Strong Defense at Trial by WLSC Keeps Claimant Counsel’s Hand Out of Cookie Jar
In this 2001 claim, years went by without the Employer/Carrier furnishing medical treatment or benefits to the Claimant. A petition was filed, and the E/C timely asserted the statute of limitations defense.
At trial, the judge found that an Order issued in 2007 dismissing all Petitions from DOAH was unsigned and technically did not dismiss all Petitions and thus, the statute had not run in this claim. Therefore, the Claimant’s attorney was entitled to an employer paid fee for benefits secured which amounted to an evaluation with a hernia specialist.
Thereafter, the parties attended a hearing seeking a judicial determination on the amount of a reasonable fee to be awarded to Claimant’s attorney for securing medical benefits. The attorney was seeking an hourly fee based upon hours expended in the claim, in the range of $18,000.
This was based upon a rate of $300-320 an hour for the work performed. Miami Senior Partner, Allison Hartnett, testified on behalf of the E/C that the fee should be limited to compensate for the attorney time that was necessary to obtain the benefits. Furthermore, she argued that the hourly award, even in Miami, for this type of case should be in the range of $150 to $250 an hour.
Having heard the defense argument that the quality of legal services rendered did not support the rates sought, Judge Medina Shore entered an Order finding that a rate of $150/hour was a reasonable fee (for the services rendered to the Claimant in this type of case) and the judge ordered that the $150 hourly rate should be applied to only 33.4 of the 56.4 hours claimed.
This case sets a new defense oriented precedent, and establishes that not all claims in Miami warrant an hourly fee in the range of $300 an hour– as the attorneys in Miami like to assert.
This case can assist employers and carriers in settling fee claims for pre 2009 claims because they can point to an Order where a Miami judge has recently found $150 an hour to be a reasonable community hourly rate.