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  • Florida Appellate Court Reverses Ruling on Attorney’s Fee Award in Workers’ Compensation Case

Florida Appellate Court Reverses Ruling on Attorney’s Fee Award in Workers’ Compensation Case

In Edmond v. Avis Budget Group, Inc., an employee with a rental car service filed a workers’ compensation claim with his employer’s insurance carrier after he suffered injuries while on the job. The worker alleged that he became temporarily disabled due to the accident at work.

After a hearing before a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”), the employer was ordered to pay the worker over $1,300 in temporary disability fees and roughly $260 in legal fees. Following the JCC’s ruling, the worker appealed the case to the First District Court of Appeal in Florida. 

The worker’s appeal included two claims based on the Constitution, claiming that the JCC erred by failing to award reasonable attorney’s fees for the work that his lawyer performed in preparing his claim for attorney’s fees pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 440.34. Following his appeal, the First District issued an order to show cause to the worker, asking him to explain why the court’s decision in a case decided back in 2013 did not control the matter. In response, the employee admitted that the 2013 case was controlling.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the worker’s entitlement to reasonable attorney’s fees, in addition to challenging the worker’s claim for compensation for work that the lawyer performed to establish the entitlement to fees. According to Section 440.34, an award of attorney’s fees cannot be made unless the JCC approves the award. The award is also subject to a number of statutorily enumerated limitations.

Turning to the worker’s claim that the lower court’s award of attorney’s fees was inadequate, the court of appeal stated that while the JCC permitted the worker to supplement the record with more evidence supporting the request for attorney’s fees that stemmed from the lawyer’s work in putting together the request for fees, the JCC did not make an express ruling on the subject. As a result, the appellate court stated that there was no way to determine whether the JCC evaluated the worker’s claim for “fees on fees” when issuing the order requiring the rental car company to pay $260 in legal expenses to the worker.

Since the JCC failed to make a ruling on this issue, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the matter and remanded the proceedings for further resolution of the injured employee’s claim for additional legal fees. Last, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling regarding the two constitutional issues that the plaintiff raised on appeal.

If you or a family member have suffered injuries while you are at work, you may be entitled to compensation. The workers’ compensation system is very complex and difficult to navigate, especially when you are suffering from painful and debilitating injuries, or when you have to deal with your employer’s insurance company. At The Hoffman Firm, we have helped many South Florida residents bring a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and we are ready to help you do the same. We offer a free consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Call us now at (800) 223-1866 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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Evan A. Hoffman

Evan A. Hoffman

Mr. Hoffman’s philosophy is "our knowledge and experience is your best defense." He has been a featured author on criminal law issues such as driving under the influence, domestic violence and illegal searches.

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