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Florida Second DCA rules that Florida’s proposal for settlement statute, Section 768.79, was inapplicable to negligence case governed by federal maritime law

On April 17, 2019, in Marco Marine Construction, Inc. v. Kopras, No. 2D17-1734, the Florida Second DCA reversed a trial court’s ruling granting the prevailing plaintiff attorney’s fees under Section 768.79, Florida Statutes, in a negligence case governed by federal maritime law.   Federal

maritime law holds generally that attorneys' fees may not be awarded pursuant to a state fee-shifting statute in an admiralty case. However, the trial court had relied upon a previous decision of the Second DCA, Juneau Tanker Corp. v. Sims, 627 So. 2d 1230, 1232 (Fla. 2d DCA 1993),  which had in turn relied upon a prior decision of the Third DCA in Royal Caribbean Corp. v. Modesto, 614 So. 2d 517 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992), both upholding the award of attorney’s fees in  the maritime context.  In the instant case, the Second DCA noted that the Third DCA has since receded from its position in Modesto.  See Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. v. Cox, 137 So. 3d 1157 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014). The Second DCA noted that the Fifth DCA also now bars recovery of attorney’s fees under Section 768.79 in maritime cases. See Nicoll v. Magical Cruise Co., 110 So. 3d 98, 99 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013). 

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