Bresky Law Successfully Defends Appellate Win In Favor Of Former Wife Against Motion For Rehearing

Hallac v. Hallac
Case No. 4D10-4450

We represented a former wife in an appeal from the trial court’s order on opposing motions for attorney’s fees following trial. On appeal, our firm argued that it was legal error for the trial court to have used our client’s refusal of a settlement offer and the fact that she later obtained a less favorable result at trial as a basis to punish her in the attorney’s fee award.

The Fourth DCA agreed in part. The Fourth DCA held that the trial court was allowed to deny our client her fees for her failure to accept the settlement offer because under Rosen v. Rosen, 696 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1997), a trial court is allowed to consider settlement offers and the results obtained by a party in making an award of fees under section 61.16, Florida Statutes (2009). However, the Fourth DCA found that the former husband had no “need” to support a statutory award of fees to him, and that our client’s conduct in refusing the settlement offer did not rise to the level of vexatious or bad faith conduct sufficient to support an award against her under the court’s inherent authority to prevent such conduct.

The Fourth DCA reversed the award of fees to the former husband. This favorable result would allow our client to obtain the fees she was awarded for work prior to her rejection of the settlement offer, free of the setoff resulting from the award to the former husband. However, the former husband then filed a motion for rehearing, rehearing en banc, and certification of conflict. The former husband asked the Fourth DCA to revisit its decision on the grounds that the decision conflicted with decisions from the Florida Supreme Court and other Florida district courts of appeal.

We opposed the former husband’s motions. We argued that the Fourth DCA’s decision in this case did not conflict with any of its previous decisions. Furthermore, while we acknowledged some general conflict between the Fourth DCA’s decision in this case and decisions from other district courts of appeal, we argued that the conflict would not change the result in this case due to the Fourth DCA’s holding that our client’s conduct did not amount to bad faith or vexatious litigation. On June 5, 2012, the Fourth DCA denied the former husband’s motions, and we successfully preserved our client’s appellate win in the Fourth DCA.