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Lopez v. Hall

Supreme Court of Florida

January 11, 2018

NICOLE LOPEZ, Petitioner,
v.
SEAN HALL, Respondent.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED.

         Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Certified Direct Conflict of Decisions First District - Case No. 1D15-531 (Duval County)

          Michael R. Yokan, Jacksonville, Florida; and Christopher W. Wickersham, Jr. of Law Offices of C.W. Wickersham, Jr., P.A., Jacksonville, Florida, for Petitioner.

          Earl M. Johnson, Jr. of The Law Offices of Earl M. Johnson, Jr., LLC, Jacksonville, Florida, for Respondent.

          LAWSON, J.

         This case is before the Court for review of the decision of the First District Court of Appeal in Hall v. Lopez, 213 So.3d 1003 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017), which certified direct conflict with the Third District Court of Appeal's decisions in Ratigan v. Stone, 947 So.2d 607 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007), and Cisneros v. Cisneros, 831 So.2d 257 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002), and with the Fifth District Court of Appeal's decision in Dudley v. Schmidt, 963 So.2d 297 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007), regarding whether an award of attorney's fees pursuant to section 57.105, Florida Statutes (2013), is permissible in dating, repeat, and sexual violence injunction proceedings under section 784.046, Florida Statutes (2013).[1] We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we approve the First District's holding that section 57.105 does not prohibit awarding attorney's fees in a section 784.046 action.

         BACKGROUND

         Nicole Lopez filed a petition for injunction for protection against repeat and dating violence under section 784.046, Florida Statutes, against Sean Hall, and received a temporary injunction. After the circuit court extended the injunction protection until further order, Hall moved for attorney's fees and sanctions under section 57.105, Florida Statutes, claiming that Lopez perjured herself in her petitions. Lopez later voluntarily dismissed her action. The trial court then denied Hall's motion for attorney's fees, holding that section 784.046 contains no provisions authorizing an award of section 57.105 attorney's fees on any basis. Hall appealed, and the First District reversed the trial court's ruling, holding that an award of section 57.105 attorney's fees is not prohibited in an action under 784.046 and certifying direct conflict with Ratigan, Cisneros, and Dudley. Hall, 213 So.3d at 1007.

         ANALYSIS

         We review questions of statutory interpretation de novo. See Borden v. East-European Ins. Co., 921 So.2d 587, 591 (Fla. 2006). We first examine the statute's plain meaning, resorting to rules of statutory construction only if the statute's language is ambiguous. Holly v. Auld, 450 So.2d 217, 219 (Fla. 1984).

         Section 57.105 provides the grounds and procedure for obtaining attorney's fees against a party and its attorney for bringing unsupported claims and defenses:

Upon the court's initiative or motion of any party, the court shall award a reasonable attorney's fee, including prejudgment interest, to be paid to the prevailing party in equal amounts by the losing party and the losing party's attorney on any claim or defense at any time during a civil proceeding or action in which the court finds that the losing party or the losing party's attorney knew or should have known that a claim or defense when initially presented to the court or at any time before trial:
(a)Was not supported by the material facts necessary to establish the ...

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