Recently, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court decision that denied attorney’s fees for a condominium association after it was successful in getting a suit against it dismissed. In Point East Four Condo. Corp., Inc. v. Zevuloni & Assoc., Inc., No. 4D09-3221, 2010 WL 4962853 (Fla. 4th DCA Dec. 8, 2010), a condominium association signed a contract with a public adjuster to handle its claim under an insurance policy. The contract provided that 10% of the amount recovered would be payable to the public adjuster. The contract also provided that the prevailing party in “any action” would be entitled to attorney’s fees, payable by the losing party.

Before the public adjuster recovered any money for the condominium association, the public adjuster sued the association for his fee. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit because it failed to properly allege breach of contract. The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, which would allow the public adjuster to re-file the lawsuit at a later time if its fee became due and the association refused to pay.

Pursuant to the attorney’s fee provision in the public adjusting contract, the association moved for attorney’s fees for prevailing in the lawsuit. The trial court declined to award attorney’s fees on the grounds that neither party was the prevailing party. The appellate court reviewed the case and held that, “[w]hen one party loses in an action for breach of contract, the adverse party is the prevailing party.” The court also held that the lawsuit filed by the public adjuster amounted to “any action” as was used in the contract, and therefore the trial court had no choice but to award attorney’s fees for the association.

The district court’s decision was short and to the point, but it illustrates important points for both condominium associations and public adjusters: condominium associations should read their public adjusting contracts carefully to know what they are entitled to under the contract, and public adjusters should avoid suing for their fees before they become due.

Are you looking for help?

Let us help you. Call now: (877) 449-4700 | Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 5PM

Why choose Merlin Law Group?

Founded in 1985, our law firm continues to be dedicated to representing insurance policyholders throughout the United States. Collectively, our lawyers are licensed to practice in 25 states. In fact, many of Merlin Law Group’s attorneys worked for the insurance industry before joining the firm, so they bring a strong understanding of insurance company practices. Anyone can file a claim, but it takes experience, knowledge, and savvy to achieve a truly successful outcome. As The Policyholder’s Advocate®, Merlin Law Group aims to drive positive change within the insurance sector by obtaining justice for our clients and educating policyholders on how to navigate insurer bad faith tactics.

When we handle property insurance claim disputes, we hire the most experienced and qualified expert witnesses to evaluate your insurance claim and testify on your behalf. In most cases, we can advance the fees for this. Typically, we hire experts such as engineers, contractors, independent roofing consultants and other professionals to perform a thorough assessment on all possible causes of damages. This is a process that provides us with a very detailed and all-inclusive estimate for determining and justifying a proper settlement. Our use of these professional expert witnesses sets us apart from other insurance law firms.

Submit a free case review