Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Florida's 4th DCA Explains that Attorney's Fees and Costs for Work Leading up to Successful Takings Suit is Recoverable

This is a simple case, but a good one to be aware of. 

In Board of Supervisors of St. John's Water Control District v. Florida Department of Transportation,  - So. 3d -, 2012 WL 5933012 (Fla. 4th DCA Nov. 28, 2012), the parties agreed that the District was entitled to attorney's fees and costs because it was successful in an inverse condemnation lawsuit. The circuit court ruled, however, that the District was not entitled to its fees and costs in a prior lawsuit, in which it was determined that the District actually owned the property in question. The appellate court reversed, explaining: 
Under Florida law, a property owner awarded fees under the lodestar method is entitled to its reasonable attorneys' fees for all work relating to a condemnation suit, including work performed before the date suit is actually filed. See Volusia Cnty. v. Pickens, 435 So. 2d 247, 248 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983) (an inverse condemnation plaintiff was "entitled to recover a reasonable amount for all costs and attorney's fees reasonably and necessarily expended in connection with the investigation, research, preparation and presentation of the case" despite the defendant's argument that the plaintiff's entitlement to attorney's fees was limited to a certain date range); State Dep't of Trans. v. Grice Elecs., Inc., 356 So. 2d 7, 7 (Fla. 1st DCA 1977) (the trial court did not err when it awarded "compensation to appellee's attorneys for work performed before suit was filed but after condemnation was imminent").
That is, it takes work to get to the point of filing a taking claim, and a prevailing landowner should be compensated for that. Makes sense to me.