Q: Can I use FL statute 772.11 in small claims if treble amount exceeds $5000 but original theft amount is less than $5000?
Money taken by custodian of FL-UTMA account the day after the minor who's bank account the name was in reached age of maturity determined by FL law s. 710.123 section (b), s. 710.107 ss. (2), and s. 710.111 (b).
Original amount of UTMA account was $12k and I can prove custodian abused fiduciary duties over the life course of the account then emptied remaining balance when assets were to be transferred to account owner upon age of maturity. Would like to sue for treble in full amount, $12k times 3 but I don't want to take on higher court myself and cant find a lawyer who wants the case so I'm forced to file in small claims in the dollar amount left after minor reached age of maturity in the amount of $4251.
Would like to meet for free consultation with lawyer interested in pursuing full amount but would simply appreciate any answer pertaining to the original question as to if I can sue for treble exceeding $5000 in Florida small claims court.
A: No. The small claims jurisdictional amount is $5,000. So you cannot sue for the amount by which the statutory penalty exceeds that amount.
Bruce Alexander Minnick agrees with this answer
A: The most probable reason why you cannot find a lawyer to help you sue the custodian is because the amount of money involved--even when multiplied by three--is insufficient to repay the lawyer for their operating expenses, let alone to make any money.
Here is how it works: Florida lawyers would be are entitled to 40% of the net proceeds. The UTMA had an original balance $12,000 before the theft; and it is currently $4,250. The difference is only $7,750-- which if treble damages applies the gross award would only be $23,250.
However, after subtracting reasonable litigation expenses--estimated at $15,000--the net amount available to share between you and the lawyer would shrink to about $8,250. After paying 40% ($3,000) to the lawyer the estimated amount left for you would only be $$4,950. Why?
Because the lawyer would recover his $15,000 litigation costs back, plus the 40% fee ($3,000). The total, $18,000 is not enough for most lawyers to be interested in; and I am guessing that the $4,950 you got would not make you happy either.
Three possible solutions: (1) Take the case to the circuit court and try it all by yourself (potential gain of $23,250); or (2) hire an experienced trial lawyer willing to teach you how to try the case for a flat fee of (perhaps) $10,000; or (3) hire a very experienced lawyer skilled enough to recover the total amount stolen ($7,750) without filing a case.
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