In JACQUELYN BENNETT and BOBBIE SUE MILLER v. MARIE-CHRISTINE BERGES, CHRISTIAN DeVOCHT, JEAN-LUC DeVOCHT, LUDOVIC J. DeVOCHT, M.D., LTD. PROFIT SHARING PLAN, and JOHN L. DeVOCHT, Trustee, (4th District; Case No. 4D09-3129; Fla. L. Weekly D2689a; decided December 8, 2010), the appellate court reaffirmed a sanction against the appellate (person(s) who file the appeal) for making false claims against the decedent’s children.

The procedural history of the case is convoluted. However, at one point the Appellants told the judge at a hearing that the three children of the decedent has converted assets held in a profit sharing plan. The court asked the Appellants for any evidence that the children had wrongfully converted assets from decedent’s profit sharing plan. The Appellants could not produce any proof to substantiate their allegations. The court continued the hearing to allow the Appellants additional time to present to the court evidence that the children converted assets from a profit sharing plan. The Appellants did not bring any evidence at the next hearing.

The trial court then granted the children’s motion for an award against the Appellants equal to the amount of attorney’s fees the children had to pay their attorney for attending the two hearings. The appellate court remanded the case back to the trial court because the trial court did not present detailed findings of fact to support its decision. Further, the court held that an award of fees against a party personally cannot come from Florida Statute 733.106(3) because that statute does not allow for personal liability. However, the Florida Supreme Court has stated that a trial court has inherent authority to impose attorney’s fees against an attorney or party to the litigation for bad faith conduct, but the trial court must specifically find that the award of sanctions is specifically related to the conduct that the court finds is engaged in with bad faith.

The lesson from this appellate case is that when litigating it is always important to tell your attorney and the court the entire truth.  A skilled attorney will then argue how, based on the law, the truth in your dispute requires the judge to rule in your favor.  For more information contact Linde Law Group today.  

Matthew A. Linde
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