Reasonable Attorneys’ Fees’ Expert when Attorney’s Fees are the Damages
Generally, when an attorney is. awarded attorney’s fees, there is a mini-evidentiary hearing to determine the “reasonableness” of those fees. Another lawyer–the reasonable attorneys’ fees’ expert–opines that the rate and hours expended are reasonable. The opposing party then has its own expert to opine otherwise. Fairly archaic and ridiculous in my opinion. Others may disagree. Nevertheless, the reasonable fees’ expert is how it is done with another attorney testifying that the fees incurred by the prevailing lawyer were “reasonable” fees.
What if fees are the actual damages?
In a recent case, Law Offices of Granoff & Kessler, P.A. v. Glass, 45 Fla. L. Weekly D821a (Fla. 3d DCA 2020), an attorney sued a former client for legal fees. The attorney’s fees were the actual damages. The trial court denied the attorney’s fees (the damages) because the plaintiff did not present an independent reasonable attorney’s fees’ expert at trial. On appeal, the Third District reversed. “Corroboration by an independent expert on the stipulated rates and hours incurred is unnecessary if the attorney claiming the fees from his or her former client has testified regarding those matters and the fee contract and invoices are admitted in evidence.” Law Offices of Granoff & Kessler, P.A., supra.
Irrespective of this ruling, it is always advisable to get a reasonable fees’ expert even if attorneys’ fees are the damages. While this may not always be possible, or economical, it is still advisable based on the notion that another lawyer — the independent reasonable attorneys’ fees’ expert –needs to opine that the attorneys’ fees incurred were, indeed, reasonable.
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