Cap on Legal Fees in Birth Injury Case Upheld
Miami, FL (Law Firm Newswire) August 3, 2015 – On July 15, the 4th District Court of Appeal in a 2-1 ruling upheld the 2012 limit on attorneys’ fees for the representation of a child who suffered a serious birth injury in a hospital in Southwest Florida.
In 1997, Aaron Edwards was afflicted with brain injuries when he was born and, as a result, became severely disabled. In 2007, a jury determined that employees at Lee Memorial caused Edwards’ injuries. The appeals court stated that it was “sympathetic” to the contentions made by the law firm that represented the family of the child for many years, and expended nearly $500,000 on the case, winning a jury verdict of almost $31 million against Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers.
However, because Lee Memorial is a public entity that falls under the protection of Florida’s sovereign immunity laws, the child’s parents were unable to collect an amount in excess of $200,000 without passage of a “claim” bill by legislators. Therefore, in 2012, legislators ordered Lee Memorial to issue a payment of $15 million to the parents, but only $100,000 of that amount could be paid to the attorneys.
Prominent Miami, Florida, birth injury attorneys Chalik & Chalik Injury Lawyers stated, “A limit of $100,000 in attorneys’ fees may well deprive many would-be plaintiffs of legal representation even though they have viable cases in which they were injured due to the negligence of another person or entity.”
Following payment of the first installment of $10 million to a trust that was established for the child, the main firm and other firms that performed work on the case attempted to collect $2.5 million, partly on the basis of a contract with the parents, and partly due to a limit of a 25 percent fee as provided under state law. However, due to the fee limit of $100,000 in the claim bill, the attorneys’ request was denied by a guardianship court that was responsible for distributing the funds.
The appeals court upheld the decision made by the guardianship court on the basis of precedent set by the Florida Supreme Court. Nevertheless, Chief Judge Cory Ciklin dissented from the majority opinion, depicting the $100,000 limit as “draconian,” and stated that it impaired the contract between the law firm and the child’s parents. In addition, he contended that placing a limit on contingency fees for attorneys might serve to diminish access to the court system for several people for whom the cost of legal representation would otherwise be prohibitive.Learn more at http://www.chaliklaw.com/. Chalik & Chalik Injury Lawyers 28 W Flagler St, #1000 Miami, FL 33130 Phone: (305) 944-2035