Sep
13
2016

Florida District Courts of Appeals continue to refuse to allow fee multipliers in sinkhole cases

As background to this issue, when a homeowner prevails against their insurance company on a sinkhole claim (or any insurance claim) the insurance company is required by statute to compensate the homeowners lawyer for their services. The court will look to how many hours the lawyer spent working on the case and then multiply that number by what the court believes the lawyer is worth per hour. In addition to that it has been allowed for decades here in Florida that the court could increase that number even more, we call this a multiplier. The court would consider things such as if the case was unique or complex or if the homeowner had difficulty finding a lawyer to even take the case in the first place. The court can also look at the potential risk of losing the case when the lawyer took it on. In other words, the goal is to reward lawyers who are willing to risk their time and their own money to take on a risky, unique or complicated case and do it on a contingency fee basis. Contingency fee means they only get paid if they win the case. Many judges at the trial court level have continued to award these multipliers to lawyers that win sinkhole trials but lately the appellate courts have been reversing these. The recent trend has been that its no longer difficult to find a lawyer to take on a sinkhole case these days and because there are so many sinkhole cases around now that they are no longer so unique or complex. Any lawyer that has ever represented anybody in a sinkhole claim should disagree. These cases are extremely expensive, time consuming and risky. They also remain extremely complex and unique due to the ever changing law that accompanies these cases. And of course, we can’t forget that to be a good sinkhole lawyer you also have to be a amateur geologist, contractor and engineer to boot. I just don’t understand the rationale behind these new cases other than they are being decided by people that don’t see the daily complex scientific and legal battles that we face.

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