The Firm’s Of Counsel Lawyers Win Consolidated Appeal of Final Judgment and Attorney’s Fee Order in Breach of Contract Dispute Against Delinquent Law Firm Over Earned Legal Fees: Michele K. Feinzig, P.A. and Joanne Rose Telischi, P.A. v. ***, 176 So. 3d 305 (Fla. 3d DCA 2015), Case Nos. 3D14-2539 and 3D14-904.
Firm lawyers Michele K. Feinzig and Joanne Rose Telischi recently won a consolidated appeal at the Third District Court of Appeal as not only counsel of record, but also actual parties in the case (through their individual professional associations). Prior to becoming Of Counsel to the Bresky Firm, Michele K. Feinzig, P.A. (“Feinzig”) and Joanne Rose Telischi, P.A. (“Telischi”) had entered into oral contracts with a Coral Gables law firm (“The Firm”) as independent contractors to perform trial and appellate support work at guaranteed hourly rates on a serious negligence case being handled by The Firm. The case involved years of litigation, a seven week jury trial, and a verdict in excess of $12 million. Feinzig and Telischi performed over 3300 combined hours of legal services for The Firm between 2007 and 2010, but were never paid for those services, even though The Firm admitted that Feinzig’s and Telischi’s legal work was excellent, that all such hours were performed for The Firm , and that the amounts billed were reasonable.
Feinzig and Telischi brought suit against The Firm in 2011. After a two-day bench trial in September 2013, Miami Circuit Court Judge Anthony Arzola entered a Final Judgment awarding Feinzig and Telischi every cent they sought, finding that The Firm breached its oral agreements to pay Feinzig and Telischi their guaranteed hourly fees, and that Feinzig and Telischi fully performed all work they accepted. The court rejected all of The Firm’s purported “defenses,” including that it did not have to pay until The Firm itself determined it was “able to pay” and only after the underlying case was completely “over,” and rejected The Firm’s claim that Feinzig and Telischi forfeited their right to fees for services already performed because they did not continue to accept additional work from The Firm after 2010.
The Firm appealed, but on August 12, 2015, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the Final Judgment, finding that the trial court’s detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law, which had rejected all of The Firm ’s “defenses,” were supported by competent substantial evidence and were well founded. Significantly, the Third District rejected The Firm’s Statute of Fraud defense, agreeing with Telischi and Feinzig that since the parties by several measures intended the oral contracts to be performed within one year, they were enforceable.
In addition, adding potentially significant “icing on the cake” to the affirmance of the Final Judgment, the Third District reversed the trial court’s Order denying Feinzig’s and Telischi’s motion for attorneys’ fees incurred in the litigation against The Firm, based on their respective Proposals for Settlement (“PFS”) under Fla. Stat. §768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442. The trial court had found Feinzig’s and Telischi’s respective PFSs ambiguous and thus unenforceable, because releases attached to the PFSs identified the four individual attorneys involved (who were not themselves parties to the lawsuit), in addition to their respective professional associations. The Third District disagreed and reversed the denial of fees, finding that the inclusion of the individual attorneys in the releases did not create an inconsistency or ambiguity which would invalidate the PFSs. In addition, the Third District entered orders finding Telischi and Feinzig entitled to recover appellate fees incurred in the two (consolidated) appeals.
Attorneys Michele K. Feinzig and Joanne Rose Telischi did substantial legal work in both the trial court and the appellate court in this case. They could not have done it alone, however, and recognize and thank their trial attorneys for their outstanding work: Curtis J. Mase, William Seitz and Jennifer N. Hernandez of the Mase Lara, P.A. firm in Miami.
*** The Defendant’s name has been removed as a courtesy.