It’s Friday, nearly 5 o’clock and you’re getting ready to go home. A stranger appears at your office waiving a copy of the Florida Public Records Act, demanding to see your company’s records. You explain that “this is a private company and not subject to the Public Records Act”. You send him away.
The following week, you are served with a lawsuit alleging that you violated the Public Records Act and seeking fees and costs. After your attorney explains how and why you are subject to the Act, you produce the requested records – no harm, no foul, right? WRONG!
The court will still hold a hearing to determine whether you unlawfully refused to produce the records (even though the records have now been produced). If your initial refusal is found unlawful, you will have to pay the requestor’s attorney’s fees and costs for the suit. Under current law, the award of fees and costs – which can be thousands of dollars (not including your own defense costs) – is mandatory. For example, a public records custodian was ordered to pay a requestor’s fees and costs, even though the custodian produced the requested records prior to the Public Records Act hearing and even though the custodian delayed the production because it thought it had a good faith basis to withhold the documents. Continue Reading