Colodny Fass Litigators File Amicus Brief For Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Others in Florida Supreme Court ‘Next Door’ Workers’ Compensation Case
Jun 18, 2014 | By Colodny Fass
Colodny Fass litigators Amy Koltnow and Maria Elena Abate filed an amicus brief on June 16, 2014 on behalf of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Florida Insurance Council, American Insurance Association and National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies in a Florida Supreme Court case contemplating the constitutionality of Florida law governing claimants’ attorneys’ fees in workers’ compensation claims.
This and other amicus briefs filed to date with the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Company and Amerisure Insurance Company debate the effect of Section 440.34(I), F.S.–the provisions of which resulted in remuneration of $164.54 for 107.2 hours of “reasonably necessary” legal work on the original claim by Mr. Castellanos’ attorney to secure his client’s workers’ compensation benefits.
Calling the attorneys’ fee award “inadequate” in its 2013 Next Door opinion, but nevertheless noting its adherence to Florida law, the First District Court of Appeal certified the following question to the Florida Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case:
“WHETHER THE AWARD OF ATTORNEY’S FEES IN THIS CASE IS ADEQUATE, AND CONSISTENT WITH THE ACCESS TO COURTS, DUE PROCESS, EQUAL PROTECTION, AND OTHER REQUIREMENTS OF THE FLORIDA AND FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONS.”
In their brief, Ms. Koltnow and Ms. Abate cited a 2002 Florida Senate Committee report backed by NCCI data indicating that attorney involvement in a workers’ compensation case increased the cost of a claim in Florida by nearly 40 percent.
Closely tracking the legislative and regulatory history of skyrocketing claims costs in Florida through the 1990s, they also noted Workers’ Compensation Research Institute comparative research showing the state had the highest attorney involvement in workers’ compensation claims compared with eight other states at that time.
Indeed, a Governor’s Commission appointed in 2001 found that workers’ compensation underwriting in Florida was one of the poorest performing sectors of the insurance industry, with Florida insurers paying out nearly 130 percent in losses and expenses for every dollar of premium collected.
But even with 2003 reforms, the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation still found in 2011 that approximately 75 percent of Florida’s workers’ compensation claims settlements reported attorneys’ fees averaging 33 percent in excess of the statutory formula.
Ms. Koltnow and Ms. Abate concluded that Florida government has a legitimate interest in capping attorneys’ fees in workers’ compensation claims, the goal of which is to ultimately make coverage more affordable and available, and thus promote economic growth.
For 40 years, Colodny Fass has represented insurers in complex and high-risk litigation such as class actions, bad faith, insurance fraud, multi-jurisdictional cases, coverage matters, and fact-intensive, multi-party lawsuits requiring superior organizational skills and trial experience. We effectively represent insurance carriers, third-party administrators and self-insured entities in state, federal and administrative trials and appellate courts, and routinely handle all aspects of insurance coverage and defense, including bad faith and extra-contractual claims, class action and collective claims, coverage disputes between insurers, first and third-party claims, investigation and prosecution of fraudulent claims, primary, excess and reinsurance claims, and regulatory appeals and hearings.
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