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4th DCA Doesn't Allow Production of Records in Fee Request


The Daily Business Review reports recently that the Fourth District Court of Appeal granted a petition on August 14, 2012 to stop discovery of the billing records of a losing attorney who defended a driver in an auto accident case. Steven Dyda, who was injured, sued Balande Estilien and won at trial. Dyda then asked Palm Beach Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown to require Estilien's attorney to produce all billing records in the case.

Estilien objected on relevance grounds, but Chernow Brown allowed limited discovery with an exception for privileged information. Dyda's attorney said the information was needed to reconstruct the time he spent on the case because he didn't keep time records on the contingency case.

The 4th DCA has issued a reminder that a trial court’s discretion to allow discovery of an attorney’s billing records is not unfettered. The Court held that the requesting attorney must show relevancy, need and undue hardship to find the information elsewhere. This is because an attorney’s failure to keep his own records reflecting the time spent on the case is not a sufficient basis for ordering the production of opposing counsel’s records.

Finally, a court has stood up to this practice of plaintiff's attorneys not recording their time on a case and then demanding the defense provide their fee records as a justification for the plaintiff's fee.


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