The Fourth District Court of Appeals recently ruled 2-1 to uphold the constitutionality of a 2012 decision by Florida lawmakers to limit the amount of fees paid to attorneys who represented a child who suffered severe birth injuries at Lee Memorial Health System of Fort Myers. Although the court said it was “sympathetic” to the case the law firm presented, it ultimately ruled on the side of the family the firm represented.
The attorneys received a $31 million jury verdict in the original case. However, because Lee Memorial is a public entity and protected by sovereign immunity laws in the state, the family needed intervention from the state legislature to pass a new claim bill to be able to collect more than $200,000 of the award. Lawmakers ordered Lee Memorial to pay $15 million, with a restriction that only $100,000 would go to the plaintiffs’ legal team.
Lee Memorial made an initial payment of $10 million into a trust made for the child, but then the firms that worked on the case started fighting to collect $2.5 million based partially on a contract with the family that there would be a 25 percent fee cap in accordance with state laws. The guardianship court in charge of administering the money turned down the law firm’s request because of the $100,000 fee limit. The law firm says it spent approximately $500,000 representing the family.
The appeals court pointed to a precedent set by the Florida Supreme Court in the ruling, as there have been numerous decisions indicating that limiting attorney fees in private claims bills is constitutionally permissible.
To learn more about what this court decision could mean for other personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in the state of Florida, speak with an experienced Bradenton attorney at Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, Murphy & Walsh.