NO FEES WHEN TRIAL COURT LACKED JURISDICTION TO AWARD THEM.
The plaintiff made an offer of judgment which the defendant did not accept. After trial, the trial court entered final judgment on plaintiff’s behalf and reserved jurisdiction to order attorney’s fees and costs.
Plaintiff filed said motion. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion as to costs but denied it as to fees.
The plaintiff timely moved for rehearing, and to stay the case pending Florida Supreme Court review of another case in front of it on conflict jurisdiction. When the court finally rendered its decision, plaintiff scheduled its motion for rehearing. The trial court denied it.
Plaintiff then filed a motion for reconsideration of the order denying its motion for rehearing, and two weeks later the trial court granted a hearing. At that hearing, the defendant argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to reconsider the denial of a motion for rehearing. The trial court disagreed, and vacated its April 2016 order in February of 2017. It then entered a final judgment granting the plaintiff costs and fees.
The issue for the court’s determination was whether the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter these orders and the judgment granting fees after it denied plaintiff’s original motion for a hearing in October of 2016. The court concluded that the order denying plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees following the final judgment that reserved jurisdiction to consider cost and fees was a final order when the trial court entered it in April of 2016.
The plaintiff’s subsequent motion for a rehearing was proper pursuant to Rule 1.530, because it was timely directed at a final order. However, the entry of an order denying a motion for rehearing then divests the trial court of jurisdiction to conduct further proceedings. After the trial court rules on a motion for rehearing, it retains jurisdiction only to enter post “decretal” orders to effectuate the judgment, or to consider motions pursuant to Rule 1.540.
In this case, the plaintiff did not allege any of the grounds set forth in Rule 1.540 in its motion for reconsideration as a basis for relief and only argued the merits of the original disputed legal issue. Accordingly, the court had no jurisdiction to enter the final judgment for fees and the court vacated the order.