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Premature attorney fee award under Florida lien law

GMPF Framing, LLC, v. Villages at Lake Lilly Associates, LLC, 2012 WL 5364649 (Fla. 5th DCA November 2, 2012). Holding:  Award of attorney fees under Section 713.29 was premature where contractor had pending claims to be resolved.

Facts:  GMPF Framing (“Contractor”) recorded a claim of lien on property owned by Villages at Lake Lilly (“Owner”).  Contractor filed suit against Owner to enforce the lien, quantum meruit, and equitable lien.  The trial court discharged the lien claim and Owner filed motion for entry of final judgment of attorney fees pursuant to Section 713.29.  The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and entered a final judgment in favor of Owner as the prevailing party under Section 713.29.

On appeal, Contractor argued that the award of attorney fees and costs was premature because significant issues remained pending in the lawsuit.  The Fifth District noted that under Section 713.29 the prevailing party is the party that prevails on “significant issues” in the case.   The Court cited Trytek v. Gale Industries, Inc., 3 So.3d 1194 (Fla. 2009) and noted that an owner may not be entitled to recover attorney fees under Section 713.29 despite successfully defending a lien claim but is held liable in damages for breach of contract.  The Court reversed the award of attorney fees because the Contractor’s claims for quantum meruit and equitable lien involved the same transaction and, therefore, should have been considered in the trial court’s determination of the prevailing party under Section 713.29.

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