4th DCA (Melanie Bell)
A condominium association in West Palm Beach must do a better job of explaining its request for legal fees, the Fourth District Court of Appeal said Wednesday.
The Montecito Palm Beach Condominium Association filed a foreclosure suit against Sheila Diwakar for her unpaid regular and special assessment fees. After prevailing on the foreclosure, the association was awarded more than $40,000 in legal fees and $20,976 for delinquent assessments.
Diwakar argued the evidence didn’t support either amount. Fourth District Judge Cory Ciklin agreed and reversed.
He said the association relied on the testimony of Danielle Schultz, a paralegal for the association’s law firm, St. John Rossin Podesta Burr & Lemme in West Palm Beach.
The association presented no evidence of the reasonableness of the fees even though it listed an expert on that issue in its pretrial witness list, Ciklin said.
“While there was meager evidence as to a fraction of the work performed, the account history Schultz relied upon did not provide any detail regarding the identity of the timekeeper, the hours worked or the work performed,” he said.
Ciklin instructed Palm Beach Circuit Judge Diana Lewis to take additional evidence before recalculating legal fees.
Likewise, he ordered Lewis to modify the delinquent assessment since it appears that actual amount owed is closer to $14,000.
Fourth District Judges Melanie May and Spencer Levine concurred.
Diwakar was represented by Richard W. Glenn of Palm Beach Gardens.