The County Court of Volusha County issued a ruling detailing the twelve factors to be considered in determining a contingency risk multiplier.
Tenant’s attorney was on a contingency fee basis in suing for the recovery of a security deposit. The tenant prevailed, obtaining the return of the entire security deposit.
The court stated that the claim for security deposit was a contract case. Pursuant to Standard Guar. Ins. Co. v. Quanstrom, 555 So.2d 828 (Fla. 1990); Meli Inv. Corp. v. O.R., 621 So.2d 676, (Fla. 3d DCA, 1993) and Progressive Exp. Ins. Co. v. Schultz, 948 So.2d 1027 (Fla. App. 2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly D548b], a contract case falls into Quanstrom’s Category II. The Florida Supreme Court has adopted twelve factors that should be considered when determining a reasonable fee: The Court considers those factors and found as follows:
i) Time and Labor Required
The Court found that 40.6 hours was reasonable and necessary.
ii) Novelty and difficulty of the questions
The Court found that the issues presented in this case were relatively novel and difficult, and required a thorough understanding of not only landlord tenant law but the unlicensed practice of law and the limitations of property managers enacted by the Florida Supreme Court when representing landlords and the related Florida case law.
iii) The skill requisite to perform the legal services properly
The Court found that this case involved a thorough understanding of laws related to residential Tenant’s rights and the proper handling of a Tenant’s security deposit by a property manager, and that without such knowledge, the Plaintiff’s attorney would not have been able to obtain a favorable outcome for the Plaintiff. The Court found that while there are thousands of attorneys in the local market, there are only a handful who have the necessary knowledge and expertise to effectively represent a tenant in a landlord tenant dispute, and who regularly represents tenants in state court matters.
iv) The preclusion of other employment
Plaintiff’s counsel contends that he was slightly precluded from other employment.
v) Customary Fee in the Community
The Court found that the market rate for the hourly fees charged in the greater Central Florida area including Orange County, Seminole County and Volusia County by lawyers of comparable skill, experience and reputation performing similar services as those performed by Plaintiff’s counsel is $350.00 to $425.00 per hour.
vi) Whether the fee is fixed or continent
The Court found that the Plaintiff’s attorney’s fee in this case was wholly contingent.
vii) Time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances
The Court found that the client imposed some time limitations for a speedy return of her deposit.
viii) Amount involved and results obtained
The amount involved the return of the tenant’s own funds which were returned in full to the Plaintiff.
ix) The experience, reputation, and ability of the attorney
The Court found that the Plaintiff’s attorney has over 15 years of experience in civil litigation in Tenant defense and consumer issues relating to tenants, and has sufficient ability to effectively handle landlord tenant disputes and legal matters.
x) The “undesirability” of the case
The Court found that tenant’s rights cases are generally undesirable cases to prosecute on behalf of the tenants.
xi) The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client
The Court found that this is the only case in which the Attorney had represented the tenant
xii) Awards in similar cases
The Court found that the proposed award of fees is not unreasonable in relation to similar cases, the complexity of this case, and the time during which the litigation was pending. For example, in Lancelot At Winter Park, LLC, vs. Bruce MacDonald And Francis MacDonald, 15 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 822b, (Orange County Court, 9th Judicial Circuit, 2008), the Court awarded a multiplier of 2.0 to a prevailing tenant. Similarly in a more recent case the Court awarded a multiplier of 2.0 to a prevailing tenant. Florante S Banez, vs. Elizabeth T Banez & Florence T Banez, 20 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 513a, (Orange County Court, 9th Judicial Circuit, 2013).
It is the intent of the Florida Legislature that consumers be encouraged to retain competent legal counsel to protect their rights as tenants not only for their direct benefit, but for the indirect benefit of all consumers/tenants.
RISK ENHANCEMENT MULTIPLIER
The Court found that it is appropriate to award a risk enhancement multiplier. The Court found that the Plaintiff’s attorney represented the Plaintiff on a contingency fee basis, and that the Plaintiff’s attorney’s compensation was wholly dependent on the outcome of the case. The Court found that it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for the Plaintiff to find proper legal representation in this case without the use of a contingency contract and the application of a fee multiplier. Attorneys of similar skill and experience as that of the Plaintiff’s attorney will not accept a case such as this one without the possibility of a multiplier. The Court found that the Plaintiff’s attorney was unable to mitigate the risk of nonpayment for services rendered and costs incurred on behalf of the Plaintiff if the Plaintiff did not prevail because the Plaintiff could not afford to pay an attorney to represent her.
THE COURT having made the foregoing findings of fact and conclusions of law, and having heard and considered arguments of counsel, and being duly advised in the premises, awards an attorney fee to the Plaintiff’s attorney, to be computed as follows:
Hours reasonably expended by Plaintiff’s attorney are 38.6 hours.
Reasonable hourly rate is $300.00 dollars.
Lodestar $11,580.00 dollars
ENHANCEMENT (Contingency Risk Factor):
Success more likely than not at outset (1 to 1.5)
Likelihood of Success approximately even at outset (1.5 to 2.0)
Success unlikely at outset (2.0 to 2.5)
Enhanced Value (1.5) x (lodestar) $11,580 dollars
Plus Cost of 11.55
FINAL JUDGMENT is hereby entered against the landlord in the total sum of $17,381. 55
DAWN DUVALL, v. NENITA MERCADO AND JANET TOLENTINO AND SUNSHINE STATE REALTY & ASSOCIATES, INC. AND RICHARD C. ALLEN, 21 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 77a