FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Pasco County; Linda H. Babb,
E. Samis of Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP, St.
Petersburg, for Appellant.
A. Nation and Paul W. Pritchard of The Nation Law Firm,
Longwood, for Appellee.
Property Insurance Corporation appeals a final judgment
awarding attorneys' fees, including a 1.7 contingent fee
multiplier,  to Meghan Anderson. The fee award was
based on the verdict rendered in Anderson's favor in her
breach of contract action against Citizens for failure to pay
for a sinkhole loss. After prevailing at trial, Anderson
sought attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to sections
57.041, 92.231, and 627.428, Florida Statutes (2014).
Following an evidentiary hearing that was conducted without a
court reporter, the trial court awarded a total of $493,
246.50 in attorneys' fees which included the 1.7
contingent fee multiplier. Citizens argues that the trial
court's failure to make a finding as to whether the
market required a contingent fee multiplier pursuant to
Standard Guaranty Insurance Co. v. Quanstrom, 555
So.2d 828 (Fla. 1990), is an error apparent on the face of
the record and, therefore, that the transcript of the
evidentiary hearing is not required. We agree and reverse the
trial court's order.
this appeal involves an attorneys' fees award-rather than
the underlying civil judgment-a complete recitation of the
facts underlying the breach of contract action is
unnecessary. Rather, it is sufficient to note that there was
a dispute between Anderson and Citizens as to whether
cracking damage in her home was caused by a sinkhole.
Ultimately, Citizens denied Anderson's sinkhole claim,
and Anderson filed suit. The jury rendered a verdict in
Anderson's favor and awarded her $84, 000. Shortly
thereafter, she filed her motion for attorneys' fees.
undisputed that Anderson did not testify at the fee hearing.
The court did take testimony from counsel for both parties
and from the parties' experts, but the hearing was not
judgment awarding attorneys' fees, the trial court
awarded $290, 145 in base attorneys' fees which was the
total amount of fees for four attorneys who represented
Anderson with each being awarded the equivalent of $500-$600
per hour. On the issue of the 1.7 contingent fee multiplier,
the trial court found the use of the multiplier was
appropriate under the guidelines set forth in Florida
Patient's Compensation Fund v. Rowe, 472 So.2d 1145
(Fla. 1985), and Quanstrom. As a further basis for
applying the multiplier, the court explained that "at
the outset of the handling of the case, [Anderson's]
chances of success were 50/50" and that out of all the
sinkholes cases tried by the trial court, "there have
only been two cases won by the policyholder." The total
attorneys' fees award after application of the 1.7
contingent fee multiplier, but exclusive of costs and
interest, came to $493, 246.50.
filing its appeal from the attorneys' fee judgment,
Citizens moved to relinquish jurisdiction to the trial court
so that Citizens could, pursuant to Florida Rule of Appellate
Procedure 9.200(b)(4), seek preparation of a statement of the
evidence in lieu of a transcript of the fee hearing. However,
the parties could not agree on the substance of such a
statement, and the trial court judge indicated she had an
insufficient memory of the witnesses' testimony. As a
result, this appeal comes to us without a transcript, and the
trial court's order on the proposed statement of the
evidence lists only the names of the witnesses who testified
and the documentary evidence that was presented.
review an order applying a multiplier to a fee award for
abuse of discretion. USAA Cas. Ins. Co. v. Prime Care
Chiropractic Ctrs., P.A., 93 So.3d 345, 347 (Fla. 2d DCA
2012). We must reverse the application of a multiplier if it
is not supported by competent, substantial evidence.
Id. Reversal is also required if a trial court fails
to include specific findings supporting the application of a
multiplier. Speer v. Mason, 769 So.2d 1102, 1105
(Fla. 4th DCA 2000); Dep't of Agric. & Consumer
Servs. v. Schick, 553 So.2d 361, 362 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989)
(explaining that judgments are deficient if they fail to
include specific findings to support an enhancement factor in
attorneys' fees awards).
contends that there is insufficient evidence in the record
regarding whether the market required the application of a
contingent fee multiplier, and it argues that the final
judgment is erroneous on its face because it fails to include
a finding as to that factor. While the lack of a transcript
or stipulated statement of the facts might require an
affirmance in other cases, that rule is not applicable where
a trial court order is fundamentally erroneous on its face
for failure to make required findings. See Wolfe v.
Nazaire, 758 So.2d 730, 733 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000)
(reversing and remanding attorneys' fees award despite
lack of a transcript where court failed to explain its
reasons for using a multiplier); Guardianship of Halpert
v. Martin S. Rosenbloom, P.A., 698 So.2d 938, 939-40
(Fla. 4th DCA 1997) (reversing and remanding attorneys'
fees award despite lack of transcript where order failed to
contain findings as to the hourly rate or the number of hours
reasonably expended); Giltex Corp. v. Diehl, 583
So.2d 734, 735 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) (reversing and remanding
attorneys' fees award despite lack of a transcript where
order failed to contain findings required by Rowe).
dissent would have us affirm based on Citizens' failure
to provide a transcript or a stipulated statement of the
facts, citing Esaw v. Esaw, 965 So.2d 1261, 1264
(Fla. 2d DCA 2007), for the proposition that "[t]he most
salient impediment to meaningful review of the trial
court's decision is not the absence of findings, but the
absence of a transcript." However, Esaw did not
involve the issue of an award of attorneys' fees, and
notably, we acknowledged
that there are circumstances in which a claim of inadequate
findings can lead to reversal even in the absence of a
transcript or appropriate substitute. In particular, an
award of attorney's fees without adequate findings
justifying the amount of the award is reversible even where