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Ruling on Lawyer Fees Causes Debate In Florida
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A ruling from Florida’s Supreme Court regarding the rates lawyers can charge on workers comp cases will pit attorney’s and workers’ rights advocates against business and insurers.

The ruling, handed down last October, states that a lawyer representing an injured employee has a right to earn a “reasonable” rate for his work.  Insurers and businesses say that undoes a law enacted six years ago that capped lawyer fees with the intention of keeping insurance rates down.  Since 2003, rates have come down more than 60 percent.

  
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The case itself revolved around the Brian Sutter, a lawyer who was paid $8 an hour for 80 hours of work on the case of an injured nurse under the 2003 law.

Several  bills have bounced around the state legislature trying to resolve the issue. A bill introduced by Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami-Dade, would strike the word ”reasonable” from the law while retaining the same fee schedule for attorneys. A companion bill has been filed by Sen. Garrett S. Richter, a Republican from Naples who chairs the Senate Banking and Insurance committee.
Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami, has introduced another workers comp bill that would allow injured employers to chose their own attorney and fees wouldn’t be limited. That would reverse the current law.
Paul Anderson, an executive officer with the Florida Justice Association, had been negotiating with Tamela Perdue, chairwoman of the Workers’ Compensation Coalition for Business & Industry. The groups were trying to reach a compromise that could be used to draft a bill that could win speedy approval. Anderson said talks broke off last week.

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