Never underestimate the need to present expert testimony to support the reasonableness of the requested attorney fees award. In Mitchell v. Flatt, No. 2D21-487, 2022 WL 3129170 (Fla. 2d DCA Aug. 5, 2022), the Second District reversed the fees award without remand instructions because the attorney ignored his evidentiary obligations.
Mitchell involved a loan dispute between former spouses. When the ex-wife failed to appear for her deposition, the ex-husband sought discovery sanctions against the ex-wife’s attorney because the ex-wife did not attend the deposition based on the advice of her counsel. While the ex-husband’s attorney testified that his fees were reasonable, the fees expert he retained was unexpectedly unavailable and did not testify at the hearing. Additionally, the expert’s affidavit was excluded as hearsay. The trial court eventually awarded $4,695 in fees against the ex-wife’s attorney based on the ex-husband’s attorney’s billing records. However, the trial court was never presented with evidence as to the reasonableness of the number of hours and billing rate via expert testimony and the ex-husband’s attorney argued it was unnecessary.