Florida: Legislation to cap workers' comp attorney's fees moves through House
Last October, the Florida Supreme Court eliminated the statutory caps on attorney's fees in a ruling in Murray v. Mariner Health Inc. The limits were imposed under the state's 2003 legislative workers' compensation reforms. State Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty based his decision to increase comp rates by 6.4 percent on the anticipated impact of the ruling. McCarty's prediction was not alone. The National Council on Compensation Insurance, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America all expressed concern that removing the cap on fees would significantly increase costs for employers in the coming years.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, breezed through a House panel and is set for a full floor vote. Under House Bill 903, the amount of attorney's fees that may be paid would be revised and be subject to approval of a workers' comp claims judge or court. An amendment by Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, that would have established a fee structure for attorneys was defeated in committee. A companion bill, S. 2072, was introduced by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, but has not moved forward.
Representatives from the Florida Chamber of Commerce applauded lawmakers for swiftly moving the bill through the House, saying that "attorney's fees in Florida's workers' compensation claims cases need to be capped before they rise rapidly again."
April 6, 2009
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