Shapiro v. WPLG, LLC

Third DCA

Shapiro v. WPLG, LLC
3d DCA
7/x/23, Chief Judge Fernandez

Topics: 57.105 Sanctions

Yikes. This case appears to hold that all attorneys who file a notice of appearance should be on the hook for sanctions if sanctions for a pending document are ultimately imposed under section 57.105, Fla. Stat. Because WPLG, the defendant, thought that Plaintiff Readon’s complaint for defamation was frivolous and filed in bad faith, it filed a 57.105 motion seeking fees. At the time that WPLG filed the 57.105 motion, Attorney Kassier was Plaintiff Readon’s sole attorney. Attorney Shapiro was added as co-counsel just before a third amended complaint was filed. Attorney Eric Brumfield also appeared as co-counsel towards the end of litigation.

When the defamation case went down in flames, the trial court granted the 57.105 motion. The order specified that the client would pay 50 percent, and the three attorneys would pay the other 50 percent jointly and severally.

DCA Judge Bokor was the judge who entered the original order of sanctions, but then he was elevated to the DCA. A successor judge entertained a rehearing motion and made one important change. The judge let Attorney Shapiro off the hook, as Shapiro’s name was not on any of the three complaints and Attorney Shapiro claimed to represent the plaintiff only in some sort of limited capacity. The judge also noted that the 57.105 motion was served prior to Attorney Shapiro filing a notice of appearance.

The two other attorneys appealed, and WPLG filed a separate appeal challenging the order that let Attorney Shapiro off the hook. The appeals were consolidated.

The DCA affirmed the order against the two attorneys without further comment. In regard to whether Attorney Shapiro should be let off the hook, the DCA disagreed with the trial judge that Attorney Shapiro represented the plaintiff only in a limited capacity because the notice of appearance requested that he receive “copies of all notices and pleadings” and in no way limited his representation. The DCA also did not care that Attorney Shapiro’s name was not on any of the complaints targeted by the sanctions motion. Attorney Shapiro had been co-counsel for three months when the third and final amended complaint was filed. The lack of his signature on the complaint was “irrelevant” because he was co-counsel. Attorney Shapiro was named in the 57.105 motion, and he was served with the motion. The DCA reversed the part of the order letting Shapiro off the hook and remanded with instructions to reinstate his responsibility to pay fees. The joint and several apportionment of 50% of the fees was also affirmed. 095948_i.pdf

Terry P. Roberts
Director of Appellate Practice Fischer Redavid PLLC
PDF Version

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