57.105 Florida Sanctions
57.105 Florida sanctions is a serious law. Heck, sanctions are serious. If you are faced with a “safe harbor” letter or notice, or a 57.105 motion, here are some things you may want to know.
Sanctions in Florida Lawsuits
- A Florida trial judge has the inherent authority to punish, or sanction, bad conduct.
- In Florida, there is the inequitable conduct doctrine.
- For a trial judge to sanction someone, she needs to make very specific findings of fact in her order.
- Notice of an evidentiary hearing is required.
- The party who may be sanctioned or punished is entitled to notice and an opportunity to put on a defense.
- But beyond the inequitable conduct doctrine, there is a peculiar law, or statute, which permits a Florida judge to sanction a party to a lawsuit, and the party’s lawyers, for maintaining (and refusing to withdraw) a frivolous position.
- This may occur, for example, under Florida Statute 57.105
57.105 Florida’s Sanctions Statute
On August 25, 2021, the 3rd District Court of Appeal issued its opinion in Viera v. In Re: Liptito, LLC. The 3rd DCA is the appellate court for Miami-Dade County. This opinion dealt with sanctions in the form of attorneys fees against an attorney.
57.105 is a statute that permits a party to obtain attorneys fees if the other side is doing something frivolous. Put another way, this law may be a path to get a lawsuit dismissed. That’s because the threat of being sanctioned sometimes compels a party or their counsel to look more closely at the legal position that they are taking. This law may be used to dismiss a lawsuit, claim or defense or position. If the frivolous position is NOT dismissed or withdrawn, sanctions in the form of attorneys fees may be sought.
57.105 is only supposed to be used under limited circumstances.
And, let’s face it: not every position is baseless, just because you don’t agree with it.
When Can I Use This Law?
This law provides that sanctions, in the form of attorneys fees, may be awarded, if a position, claim or defense is NOT supported by the facts or law. AND you gave them notice of this statute. AND., your desire to seek fees under 57.105. AND they do not withdraw or dismiss their frivolous or baseless position.
In other words, this law is intended to deal with frivolous positions taken by a party. And when a party continues pursuing a baseless legal matter after putting them on notice.
Prior to filing a motion for sanctions under this Florida statute, you are supposed to give notice to the other side. Appellate courts have referred to this notice as a “safe harbor” notice or letter. It demands that the other side withdraw their frivolous position, or you will seek sanctions, which are in the form of attorneys fees.
How do you get 57.105 Florida sanctions? A hearing is required. At that hearing, the judge will determine a) if a position was frivolous; b) if the statute’s requirements were complied with; c) whether the frivolous position is based on the facts, or a legal position; and d) whether the lawyer on the others side, the other party — or both– have to pay the sanctions.
To learn more about practice + procedure, consider reading the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.