rule4-1.5(b) (listing factors to be considered as guides in determining a reasonable fee). See Phillips v. Florida Comm’n on Human Relations, 846 So.2d 1221 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003) (wherein the Fifth District referred to the factors outlined in Fla. Bar. Rule 4-1.5(b) in making its determination as to the reasonable amount of fees to award to the prevailing party).
One of the factors for determining the amount of a reasonable fee, as listed Fla. Bar Rule 4-1.5(b), is “the results obtained” in this case, the judgment entered of $554,048.00 is an exceptional result given the nature of this case. As such, the hourly rate applicable to the undersigned law firm should be upwardly adjusted.
Also, the affidavit of Michael Massey appropriately refers to those standards outlined in Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.442(h)(2) (which
provides “When determining the reasonableness of the amount of an award of attorneys’ fees under this section, the court shall consider, along with all other relevant criteria, the following factors”). (See also Sarkis v. Allstate Insurance Company, 863 So.2d 210 (Fla. 2003), footnote 14 (“In determining fee awards pursuant to rule 1.442, trial courts should make specific findings with respect to the factors provided in Rule 1.442(h)(2)). As such, the Court should also consider those factors in making its decision.
One of the factors listed in Rule 1.442(h)(2), “The then-apparent merit or lack of merit in the claim,” is particularly significant in this case. Mainly, on or about June 9, 2004, Plaintiff served its Proposal for Settlement upon the Defendant in which Plaintiff requested only $200,000.00 to settle the instant case in accord with Fla. Stat. Sec. 768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.442. This provided the Defendant (and its insurance company) approximately 6 months to fully investigate Plaintiff’s claims from the time this suit was filed. In addition, this automobile accident occurred in the year 2001. As such, by that time, the Defendant should have realized that the Plaintiff’s claims had substantial merit. Additionally, on about February 13, 2004, Plaintiff served his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. On or about April 21, 2004, by agreed Order, this Court entered an Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment. As such, approximately 2 months prior to the service of Plaintiff’s Proposal for Settlement, Defendant admitted that it had no evidence disputing liability. Further, via correspondence dated May 7, 2004, the undersigned prepared and sent a three and a half page single-spaced demand letter to counsel for the Defendant fully explaining the Plaintiff’s claims and damages. The demand letter even attached numerous case references (from the publication Florida Jury Verdict Review & Analysis) wherein injuries similar to those requested were awarded. As such, the Defendant was fully aware of the extensive damages suffered by Plaintiff and that a potentially large jury verdict would result. Finally, on April 1, 2004 (over 2 months before the service of Plaintiff’s proposal for settlement on June 9, 2004) Defendant took Plaintiff’s deposition and also his wife’s (Nancy Ash) deposition. Further, on March 3, 2004, Plaintiff served his answers to Defendant’s numerous interrogatories. In those interrogatory answers, Plaintiff averred that his damages far exceeded the judgment entered in this case. Therefore, by June 9, 2004, Defendant was well aware of the significant damages suffered by the Plaintiff and the substantial merit of Plaintiff’s claims.
Given the application of those factors outlined in Fla. Bar. Rule 4-1.5(b), Rule 1.442(h)(2), and all other relevant factors, the amount of attorneys’ fees sought (as referenced in the affidavit of Michael Massey) is reasonable and should be awarded. In addition, the costs listed in the exhibits to Michael Massey’s affidavit should also be awarded to the Plaintiff.