Expert Witness Needed to Establish Reasonable Attorney Fees in Florida

Under Florida law (with very limited exceptions), when awarding attorney fees to a prevailing party pursuant to a contract provision or statute authorizing the recovery of attorney fees, the trial court must determine a reasonable hourly rate for the particular services rendered and a reasonable amount of time for the attorney to have spent performing the necessary work.  

Although the attorney for the prevailing party can obviously testify as to the rate charged and the amount of time expended, the attorney must present independent expert testimony in order to establish that the rate charged and the amount of time expended is reasonable and necessary for the nature of the services rendered.  See Snow v. Harlan Bakeries, Inc., 932 So. 2d 411, 412 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006)("Florida has a long-standing practice of requiring testimony of expert fee witnesses to establish the reasonableness of attorney's fees."); See also Ghannam v. Shelnutt, 199 So. 3d 295, 299-300 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016).  Expert witness testimony is particularly important when the attorney is representing a client on a contingency fee basis and seeks to establish a lodestar (i.e., multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended times a reasonable hourly rate) and a “contingency risk” factor or multiplier (i.e., an upward adjustment in the lodestar calculation based a variety of factors such as the risk of litigation, results obtained, etc.).  See Standard Guar. Ins. Co. v. Quanstrom, 555 So. 2d 828, 834 (Fla. 1990).

If you are an attorney seeking to establish the amount of attorney fees and costs under Florida law (or opposing a request for attorney fees and costs by an attorney for the opposing party), Joel Ewusiak is able to serve as an expert witness to testify concerning the reasonableness of the claimed fees and costs.  Expert witness fees, at the discretion of the trial court, may be taxed as costs for a lawyer who testifies as an expert regarding reasonable attorney fees.  Please contact Joel directly for assistance with your particular attorney fee matter.