• Florida's Workers' Compensation Attorneys' Fees Law Upheld, But Florida Supreme Court Asked to Address Constitutionality
  • November 20, 2013
  • Law Firm: Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate Webb P.A. - Fort Lauderdale Office
  • In a decidedly reluctant opinion filed on October 23, 2013, the First District Court of Appeal upheld a Judge of Compensation Claims' prior award of attorneys' fees of only $164.54 for 107.2 hours of legal work in the case of Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Company/Amerisure Insurance Co., but asked the Florida Supreme Court to consider the constitutional adequacy of the governing statute.

    In reaching the decision, the First District Court of Appeal explained that consideration had been given to the claimaint's arguments that  s. 440.34 should be deemed in violation of several constitutional provisions.  Nevertheless, the Court said that, based on precedent, it was bound to conclude that the statute is constitutional and certified the following question to the Florida Supreme Court as a question of great public importance:

        WHETHER THE AWARD OF ATTORNEY'S FEES IN THIS CASE IS ADEQUATE, AND CONSISTENT WITH THE ACCESS TO COURTS, DUE PROCESS, EQUAL PROTECTION, AND OTHER REQUIREMENTS OF THE FLORIDA AND FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONS.

    In Emma Murray v. Mariner Health, Inc., one of the most high-profile cases relating to the issue of attorneys' fees in Florida workers' compensation claims, the Florida Supreme Court had invalidated the attorney fee schedule set forth in section 440.34(1), F.S. because it did not meet the "reasonable" attorneys' fee requirement in 440.34(3), F.S.  The Emma Murray decision was considered to have clarified the ambiguity between 440.34(1) and 440.34(3), F.S.

    Prior to the Emma Murray case, Florida documented six consecutive workers' compensation rate decreases.

    Senate Bill 50-A, enacted in 2003, created Florida's workers' compensation attorney fee schedule law.