Workers compensation lawyers and legal practitioners are sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court in the high profile case of Castellanos v. Next Door Company.
To the average Miami resident this case may seem unimportant. But it has significant impact on the rights of injured workers throughout the State of Florida.
This case involves a gentleman by the name of Marvin Castellanos who was injured during the course of his employment in 2009. As the claim progressed the employer/carrier denied Mr. Castellanos' claim for additional medical treatment which included three physical therapy visits for two weeks.
He then hired an attorney who litigated and prevailed on this issue, assisting his client in obtaining these medical benefits in at a cost of $822.70.Florida's statutory attorney fee schedule afforded Castellanos' attorney a fee of $164.54 for 107 hours of work. The equivalent of approximately $1.53 per hour. This is well below Florida's minimum hourly wage which is $7.93 per hour.
The attorney representing Castellanos has argued to the Supreme Court that the current statutory attorney fee schedule is unconstitutional . This argument is based on the inability of an injured workers to gain access to courts due to prohibitively low attorney fees and difficulty obtaining representation.
The counter arguments seems to suggest that this statute solely impacts the attorneys and not the benefits received by the worker. As pointed out by several of the Justices, however, the reality is that restriction on fees for the claimant , directly impacts the worker. The workers compensation laws are complex and not similar to small claims, as the defense attorney attempted to argue.
In addition, the employer and its insurance carrier have no statutory restriction what so ever on the amount of fees they may pay their counsel for representation in defense of the same claims.
So what does this mean?
Like so many things in life,we will have to wait to see