In a recent case from the 4th District Court of Appeals, the issue of discovery of billing records was addressed. See Geico General Insurance Co. v. Paton, 39 Fla. L Weekly D132 (Fla. 4th DCA January 8, 2014). This issue involved a trial lawyer tactic where one party will seek the billing records of the opposing party in an attempt to gain support for their own claim for attorney’s fees and costs.
In the Paton decision, the 4th DCA held that the records of one’s opponent are likely not relevant to the general issue of determining the appropriate of attorney’s fees and costs in a given case. As a result the appellate court formulated a three part test. The Court opinioned that when the billing records of opposing counsel are pursued for the purpose of supporting a claim for compensation alone, the party seeking production must establish the following:
- That the requested material is actually relevant to a disputed issue,
- That the records sought are needed to prepare for the attorney’s fee hearing, and,
- That substantially equivalent material cannot be obtained from another source.
In the Paton case, the attorney seeking the fee award wanted the discovery to support her award of a fee multiplier. However, as a result of the above referenced three-part test the attorney was unable to make the requisite showing and thus the trial court’s order permitting the fee records was quashed by the appellate court.
Thus, personal injury litigators should not look to the opposing attorney fee records for help making their claim for fees.