May 10, 2017
Bresky Law recently obtained reversal of two crucial rulings in an order on three petitions for compensation filed by a lawyer who had represented a guardian. Bresky’s firm also helped the lawyer obtain an unconditional award of entitlement to appellate attorney’s fees.
In the trial court, the lawyer had submitted three petitions for compensation from the guardianship pursuant to section 744.108, Florida Statutes, which provides in part that “an attorney who has rendered services to the ward or to the guardian on the ward’s behalf, is entitled to a reasonable fee for services rendered and reimbursement for costs incurred on behalf of the ward.”
At a hearing on the petitions, the guardian’s fee expert opined that the fees requested in the first petition should be reduced by a certain amount across the board, based on several categories of considerations (which were not the nine factors enumerated in section 744.108(2), Florida Statutes). He did not identify any specific entries, hours, or rates to be reduced and did not introduce his work papers into evidence. He did not review the second petition, and he commented only on a portion of the third petition.
Based partly on the opinion of the guardian’s expert, the trial court entered an order substantially reducing the amount sought in the first petition; denying any compensation on the second petition; and significantly reducing the amount sought in the third petition. Overall, the compensation was reduced by 62%.
Bresky Law was retained to appeal from the order. The firm filed an initial brief, a reply brief, and a motion for appellate attorney’s fees. The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently issued a decision reversing the trial court’s order as to the first two petitions and affirming the ruling on the third petition.
The Fourth DCA noted that the record was devoid of any specific evidence of how the trial court arrived at the reduced amount awarded for the first petition. The appellate court remanded to the trial court with instructions to specify the number of hours and the hourly rate on which the award of attorney’s fees is based. The appellate court noted that the trial court’s factual basis for denying the second petition was erroneous and remanded for the trial court to make relevant findings and a new ruling on the second petition. The Fourth DCA also granted the appellant’s motion for entitlement to appellate attorney’s fees, which was granted unconditionally. The amount of the award of appellate fees will be set by the trial court.
Bresky Law is pleased that the favorable result in this appeal will allow the appellant to have a better opportunity for compensation on the first two petitions and to be reimbursed for her appeal.