Thursday, January 22, 2009

Florida Statute 553 vs. The Economic Loss Rule

Florida Statute 553.84 created a civil cause of action against a person who commits a building code violation. The Supreme Court of Florida held in Comptech International, Inc. v. Milam Commerce Park, LTD that the economic loss rule does not bar a claim under 553.84. Typically, the economic loss rule prevents a Plaintiff from bringing a tort action when the loss arises out of a contract and there is no personal injury nor property damage. However, the Florida Supreme Court held that the economic loss rule does not apply to a statutory claim such as Florida Statute 553.84.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Impact of Trytek on Construction Lien Attorney's Fees

In Florida, attorney’s fees may be awarded in only two circumstances. First, there is a statute that provides for attorney’s fees or second, it is based on a prior agreement between the parties (in a contract). The Florida Lien Law provides attorney’s fees for the prevailing party in an action to enforce a construction lien. Last month, in Trytek v. Gale Industries, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that in an action to enforce a construction lien, the court must apply the “significant issues” test to determine which party is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees under the lien law, even when the lienor obtains a judgment on the lien. This means that the court should look to see which issues were before it and which party prevailed on those particular issues. In other words, which party achieved the benefit it sought in the suit. Just because a claimant receives a judgment does not mean that he is the prevailor in the suit. For example, in the above case, the issue was the amount of setoff the owners were entitled to on a lien filed by a contractor. Since the issue was the amount of the set off and the owners obtained almost the entire amount of the setoff they sought in suit, the court determined they were the prevailing party. The court went even further and stated that this was a flexible and equitable rule and that a court has the discretion to determine that neither party prevailed on the significant issues and that neither party is entitled to attorney’s fees. Thoughts???