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LLC v. Tampa for Christ Church, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

June 15, 2018

MB REO-FL CHURCH-2, LLC, Plaintiff,
TAMPA FOR CHRIST CHURCH, INC., and FRANK M. BAFFORD, Defendants. Timekeeper Title Hours Rate Amount



         This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff MB Reo-FL Church-2, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 165). Although the Court granted summary judgment in favor of MB Reo on July 31, 2017, (Doc. # 165), Defendant Frank M. Bafford filed an interlocutory appeal before the Court could enter an order as to damages. (Doc. # 170). Accordingly, this order resolves the issue of damages and awards $114, 448.00 to MB Reo as follows.

         I. Background

         A full review of the facts of this case is unnecessary, as the Court has already done so in its order granting summary judgment. (Doc. # 165). After granting summary judgment, the Court directed MB Reo to file a supplement as to its calculation of damages by August 14, 2017. (Id. at 22). Subsequently, MB Reo filed declarations in support of damages and moved for default judgment against Tampa for Christ Church. (Docs. ## 167, 168).

         Shortly thereafter, on August 29, 2017, Bafford filed a third interlocutory appeal. (Doc. # 170). The case was once again stayed and administratively closed pending resolution of the appeal. (Doc. # 174). The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction on October 26, 2017. (Doc. # 176). The Court reopened the case, (Doc. # 177), and reactivated MB Reo's motion for default judgment, as well as two motions to dismiss filed by Bafford prior to appeal. (Docs. ## 166, 169). The Court denied Bafford's motions on November 1, 2017. (Docs. ## 178, 179).

         After the Court granted MB Reo's motion for default judgment on November 22, 2017, (Doc. # 183), default judgment was entered against Tampa for Christ Church. (Doc. # 184). Bafford filed his fourth appeal, (Doc. # 187), which the Eleventh Circuit dismissed sua sponte for lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. # 191). The Court then directed MB Reo to file supplemental information regarding its calculation of damages, (Doc. # 193), which MB Reo provided on June 14, 2018. (Doc. # 196). Thus, this order resolves the only remaining issue in the case: damages against Bafford.

         II. Damages

         Seeking damages against Bafford for its slander of title claim, MB Reo requests a total of $114, 661.34. (Doc. # 196 at ¶ 13). MB Reo does not seek monetary damages against Tampa for Christ Church. (Doc. # 107 at 19). MB Reo's requested judgment is comprised of the following: $37, 453.26 in carrying costs related to the property; $74, 435.25 in attorney's fees; and $2, 772.83 in costs. (Doc. # 196 at ¶ 13). The Court addresses each in turn.

         a. Carrying Costs

         This action focused on the commercial property located at 9612 N. 26th Street and 9706 N. 26th Street, Tampa, Florida 33612. (Doc. # 165 at 2). The property was listed for sale by MB Reo on October 12, 2015, with an asking price of $799, 000. (Id.). It is undisputed Bafford's notices prevented MB Reo from selling its property. (Doc. # 107-1 at ¶ 30). Thus, MB Reo was forced to carry the costs of the property. In support of its alleged carrying costs, MB Reo has submitted its 2016 income statement, which includes costs related to the general operating expenses, repairs, maintenance, management, insurance and general administration of the property. (Doc. # 196-2). The total amount is $52, 124.19. (Id.). These costs are provided through September of 2016, when MB Reo sold the property. (Id.). MB Reo has limited its request to the following carrying costs: property insurance ($17, 263.98); property management ($18, 967.74); and property taxes ($1, 248.54). (Doc. # 196-2 at ¶ 12). Accordingly, the Court awards MB Reo's requested carrying costs in the total amount of $37, 453.26.

         b. Attorney's Fees

         This Court is afforded broad discretion in addressing attorney's fees. See Villano v. City of Boynton Beach, 254 F.3d 1302, 1305 (11th Cir. 2001)(“Ultimately, the computation of a fee award is necessarily an exercise of judgment because there is no precise rule or formula for making these determinations.” (internal citation omitted)). In Florida, the federal lodestar method is used to calculate attorney's fees. Fla. Patient's Comp Fund v. Rowe, 472 So.2d 1145, 1146 (Fla. 1985). The Court determines the reasonable fee by taking the “number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 76 (1983).

         The fee applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to the hours requested as well as to the hourly rate. Webb v. Bd. of Educ. of Dyer Cty., 471 U.S. 234, 242 (1985). If an attorney fails to carry his or her burden, the Court “is itself an expert on the question [of attorneys' fees] and may consider its own knowledge and experience concerning reasonable and proper fees.” Norman v. Hous. Auth. of Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1303 (11th Cir. 1988)

         MB Reo retained Akerman LLP in this action and requests attorney's fees in the amount of $74, 435.25. (Doc. # 196 at ¶¶ 2, 9). Attorney Irene Bassel Frick explains in her supplemental ...

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