MIAMI – The Third District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court’s order awarding attorney’s fees to Okay Insurance in a pregnancy discrimination suit against Okay Insurance.
Milena Balmaseda, who accused Okay of pregnancy discrimination, filed a motion to review the July 12, 2017, order that awarded more than $8,000 in attorney fees to the company. In the March 14 ruling, the appeal court said the fee judgment was prematurely entered because the issues of damages in the case remains pending. After Balmaseda filed the discrimination suit, Okay filed a counterclaim, alleging she violated the two-year non-compete provision in her employment agreement.
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Okay Insurance, which was seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages, moved for a temporary injunction that the trial court granted, and the appeal court affirmed. The appeal court then entered an order granting Okay's motion for its attorney fees and “remanded to the trial court to fix amount.”
Balmaseda and Okay subsequently filed competing motions for summary judgment, which is a judgment entered by a court without a full trial. Balmaseda argued that the insurance company’s right to seek a permanent injunction under the non-compete provision had expired, while Okay Insurance filed a competing motion for summary judgement on its counterclaim.
Following a hearing, the trial court denied Okay's motion and granted part of Balmaseda’s motion, saying “Ms. Balmaseda has clearly shown that the counter-defendants are not entitled to injunctive relief.” But the issue of damages remains pending.
In her motion for review, Balmaseda argued the trial court shouldn’t have awarded the company attorney’s fees because of the pending ruling on damages. Upon review, the appeal court ruled that the lower court’s order should have stated that the fees were contingent on the company “ultimately prevailing” on its counterclaim.
“We conclude that this court’s instructions to the trial court ‘to fix amount’ has caused the trial court to prematurely address and rule on Okay Insurance’s motion for appellate attorney fees because Okay's counterclaim has not yet been fully resolved,” the court said.