Friday, September 09, 2005

If they weren't on the hook statutorily, DOT should be subject to atty fees under 57.105 for this one

Despite having lost exactly the same battle last year in the 1st District, FDOT appealed a trial judge's award of attorney's fees for time spent establishing the value of expert witness fees in an eminent domain proceeding. Case is FDOT v. Lockhart, here's the opinion.

After a lowball offer of $70,000, which turned (miracle of miracles) to over $400,000 at trial, FDOT then forced the landowners to a hearing to establish the value of the expert fees (rather than negotiating and/or stipulating to them). It then claimed that because the witness fees would be set by the court - and the witnesses had apparently testified that they would accept the fees deemed reasonable by the court - that the attorneys were working for the experts, not the landowner in the expert fee hearing.

I'm sure that the FDOT lawyers see themselves as simply battling the greedy eminent domain bar, who suck the public funds trough low by litigating these fee cases. But from where I sit, all they're doing is delaying the process and running up the cost to the public through unnecessary litigation over claims so weak or unfounded (and already rejected) that a private attorney would be risking sanctions to file them.

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