Florida Appeals Court Overturns Awards Of Attorneys’ Fees In FDUTPA
On March 22, 2022, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned a trial court decision that had awarded attorneys’ fees to a defendant in an FDUTPA claim. In the case of Forte v. All County Towing Inc., the appeals court sent the matter back down to the trial court for a comprehensive evidentiary hearing. Here, our Miami deceptive and unfair trade practices attorneys review the allegations, provide a more detailed explanation of the decision from the Florida appeals court, and discuss the fee-shifting provision of the FDUTPA.
Towing Company Defendant Prevailed in FDUTPA Lawsuit
The Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) is a consumer and business protection law through which parties can be held legally liable for damages caused by misleading or otherwise impressive commercial conduct. In this case, the plaintiff filed an FDUTPA claim against a towing company in South Florida. She alleges that the towing company wrongfully removed her vehicle from an improperly marked disabled only parking spot at an apartment complex. The court eventually found in favor of the towing company and awarded it attorneys’ fees.
Appeals Court: Trial Court Awarded Attorneys’ Fees Without Proper Hearing
On appeal, the trial court has left the underlying FDUTPA decision in place. However, it reversed and remanded the award for attorneys’ fees. As stated in the decision, the appeals court determined that the trial court failed to conduct the comprehensive evidentiary hearing required to determine the proper amount of attorneys’ fees. Under Florida state law, it must do so before it can grant attorneys’ fee to the prevailing party in an FDUTPA claim.
FDUTPA Allows for Fee-Shifting (Discretionary, Not Mandatory)
One of the many important things that plaintiffs and defendants need to know about FDUTPA claims is that the law allows for fee-shifting. The party that wins an FDUTPA case has the right to seek attorneys’ fees from the other side. Here are three specific things to know about the FDUTPA an attorneys’ fees:
- Fee-shifting can go in either direction. Both plaintiffs and defendants that prevail in an FDUTPA claim have the right to petition for attorneys’ fees.
- Fee-shifting is not mandatory under the statute. The party that wins in an FDUTPA lawsuit does not automatically get attorneys’ fees as part of its award.
- Fee-shifting most often occurs when the case is clear-cut. If a plaintiff files a “frivolous” FDUTPA lawsuit, then attorneys’ fees are much more likely to be awarded to the defendant. Likewise, if a defendant commits a blatant FDUTPA violation, attorneys’ fees are much more likely to be granted to the plaintiff.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a South Florida FDUTPA Lawyer
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our South Florida deceptive and unfair commercial practices lawyers fight aggressively to protect the financial interests of our clients. Do you have questions about the FDUTPA? We are ready to help. Give us a call now or send us a message through our website for a confidential consultation. Our firm handles FDUTPA claims throughout Southeastern Florida, including in Miami, Coral Gables, Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens, and West Palm Beach.