Contingency Fee Multipliers increase the rate of attorney’s fees awarded to the prevailing parties’ attorney. Once the court determines the reasonable hour rate for the attorney ($350-$600 is the norm on east coast of FL,) the rate is multiplied from 1.1 to 2.5, substantially increasing the attorney fee award. Therefore, a 200 hours at $450 an hour would normally be $90,000, but with a multiplier of 1.5 the award is $135,000 and a multiplier of 2.5 equals $225,000.
Historically, the multiplier is based upon the likelihood of success at the outset of the case. If chances are even at best, then a multiplier of 2 is appropriate. If success was more likely than not then a multiplier of 1.5 is likely used. If success was unlikely, then the court will apply a multiplier of up to 2.5. Subsequently, multipliers have been awarded up to 3.
The theory is that the multipliers are required to get attorneys to take the cases on a contingency basis. The issue arises mainly out of first party insurance cases. Florida Statute awards the insured attorney fees if the insured is the prevailing party or the insurer settles the claim. It has become a lucrative market for plaintiff attorneys even without the multiplier. Courts had been increasing limiting the award of a multiplier. The Florida Supreme Court has overturned the 5th DCA, which held that multiplier should only be awarded in the rare and exceptional circumstances. Thus, the multiplier will be granted in the majority of first party cases, unless defended properly.
The Florida Suprem Court’s decision in Joyce v Federated National Insurance Company is available on the Court’s website here.