scales-of-justice-300x203Stung from being held accountable by the Florida Supreme Court, Associated Industries of Florida (a/k/a Enemy of the People), commanded by Tom Feeney, he of the 2000 Presidential Election coup, on behalf of itself and other workers’ compensation insurance companies, is proposing legislation designed to abolish carrier-paid attorney’s fees.

In Castellanos v. Next Door Company, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that workers’ compensation insurance companies that force injured workers’ to institute legal proceedings to secure benefits may, in some instances, be required to pay the Claimant’s attorney a reasonable fee. The fee is only due if the injured worker is successful in securing the benefit after a lengthy delay. The court explained the ruling as a sensible method of getting carriers to follow the law without having to be ordered to do so by a Judge of Compensation Claims. In the court’s view, it is a stick Claimants must have at their disposal to get carriers to comply with the state’s workers’ compensation laws. The ruling was not issued in a vacuum. A long historical record shows that it works.

Which is why it is opposed by Associated Industries. AI abhors the idea of workers being able to compete for benefits on a level playing field. Its legislative proposal looks to slant the field back in its favor — Castellanos righted a longstanding statutory wrong that harmed countless injured workers.

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moses-224x300In Parsha Yitro (full text here in Hebrew and English), Jethro suggests to Moses, his son-in-law, that the Jewish people would be better served if he appointed a hierarchy of magistrates and judges to assist him in the task of governing and administering justice to the people. The advice was taken, establishing the framework for the form of civil jurisprudence practiced in America today, some 3300 years later.

In Florida, the administration of civil disputes is handled through a series of courts, each with varying degrees of authority and responsibility. Disputes involving $15,000 or less begin in the trial jurisdiction of county courts, while disputes in excess of $15,000 fall within the jurisdiction of the civil circuit trial court system. Appeals from decisions made in both court systems can sometimes be taken all of the way up to the Florida Supreme Court. In some rare instances, the Supreme Court of the United States will consider a state court case.

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File-Feb-09-8-45-45-AM-225x300Here is my Letter to the Editor (Miami Herald), published on February 9, 2017:

FAILED PARENTING

I’m not a psychiatrist, so I won’t venture a diagnosis to explain President Trump. But I am a parent and do have an idea from that perspective: Trump’s parents failed miserably at teaching their boy the basic lessons of human decency.

Uber-300x145In a case with far-reaching implications, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal ruled on February 1, 2017 that an Uber driver was not an employee of Uber. In McGillis v. Department of Economic Opportunity, the court decided that, based on the contract between the driver and Uber and the nature of their relationship, the driver was an independent contractor for the purpose of reemployment assistance under Chapter 443 Florida Statutes (2015).

While the case involves a relatively minor claim for unemployment compensation, the court’s ruling, with its in-depth analysis of Florida’s independent contractor law, will have consequences in other types of Florida cases.

In civilized society a person injured through the negligence of another party should have the right to be compensated for their losses by that party. However, what is good in theory (i.e., the right to pursue a recovery) does not always pan out in reality. Frequently, the at-fault party is not adequately insured, if insured at all, or does not have the personal means to cover the losses. It is the personal injury lawyer’s job to make every effort to find sources of payment.

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accident-scene-300x193With fault being a fundamental element in all but strict liability personal injury cases, it is often critically important for both sides of a dispute to be able to view certain photographs taken after an accident to help piece together the how and why of its occurrence. Common examples include accident-scene images showing the resting place of vehicles involved in a multi-vehicle collision or a condition alleged to have caused a fall.

Very often only one side has the photographs and sometimes the party refuses to share them with the other side, citing work product privilege as the basis.

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Notes-300x215The parties to a Florida workers’ compensation case have the unique right to conduct discovery depositions even in the absence of a pending claim, which is brought by filing a Petition for Benefits.

The right is granted under Florida Statute 440.30 and is limited to cases where the Claimant is represented by an attorney. (This means that the Employer and Carrier, known collectively as “E/C”, cannot employ the device against an unrepresented Claimant.) Significantly, “[I]f no claim has been filed, then the carrier or employer taking the deposition shall pay the claimant’s attorney a reasonable attorney’s fee for attending said deposition.”

Because both parties may conference separately with authorized medical providers — Section 440.13(4)(c) Florida Statutes grants E/C the right — it is rare for a medical provider to be deposed in the absence of a pending Petition for Benefits. From E/C’s perspective, it can learn what it needs by talking to the doctor privately without having to pay the Claimant’s attorney to attend a deposition.

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greed-1-156x300“Big Business,” for want of a better term, goes to great lengths to misinform the public about many different subjects, all for the purpose of advancing one cause: MAXIMIZING PROFITS!

One of its most popular and successful themes is the notion that the country is suffering under an onslaught of “frivolous lawsuits.” By convincing the public that most lawsuits are baseless and that baseless lawsuits cause the price of products and services like insurance and health care to spiral upwards, Big Business has successfully polluted the minds of potential jurors and gotten politicians to enact legislation curbing access to courtrooms and imposing arbitrary caps on damages in personal injury cases. The end result is that “We the People” have been bamboozled into giving up the right to seek redress for legitimate grievances.

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greedThis article — Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it — published in theguardian.com, paints a dire picture of what awaits the human race under a Trump Presidency. Civil trial lawyers are all too familiar with the insidious threat discussed in the article.

For more than 30 years, trial lawyers have been the target of these Masters of Misinformation. The Masters have systematically misinformed the public into believing that trial lawyers are the reason for the rising cost of insurance and medical care. One of the bellwether terms used in the misinformation campaign is “frivolous lawsuits.”

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scales of justiceFollowing the Florida Supreme Court’s April, 2016 decision in Castellanos v. Next Door Company, Florida’s workers’ compensation insurance industry quickly mobilized in an effort to obtain approval of a rate increase from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. It claimed that a substantial premium rate hike was needed to handle the expected increase in claim costs — in particular, fees paid to claimants’ attorneys — resulting from the decision.

Insurance industry representatives hired National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), a private company authorized to request rate changes, to present its case to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), the regulatory agency responsible for setting insurance rates. OIR ultimately approved a 14.5% rate hike. Problem is, opponents were prevented from fully engaging  in the regulatory process.

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caduceus-1219484-mIn the upcoming healthcare debate, watch carefully for a Republican shell game. In his 60 Minutes interview, Trump professed support for prohibiting insurance carriers from denying coverage for preexisting medical conditions. Left unsaid is whether carriers will be allowed to charge higher premiums based on preexisting conditions, a practice banned under the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a “Obamacare”).

With “Profits Over People” representing a fundamental Republican theological belief, it seems likely that their healthcare plan will allow price gouging on this issue just like before the ACA, essentially making illusory the promise of coverage for preexisting conditions.

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