Paralegal time part of attorney's fees, not reimbursable cost
Demedrano v. Labor Finders of the Treasure Coast, No. 1DO6-6122 (Fla. 1st Dist. Ct. App. 05/13/09).
Ruling: The Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed a judge of compensation claims' order denying reimbursement for paralegal costs.
What it means:
Because paralegal time falls within the ambit of attorney time, the attorney's fees paid as part of a lump-sum settlement include paralegal time.
The worker was denied reimbursement for paralegal costs. He alleged the JCC erred in finding his attorney was to be paid out of settlement proceeds and in finding that paralegal time is included with attorney time. The District Court of Appeal held a JCC is required to approve any attorney's fees paid as a result of a settlement agreement and has jurisdiction to determine whether the "costs," as characterized by the worker's attorney, should be included in the attorney's fees.
The court determined that the JCC properly found the charges for paralegal time were compensated within the legal fee schedule and were not separately recoverable from the worker's lump-sum settlement. The court found attorney's fees that are paid under a joint stipulation for lump-sum settlement requires all fees be based solely upon benefits secured. Paralegal time, when it provides "meaningful legal support," is compensated within attorney time. The attorney's fees paid as part of a lump-sum settlement include paralegal time.
July 9, 2009
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