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Florida: Supreme Court Strikes Down Mandatory Attorney Fee Schedule for Claimants

April 29, 2016 (1 min read)

The Supreme Court of Florida, in a split decision, held that the mandatory attorney fee schedule contained in § 440.34, Fla. Stat., which precludes any consideration of whether the fee award is reasonable to compensate the attorney, is unconstitutional under both the Florida and the United States Constitutions as a violation of due process. In the underlying case, through the assistance of an attorney, Castellanos prevailed in his workers’ compensation claim. Because § 440.34 limits a claimant’s ability to recover fees to a sliding scale based on the amount of workers’ compensation benefits obtained, the fee awarded to Castellanos’ attorney amounted to $164.54, $1.53 per hour for 107.2 hours of work, as determined by the JCC (note that the employer/carrier’s attorney expended 115.20 hours in the case). The majority of the Court indicated that in Florida, the right of a claimant to obtain a reasonable attorney’s fee when successful in securing benefits had been considered a crucial feature of the workers’ compensation law since 1941 and that the litigation of workers’ compensation claims had become more complex to the detriment of the claimant, “who depends on the assistance of a competent attorney to navigate the thicket.” The Court said it was immaterial that the fee schedule could, in some cases, result in a constitutionally adequate fee. The statute precluded every injured worker from challenging the reasonableness of the fee award. That was the statute’s downfall.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is the co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Larson’s Citation below links to Lexis Advance.

See Castellanos v. Next Door Co., No. SC13–2082 (Apr. 28, 2016)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 133.05.

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.









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