Recovery of Costs in Real Estate Litigation
As anyone who has participated in a civil lawsuit knows, civil litigation, including business litigation, can be expensive. If a case proceeds all the way from the original pleadings to trial, the parties on both sides should anticipate various costs and expenses beyond those paid or to be paid to lawyers.
Some types of costs and fees that can be expected in civil cases include expert witness fees, court filing fees, and administrative fees attendant to a variety of litigation-related services.
It is worth noting that a prevailing party in litigation may be able to recover legal fees, as well as costs and charges, under a provision of Florida law.
Fla. Stat 57.041 – Costs; Recovery from Losing Party
Florida law provides that parties who recover judgments can recover all of the legal costs and charges included in the judgment. (There is an exception for executors or administrator actions when they are not liable for costs).
The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District, considered this law, and the recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs by the prevailing party, in Roberts v. Third Palm LLC, a case decided by the court at the end of July.
Roberts v. Third Palm LLC was a lawsuit between a real estate agent and a developer. The agent brought the lawsuit, seeking to recover compensation from the developer for services and advice she had allegedly provided.
The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the developer, and the appellate court affirmed that decision. The trial court had also denied the developers’ request for fees and costs; the appellate court reversed that part of the trial court’s decision that denied the request for costs.
In its opinion, the appellate court noted that if a party makes the reasonableness of costs and fees an issue, then the prevailing party, who is seeking to recover the costs and fees, has the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the costs and fees.
According to the appellate court’s decision, the reasonableness of the costs and fees was at issue in this case. The developer filed a motion to determine its entitlement to fees and costs, filed an affidavit that listed the costs, and claimed these costs to be reasonable and necessary. The agent disputed the reasonableness of both the fees and the costs. The trial court held a hearing, focused on the fee issue, and then denied the motion for fees and costs. However, the court’s order did not address why the court found that the developer was not entitled to recover costs.
The appellate court explained that a trial court cannot deny the party obtaining judgment recovery of its lawful costs. The court concluded that in this case, the trial court erred in finding that the developer was not entitled to costs, and reversed the proceeding for remand to the trial court so that court could hold a hearing to consider the reasonableness of the costs.
If you are involved in or assessing a claim in real estate litigation, or other business litigation, it is important to understand the types of fees and costs that can be anticipated. If you would like to know more about this subject, contact the Fort Lauderdale real estate lawyers at Sweeney Law.