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Judge Paul Hawkes, Written Opinions Help Define Amended Section 57.105

Judge Paul Hawkes authored several opinions that helped define the amended section 57.105 attorney fee sanction.
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  • <strong>Judge Paul Hawkes</strong>
  • <strong>Judge Paul Hawkes</strong>
  • <strong>Judge Paul Hawkes</strong>
    TALLAHASSEE, FL, February 08, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Judge Paul Hawkes authored several opinions that helped define the impact of the Florida Legislature's amendment of section 57.105. The statue has always provided sanctions for what were labeled 'frivolous claims.' However, due to previous court interpretations of the statute, the sanctions were available only in the most clearly 'frivolous' claims. The courts required the case to be completely valid without any possible merit. The review was based on an evaluation of the entire case, and sanctions could be avoided if any part of the case could be found to have potential merit.

As part of an on-going effort to minimize the time citizens and businesses must face in court defending claims of minimal merit - frequently called tort reform - the legislature wanted to make the sanction applicable more often. There are at least seven cases where Judge Paul Hawkes wrote opinions addressing section 57.105.

Judge Paul Hawkes addressed one aspects of the difference between the old and amended statute in Albritton v. Ferrera, 913 So.2d 5 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). In Albritton, both parties had moved for attorney fees as a sanction. Judge Hawkes explained that the appellant (Albritton) had filed under the 1999 version of the statute and appellees (Ferrera) had filed under the 1997 version of the statute. Under the 1997 version the statute required a showing that the entire case was entirely 'frivolous.' Under the amended version sanctions were available whenever a party had to respond to any 'claim' or 'defense.' So even if some aspect of the case might have some potential merit, fees as a sanction would be available if a party raised any discreet claim or defense that lacked 'legal merit.' Legal merit is a much lower standard then 'frivolous.'

Judge Paul Hawkes explained that Ferrera seeking sanctions when they should have known they could not obtain them under the prior law, allowed Albritton to seek sanctions under the amended statute because of the requirement to defend against the discreet claim that 'lacked legal merit.'

In other cases, Judge Paul Hawkes has written opinions or been a member of the panel were the court had imposed section 57.105 fees for bringing an appeal when the party knew they lacked standing, when an insurance company argued for an affirmance of the trial court's order when they knew the trial court was in error, and that the provision that allowed an exception to sanctions when a party was reasonably arguing for an extension or change in existing law would not apply unless the party claiming the exception had maintained throughout the claim or defense that it was being raised or maintained because the party was arguing for a change or extension of existing law, said Judge Paul Hawkes.

Judge Paul Hawkes has had the opportunity to participate with the First DCA as it has interpreted the amendment to section 57.105. The amended statute applies in many more situations than did the former provision. Judge Paul Hawkes's opinions help point out that the more expanded sanction requires greater caution by practicing attorneys before filing claims or raising defenses.

About: Judge Paul Hawkes wrote opinions assisting in defining impact of amendments to section 57.105.

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