Briefly Speaking – FL Case Law Update (1/17/18)

December 2017 Attorney Fee Orders




Keisa Pickron-Rudd v. Progressive Employer Management Co.

JCC Walker: Panama City District                                  Order Date: December 1, 2017

OJCC Case: 16-023812                                                     JCC Order: Click Here

Claimant’s Counsel: Christopher R. Cumberland     E/C’s Counsel: Matthew W. Bennett

Hourly Fee Awarded: $275 per hour

Summary: Judge Walker meticulously went through claimant’s counsel’s timesheet and excluded numerous hours because they were either administrative in nature, not related to procurement of any benefit or excessive. In total, Judge Walker concluded that 34.5 hours were reasonably spent in procuring various benefits. Claimant’s counsel was awarded a fee of $9,487.50 based on an hourly rate of $275 per hour.

Allison Ganden v. Palm Beach County School District

JCC Hedler: West Palm Beach District                           Order Date:  December 1, 2017

OJCC Case:  17-002533                                                     JCC Order: Click Here

Claimant’s Counsel:  Louis P. Pfeffer                             E/C’s Counsel: Esther Zapata

Fee Awarded: Miles Fee denied

Summary: Claimant’s Counsel represented the claimant from April 24, 2017 until the claim settled on September 28, 2017.  The claim settled for $90,000 after a private mediation and approval by the school district. The claimant did enter a voluntary Miles agreement with claimant’s counsel however, the Claimant contested the proposed attorney fee of $17,000 as excessive and unreasonable. The nature of the litigation included no PFB’s filed by claimant’s counsel, one claimant deposition, and one private mediation. The evidence presented showed that the Claimant did not fully understand the Miles agreement. Claimant sent an email on August 22, 2017 to claimant’s counsel stating, “I did not realize until I looked at my past attorney contracts that they only were going to receive 10%. I then googled average lawyers rate for workers Comp in Florida and it seems that 10% is customary. I see that your contract has 20% which is very high.”

On September 28, 2017, the Claimant texted Mr. Pfeffer a screen shot of an internet article titled, “What is the Most a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Charge?” with a follow-up text stating, “I’m sorry to bother you with this, but everywhere I look this is what I see for Workmen’s Comp. attorney fees. When we first spoke, you told me don’t worry, a Judge decides your fee. Everywhere I look this is what I see what you should be paid, please explain to me the discrepancy.” At the hearing, the claimant testified that she didn’t understand Mr. Pfeffer’s fee was “high” until she looked at her prior attorney’s retainer. This testimony is consistent with the e-mail of 8/22/17.”

Because of this apparent lack of understanding Judge Hedler awarded claimant’s counsel a statutory fee of $9,750 based on the $90,000 settlement.

Braulio Zorrilla v. Phoenix Industries, LLC

JCC Arthur: Lakeland District                                         Order Date:  December 6, 2017

OJCC Case:   16-005748                                                    JCC Order: Click Here

Claimant’s Counsel: Bradley G. Smith                           E/C’s Counsel:  Curt L. Harbsmeier

Hourly Fee Awarded: $275 per hour for partner and $250 for associate

Summary: The Employer/Carrier failed to timely respond to a request for payment of medical bills and authorization of a nerve stimulator. Claimant’s counsel was therefore entitled to an Employer/Carrier paid fee. Only 18.8 of the alleged 37.9 hours were spent in procuring either of those two benefits.  JCC Arthur concluded that the lead attorney should be paid a fee of $275 per hour while the associate should be paid $250 per hour. The total fee awarded based on the 18.8 hours spent was $5,095.

Jonathan Ibero v. American Airlines

JCC Massey: Tampa District                              Order Date: December 11, 2017

OJCC Case:  16-030330                                        JCC Order: Click Here

Claimant’s Counsel: Toni Lynne                        E/C’s Counsel: Michael A. Hernandez

Hourly Fee Awarded: None

Summary: Claimant’s Counsel filed a PFB on 2/22/17 requesting authorization of Physical therapy on behalf of the claimant. The next day, the parties filed a joint stipulation resolving all issues acknowledging that the employer/carrier authorized and would set up appointments for physical therapy within 14 days of the stipulation. The claimant was not able to begin the physical therapy until one month later because of his work schedule. Claimant’s counsel contended that she was due an Employer/Carrier paid fee because the therapy was not authorized within the allotted 14 day time period. The JCC concluded that the Employer/Carrier timely authorized the benefit and any resulting delay was due to the claimant’s own work schedule. The court further noted that even if the benefit was not provided within the 14 day window, no attorney fees were due under the 30 day statutory provision for fees as the benefit was provided within the 30 days. Attorney fee denied.

Virginia Talentino v. Howard Professional Employee Leasing

JCC Dietz: Melbourne District                             Order Date: December 14, 2017

OJCC Case:  15-003926                                         JCC Order: Click Here

Claimant’s Counsel: Allan Kalish                      E/C’s Counsel: Matthew J. Troy

Hourly Fee Awarded: $225 per hour

Summary: The Employer/Carrier stipulated that claimant’s counsel was due an Employer/Carrier paid fee. The parties disagreed as to the amount of hours expended in procuring those benefits and the reasonable hourly fee due. Claimant’s counsel alleged that he expended 246.32 hours during the course of litigation. He also contended that because of his education and experience he should be awarded a fee of $300 per hour.  Judge Dietz concluded that only 67.55 of those hours were spent of procuring those benefits. Judge Dietz also concluded that a rate of $225 per hour was reasonable. Claimant’s counsel was therefore awarded a fee of $15,198.75.

Mirta Groseclose v. Optimum Oncology – Comprehensive Cancer Center

JCC Havers: Miami District                                     Order Date:  December 14, 2017

OJCC Case:  10-021122                                                JCC Order: Click Here

Claimant’s Former Counsel: Victor Careaga      E/C’s Counsel: Eduardo E. Neret

Hourly Fee Awarded: $225 per hour

Summary:  Claimant’s former counsel was disbarred and was therefore no longer eligible to receive any attorney’s fees. However, pursuant to the Florida bar guidelines, any attorney’s fees due or owing should be paid to the Florida bar for restitution to the attorney’s victims. The JCC accepted the Employer/Carrier’s representations regarding hours spent in the case as reasonable. The hours alleged by attorney Careaga were denied because they were purely speculative and not entered contemporaneously with the alleged task. Therefore, the JCC awarded the Florida bar $28,975.50 based on the 128.78 hours expended and a rate of $225 per hour. This was roughly equivalent to the guideline fee which would have amounted to $27,201.70.