Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fourth District Reverses Prevailing Party Fee Award

The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday in Miller v. Miller, a case in which the Appellant raised seven different reasons why an order granting attorneys’ fees to the Appellee should be reversed.  The Fourth District found merit in the first argument raised, which was that it was error for the Court to grant prevailing party fees under the Marital Settlement Agreement for a modification, when the prevailing party clause was self-limiting to enforcement actions.  The Appellee argued that his action for modification was inextricably intertwined with the Appellant’s simultaneous contempt action.  Citing Wendel v. Wendel, 852 So.2d 277, 282 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003), the Court found that contractual fee provisions are required to be strictly construed, and as such found that the plain language of the agreement prevented an award of fees for a modification action.  The Appellee’s claim of intertwined issues was rejected because the work on the contempt and enforcement were not indistinguishable from each other, pursuant to Franzen v. Lacuna Golf Ltd. P’ship, 717 So.2d 1090, 1093 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998).  On remand the trial court was mandated to vacate the fee award.

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