Typically, associations have contractual language within the Governing Documents indicating that if a lawsuit occurs between parties, then the legal winner pays the other party’s legal fees.
The “legal winner,” is a party in whose favor a judgment is rendered, regardless of the amount of damages awarded. This is commonly referred to as a “prevailing party”. Depending on the specific language within the Association’s Governing Documents, a member should also consider statutory language. If the member brings a lawsuit, Florida Statute Section 720.305 may separately allow the “prevailing party” to be entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. Additionally, the statute says, in pertinent part, that “[a] member prevailing in an action between the association and the member under this section, in addition to recovering his or her reasonable attorney fees, may recover additional amounts as determined by the court to be necessary to reimburse the member for his or her share of assessments levied by the association to fund its expenses of the litigation.”
With that in mind, recent case law has identified complex situations when both sides each win multiple claims within a lawsuit. “Florida law permits more than one prevailing party in a single lawsuit where each of the claims that support a fee award is ‘separate and distinct.’” Fid. Warranty Servs., Inc. v. Firstate Ins. Holdings, Inc., 98 So. 3d 672, 677 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) (reversing denial of fees to defendant that prevailed on one distinct claim)).
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