It is unfortunate, but in certain matters, a construction lien foreclosure action is not actually driven by the principal amount in dispute. Oh no. Rather, it is driven by attorney’s fees. That’s right. Attorney’s fees. This is true even though Florida applies the significant issues test to determine the prevailing party for purposes of attorney’s fees. However, oftentimes the prospect of attorney’s fees is enough for parties to fear that exposure.
There is a 1985 Florida Supreme Court case that I like to cite if applicable, C.U. Associates, Inc. v. R.B. Grove, Inc., 472 So.2d 1177, 1179 (Fla. 1985), that finds, “in order to be a prevailing party entitled to the award of attorney’s fees pursuant to section 713.29 [a construction lien claim], a litigant must have recovered an amount exceeding that which was earlier offered in settlement of the claim.” Accord Sullivan v. Galske, 917 So.2d 412 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006) (explaining that although contractor is receiving a judgment in his favor, he may not be the prevailing party if the homeowner offered to settle prior to the lawsuit for an amount equal to or greater than the award in the judgment).