PR Supreme Court Case(CC-2022-764)PRFF (Appellee) v. AAPP (Petitioner)Oct. 3, 2023

Matter: Public-Private Partnerships Act – Costs to be paid in the context of a judicial review under the special law do not include the payment of legal fees.

Associate Justice Feliberti Cintrón issued the Court’s opinion.

The controversy in question is a sequel to an Opinion that the Supreme Court issued on August 4, 2022 in PR Fast Ferries et al. v. AAPP, 210 DPR 332 (2022). At the time, the Supreme Court resolved that the Court of Appeals had the jurisdiction to adjudicate a Memorandum of Costs presented by the Petitioner (AAPP), under the APP Act, 27 LPRA sec. 2601 et seq.

The Memorandum of Costs presented by the Petitioner (AAPP) was filed to recover from Puerto Rico Fast Ferries (PRFF or Appellee) certain costs incurred after a judicial review of a Notice to Adjudicate issued on November 2, 2020. The amounts claimed were: (1) $109.00 for photocopy expenses; (2) $36.00 for messenger services, and (3) $20,119.73 for legal fees.

PRFF (Appellee) argued that the costs in question to be recovered did not include legal fees and that messenger services fees are not reimbursable as costs. The Court of Appeals issued a Resolution concluding that payment for the legal fees, nor for messenger services, was not warranted, but that payment for the photocopies was.

Not satisfied with this determination, AAPP (Petitioner) presented a writ of certiorari stating that the Court of Appeals erred in its decision when it required a determination of temerity for the payment of legal fees. The Supreme Court agreed to evaluate this writ of certiorari.

After evaluating applicable laws and cases [particularly Act 29-2009 (2009 [Parte 1] Leyes de Puerto Rico 249-250)], the Supreme Court determined that the word “fees” in those laws and cases referred solely to necessary and reasonable expenses related to the processing of a litigation or procedure, and did not refer specifically to “legal fees”. As such, it concurred with the Resolution of the Court of Appeals (of October 12, 2022) to grant the Memorandum of Costs presented by AAPP in relation to photocopy costs but dismiss it in relation to messenger services expenses and legal fees.

The controversy resolved in this case is relevant to COR3 contractors, given that COR3 (the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency) is an office attached to the AAPP and all procurement processes are done under Act 29; thus it is reasonable to conclude that any legal procedure against COR3 will be subject to the same limitations in regards to costs and expenses.