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Fifth District Court of Appeal reverses trial court's finding that party was entitled to attorney's fees despite their failure to file fee motion within 30 days after the final judgment

On February 10, 2017, in Hovercraft of South Florida v. Reynolds, No. 5D15-2629, the 5th DCA reversed the trial court's finding that a party was entitled to attorney's fees despite their failure to file their fee motion within 30 days after the final judgment. The 5th DCA noted that that the trial court had not made any definitive determination regarding the entitlement to attorney's fees in the final judgment although the trial court did reserve jurisdiction in the final judgment to award fees. The 5th DCA concluded that the only way to avoid the 30 day requirement, other than excusable neglect, is for the trial court to enter a judgment that determines an entitlement to attorney's fees and reserves jurisdiction only as to the amount owed. With regard to excusable neglect, the Court observed that an attorney's ignorance or misunderstanding of the law does not constitute excusable neglect, although mistakes arising from a breakdown in mechanical or operational practices within a law firm may qualify. The 5th DCA noted that the record was devoid of any evidence of the latter sort of explanation for the delay in filing.

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