Attorney Fees under Florida Equal Access to Justice Act (57.111)

This is an interesting 5th DCA Case interpreting the Florida Equal Access to Justice Act. Under this act,

Unless otherwise provided by law, an award of attorney’s
fees [limited to 50,000] and costs shall be made to a prevailing small business
party in any adjudicatory proceeding or administrative
proceeding pursuant to chapter 120 initiated by a state
agency, unless the actions of the agency were substantially
justified or special circumstances exist which would make
the award unjust.

In this case, the Department of Financial Services brought an action against an insurance license, and on appeal the court had previously determined that the complaint was without merit. When he filed for fees under 57.111, an ALJ entered an order denying him fees, basically finding that the law at the time DFS brought the professional licensing complaint supported the complaint.  The 5th DCA reversed, finding that what was important was the law at the time of the alleged violation, not the law when the enforcement action was brought.

 

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