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Florida Supreme Court Awards Attorney Fees to Plaintiff in Addition to 1.7M in Damages

parking lotIn Anderson v. Hilton Hotels Corps., the plaintiff was seriously injured when a gunman in a Florida hotel parking lot attacked him. Specifically, the plaintiff was shot during an armed robbery, carjacking, and shooting that took place in the parking lot of a Central Florida Embassy Suites hotel. He subsequently filed a claim against the hotel, the hotel management company, the hotel investment firm, and the hotel security contractor for $1.7 million.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit was a premises liability claim, arguing that the defendants had not provided adequate security for the property, even though there was a foreseeable risk of harm to hotel guests. The plaintiff pointed to the fact that the guard on duty mainly worked inside the hotel and did not patrol the outside of the hotel. Additionally, lights that would have illuminated the parking lot were burnt out and had not been replaced for a number of months. The hotel staff had instructed the plaintiff to park in this lot despite its being poorly lit.

The statute permits that if a settlement offer is made by either side and is not accepted within a 30-day time frame, and the issue ends up going to trial and is decided in favor of the opposing party with a judgment that is an amount in excess or less of the original offer by 25 percent or more, the losing party must cover the lawyer’s fees of the other party.

In the case at hand, the plaintiff offered to settle for $1.7 million. The defendants rejected the settlement offer. The case went to trial, at which time, for the sake of ease and clarity, the hotel, the hotel management company, and the hotel investment firm were collectively referred to as “Embassy Suites,” while the security firm was named separately. The jurors ultimately decided in favor of the plaintiff for a $1.7 million amount – of which $1.25 million was apportioned to “Embassy Suites” (the three defendants).

The issue in the case was then whether or not the plaintiff was allowed to collect lawyer’s fees from the defendants under F.S. 768.79.

The defendants said they were not obligated to pay any lawyer’s fees because the plaintiff’s total award was not 25 percent higher than the original aggregate settlement offer. The trial court agreed and ruled in favor of the defendant, and the appeals court affirmed the decision. However, the Florida Supreme Court disagreed with the defendant, explaining that the plaintiff in this case made a sufficient offer, and a judgment in excess of 25 percent of that offer was obtained.

If you have been injured at a hotel or commercial property due to inadequate security, you have rights. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our seasoned Miami premises liability attorneys are committed to seeking the compensation you deserve for your harm. Under Florida law, you only have a limited amount of time to file a premises liability claim, so acting quickly can make all the difference in your case. We proudly represent clients across South Florida. To discuss your case in more detail, feel free to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or reach out to us online today.

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