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Florida Fifth DCA reverses trial court, finds that plaintiff was not entitled to award of attorney’s fees under wrongful act doctrine since applicability of the doctrine was not specifically pled in the complaint

On August 21, 2020, in Cinco, et al. v. Coquina Palms Homeowners Association, Inc., No. 5D18-2897, the Florida Fifth DCA addressed a seldom invoked doctrine under Florida law, the wrongful act doctrine, which operates as an exception to the general rule that attorney’s fees are recoverable only when a contract or statute authorizes recovery.  See Bidon v. Dep’t of Prof’l Reg., 596 So. 2d 450, 452 n.3 (Fla. 1992). The Fifth DCA explained that this doctrine allows a plaintiff to recover its attorney’s fees as a special damage when a defendant’s wrongful act caused the plaintiff to litigate with a third party.  The Court cited Rayburn v. Bright, 163 So. 3d 735, 736–37 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015). However, special damages can only be recovered if they have been specifically pled in the complaint.  The Fifth DCA concluded that this precluded recovery since the plaintiff had not specifically invoked the wrongful act doctrine in the complaint.