One of the issues faced by a judgment creditor in pursuing collection of the judgment is the amount of attorney’s fees and costs that will be incurred in the collection efforts. They can be substantial and are generally not recoverable. There are, however, a few statutory provisions which may facilitate recovery of fees and costs post-judgment.
One such provision is §57.115 of the Florida Statutes under which a court has the authority to award a judgment creditor its attorney’s fees and costs in connection with its execution on a judgment. In making this determination, the court will consider: (a) whether the judgment debtor has attempted to avoid payment of the judgment and; (b) other factors as may be appropriate in determining the value of the services provided or the necessity for incurring costs in connection with the execution.
It should be noted that the court in Paz v. Hernandez, 654 So. 2d 1243 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1995), found that remedies available under §57.115 do not apply to garnishment proceedings under §77.01. However, the language of §57.115 (value of the services provided) and the fact pattern in Paz, opens the door to a very exciting possibility. Specifically, the possibility of obtaining a lodestar multiplier for attorney’s fees in connection with execution on a judgment debtor’s assets pursuant to Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund v. Rowe, 472 So. 2d 1145 (Fla. 1985).
In Paz, a creditor sued a debtor for a debt arising from a promissory note and obtained a final judgment in 1986. The judgment creditor then hired a succession of attorneys who were unable to collect on the judgment. In 1993, the fourth attorney who had been retained located two bank accounts and a boat belonging to the judgment debtor. Thereafter, the attorney served writs of garnishments on the two bank accounts and the marina where the boat was located. The judgment debtor immediately paid the judgment in full plus all accrued interest.
Subsequently, the judgment creditor filed a motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to §57.115. After two hearings, the trial court awarded the judgment creditor its reasonable attorney’s fees including a lodestar multiplier of 2.0 based on the factors set forth under Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund. Although the Paz court reversed the trial court, it did so only on the basis that a garnishment under §77.01 is not merely another form of execution. Had the attorney in Paz served a writ of execution against the boat, it is likely that the appellate court would have affirmed the trial court’s ruling including the lodestar multiplier.
Thus, where a judgment creditor executes on the real or personal property of a judgment debtor, the judgment creditor’s attorney can consider seeking recovery of post-judgment attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to §57.115 and the possibility of obtaining a lodestar multiplier.