Petition for Writ of Mandamus – Directing Trial Court to Take Action
“To be entitled to mandamus relief, the petitioner must demonstrate a clear legal right to the performance of a ministerial duty.” “A ministerial duty is one where there is no room for the exercise of discretion, and the performance being required is directed by law.” Further, “[a] writ of mandamus may issue to require a timely ruling on a matter pending before a lower tribunal.” If an appellate court issues a writ of mandamus, it merely “directs the trial court to take action, but does not decide the merits.”
Griffin Windows and Doors, LLC v. Pomeroy, 47 Fla.L.Weekly D2013b (Fla. 3d DCA 2022) (internal citations omitted).
Griffin Windows and Doors is an example of a case where the appellate court granted a petition for a writ of mandamus. In this case, the defendant served the plaintiff a proposal for settlement to create a basis for attorney’s fees. The plaintiff did not accept the proposal. The defendant proceeded to get a judgment of no liability which triggered its entitlement to attorney’s fees under the proposal. The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s judgment of no liability in favor of the defendant.
The defendant obtained an order on its entitlement to attorney’s fees. However, the court would not grant the defendant an evidentiary hearing to determine the amount of attorney’s fees and costs until after the appellate court ruled on the plaintiff’s appeal. The trial court did not want to have this evidentiary hearing, which could be for nothing, if the plaintiff prevailed on its appeal. Yet, from the defendant’s perspective, the trial court had a ministerial duty and obligation to have the evidentiary hearing as the plaintiff could always post a supersedeas bond and appeal the attorney’s fees judgment. Nonetheless, the trial court denied the defendant’s request to move forward with the evidentiary hearing until after the appeal was determined.
The defendant filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the trial court to conduct the evidentiary hearing to determine attorney’s fees. The appellate court granted the defendant’s petition, explaining:
The trial court conducted a hearing on [defendant’s] motion for entitlement to attorney’s fees and costs, during which [plaintiff’s] counsel conceded that [defendant] was entitled to an award of attorney’s fees and costs under the relevant statute. The trial court, however, ruled that it would not conduct the necessary evidentiary hearing to determine the amount of the award of attorney’s fees and costs until this Court disposes of [plaintiff’s] appeal of the final judgment of no liability entered in favor of [defendant]. Based on the relevant statute and the trial court’s refusal to conduct a hearing as to the amount of fees and costs to award to [defendant], mandamus relief is appropriate because “[a] writ of mandamus may issue to require a timely ruling on a matter pending before a lower tribunal.” Accordingly, we grant the petition for writ of mandamus and order the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing to address the amount of attorney’s fees and costs awardable to [defendant]…and to enter a final order following the evidentiary hearing.
Griffin Windows and Doors, supra (internal citation omitted)
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