Florida’s First District Court of Appeal has reversed a Judge of Compensation Claims’ order denying an injured employee’s request for stipulated costs in a workers’ compensation case. In Gobel v. American Airlines, a Florida worker successfully pursued medical benefits payments from his employer following a workplace accident. After that, the parties jointly submitted a stipulation request related to the employee’s legal fees and costs to a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”). As part of the stipulation, the man’s employer agreed to pay him $200 in costs.
The JCC reviewed the parties’ request and ultimately denied the stipulation regarding costs. According to the JCC, it was unclear whether the $200 constituted actual costs or disguised legal expenses, since the parties failed to submit supporting documentation with their request. In response, the hurt worker argued that such supporting documentation was not required under Rule 60Q-6.123(5) of the Florida Administrative Code because the stipulated amount was less than $250. The JCC rejected the woman’s claim and stated the rule was not valid.
On appeal, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal found that both the injured worker and the JCC mistakenly relied on Rule 60Q-6.123(5) in the case. According to the court, the rule only applied to settlements that were entered into under Section 440.20(11) of the Florida Statutes. The Florida court said Section 440.20(11) only pertains to settlements that require an injured worker to pay his or her own legal fees out of a lump sum payment that extinguishes all liability claims. In the case at hand, however, the injured man’s employer agreed to pay for his costs separately.
Next, the appellate court said Rule 60Q-6.124(2) of the Florida Administrative Code applied to the injured employee’s case. The court added that the rule allows parties to stipulate to an amount of legal fees and costs without providing any supporting documentation or justification. Since such stipulations and settlements are governed by Florida contract law, the appeals court stated that no specialized rules applied to the case.
Since Rule 60Q-6.123(5) did not apply to the injured worker’s case, and the JCC’s concern regarding the parties’ proposed stipulation was misplaced, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reversed the JCC’s order denying the injured employee’s request for stipulated costs and remanded the case.
If you were injured or someone close to you was killed in a South Florida workplace accident, you need a skilled personal injury attorney on your side to advocate on your behalf. To discuss your rights with a hardworking Miami workers’ compensation lawyer today, call the dedicated advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.
Gobel v. American Airlines, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015
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