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House Panel Backs Attorney Fee Limit

By NSF Staff
News Service of Florida
January 30, 2020

A House committee Thursday backed a proposal that would limit fees of plaintiffs’ attorneys in some lawsuits against property insurance companies.

The House Judiciary Committee moved forward with a bill (PCB JDC 20-03) that would significantly restrict the award of what are known as “contingency risk multipliers,” which judges can award to increase fees for attorneys who represent property owners against insurers. 

A Senate version of the bill (SB 914) has been approved by one committee. Florida has long allowed plaintiffs to collect attorney fees when they prevail in cases against insurance companies, with the amounts typically set by a calculation of the number of hours spent on a case and a reasonable hourly rate.

But courts also have the ability to approve contingency risk multipliers that increase the fees. Under the bills, however, contingency risk multipliers could only be awarded “in a rare and exceptional circumstance with evidence that competent counsel could not be retained in a reasonable manner.”

Jeff Carter, a Panama City attorney who opposed the bill during Thursday’s House meeting, said fee multipliers are an incentive for lawyers to represent policyholders in areas such as Panhandle, where he said people have been “mistreated” by insurance companies after 2018’s Hurricane Michael.

But Aram Megerian, a Tampa attorney who represented the business-backed Florida Justice Reform Institute at the meeting, said contingency risk multipliers are being used punitively and should be reserved for rare circumstances.

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