Workers’ compensation fees back on the table

first_img April 1, 2009 Kim MacQueen Associate Editor Regular News Workers’ compensation fees back on the table Workers’ compensation fees back on the table Associate Editor Many are watching closely as the Florida House and Senate work to reinstate strict caps on attorneys’ fees for workers’ compensation claimant attorneys.Both HB 903, filed by Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and SB 2072, filed by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, would amend the language in Florida statutes to limit workers’ comp claimant attorneys to a small percentage of benefits awarded to their clients, and would make it a felony for the client to pay more.Workers’ comp claimant attorneys and state business interests have been gearing up for this clash since last fall’s Supreme Court decision in Murray v. Mariner Health, which effectively nullified a cap on claimant attorneys’ fees imposed by 2003 legislative changes of the state workers’ compensation system, which were enacted in an attempt to drive down insurance premiums.“We did [the] 2003 law because Florida was at the top of the list — in terms of cost for workers’ comp insurance — of the country,” Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop told the News at the time of the Murray decision. “Since the law, insurance rates have gone down, and we have saved employers $3 billion.”In Murray, the Supreme Court unanimously found that Brian Sutter, the attorney for a health care worker who sustained injuries lifting a patient, was entitled to “reasonable” fees for the case, on which he spent more than 80 hours and won $3,200 in benefits for his client. A lower court was held to 2003 language, which limited Sutter’s fees to a percentage of the benefit award amount, or less than $700.Members of The Florida Bar’s Workers’ Compensation Law Section celebrated Murray, saying it leveled the playing field made inequitable by 2003 amendments, which capped only fees due to claimant attorneys, not those due to insurance defense. With Murray, Sutter eventually received fees of $16,000 — roughly the same amount Mariner Health paid its attorney for defense.Workers’ Compensation Section Chair-elect Richard Chait and others saw the controversy coming and have been preparing for it since Murray. “You just can’t have a legal system that completely disqualifies the ability of the injured worker to have access to competent legal counsel when there is unbridled access to defense on the other side,” Chait says.He also points out that the law affects only workers who have — after a rigorous documentation process and highly regulated visits to doctors of the insurance company’s choosing — had their initial claims for benefits denied.“Industry still has 30 days after receiving the formal claim to provide the benefits without having an obligation for attorneys’ fees,” Chait said, adding that workers’ comp insurance premiums for employers have been reduced in 2009 for the fifth year in a row, irrespective of Murray. “For industry to suggest that a crisis exists as a result of the Murray standard is essentially an admission that there is no good faith intent to provide the benefits which are ripe, due, and owed.”Both HB 903 and SB 2072 would change the statutory language of the 2003 law and reinstate the cap, which plaintiff’s attorneys argue would again have a devastating impact on workers’ comp claimants. Workers’ Compensation Section members — representing both claimant and insurance defense attorneys — worked for months on a compromise with industry that would allow claimant attorneys to be paid a “reasonable” fee based on claimant award amounts. The compromise was evident in an amendment to HB 903 put forth by Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, designed to level the playing field. But the amendment died in a House policy committee, despite a host of law-enforcement officers and injured workers who gathered to urge legislators to pass it.“These officers are now going out — and there are fewer of them out on the street as crime rates go up — and risking their lives to protect our rights, and yet they’re not entitled to the right to hire an attorney if they’re injured on the job,” said Lisa Henning, lobbyist with the Fraternal Order of Police.“Think about this law that you’re about to vote for,” Sutter, who served as Murray’s attorney, told the House policy committee. “Think about a person trying to hire an attorney to seek benefits from an insurance company. Now make that person your mom, or your sister, or your grandmother. What are they going to do? You took an oath to uphold constitutionality, and anybody with any constitutional background will tell you that what you’re doing will be unconstitutional.”As of press time, HB 903 was headed for the House floor and an identical Senate measure has yet to be heard in committee.last_img read more

Qualls, Portis lead No. 18 Arkansas past Missouri, 84-69

first_imgFAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Michael Qualls is feeling just fine these days for Arkansas.And with the explosive forward returning to his high-flying ways, the No. 18 Razorbacks appear well on their way to securing the school’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2008.Qualls had 21 points and added to his career highlight reel of dunks, showing he’s fully recovered from a recent knee sprain, and Arkansas (21-5, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) won its fifth straight with an 84-69 victory over Missouri on Wednesday night.Bobby Portis added 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but it was Qualls’ early energy that sparked the Razorbacks to their eighth win in nine games.The junior has played through a right knee sprain in recent weeks, but he’s now scored in double figures in three straight games — putting the exclamation point on Wednesday’s win with his 26th dunk of the season, the 79th of his career.“He’s an energy guy,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “And when he plays with that energy, it’s kind of contagious. It spreads throughout our team.”Missouri nearly defeated Arkansas in their first meeting on Jan. 24, missing a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of a 61-60 loss. The Tigers (7-19, 1-12) fell behind during a first half in which they committed 14 of 20 turnovers overall, and they never threatened after that — losing their 12th straight game.Jonathan Williams and Tramaine Isabell had 13 points each to lead Missouri, which hasn’t won since opening SEC play with a win over LSU on Jan. 8. The losing stretch is the school’s longest since a 12-game losing streak during the 1966-67 season.“We did a much better job in Columbia of handling their pressure,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “… When they get their press going and the crowd going, certainly they’re a good team, but they’re even better. Tonight, they rattled us.”Isabell put the Tigers up 19-16 with a 3-pointer midway through the first half. Led by the resurgent Qualls, Arkansas answered with a 15-0 run to go up 31-19 and take control of the game for good after that.Qualls had six points during the run, including one of his four 3-pointers in the game. After a five-game stretch in which he was 14 of 59 from the field, the junior is 17-of-34 shooting over his last three games — even though he said his knee is only “85 percent” healthy.“Every game, I’m trying to be at a better and better stage,” Qualls said. “… If I feel like it’s the shot I’m capable of making, I’m going to take it, no matter if I’m hitting it or not. Because I feel like I’m doing an injustice to the team if I turn down those shots, because I can make them at any time.”Missouri finished 26 of 62 (50 percent) from the field, with Montaqu Gill-Caesar and Jakeenan Gant also scoring in double figures with 11 points each.Arkansas, however, also had 13 points from freshman point guard Anton Beard — helping to keep the Razorbacks in second place in the SEC as they try to reach the NCAA tournament in Mike Anderson’s fourth season as coach.“We have a long way to go,” Portis said. “Even with our record being what it is, every day coach preaches staying humble and hungry.”TIP-INSMissouri: A game after scoring a career-best 27 points against Mississippi State, Williams was 4 of 11 from the field for the Tigers. Missouri was 26-of-52 shooting (50 percent) overall, but it was only 6 of 17 on 3-pointers and committed 20 turnovers.Arkansas: Former Final Four Most Outstanding Player Corliss Williamson was honored at halftime of Wednesday’s game. Flanked by his family, former teammates and former coach, Nolan Richardson, the current Sacramento Kings assistant coach — who led Arkansas to the Razorbacks only national title in 1994 — had a banner with his name and No. 34 hung inside Bud Walton Arena.SECOND-CHANCE HOGSPortis led Arkansas with nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end. The Razorbacks had 12 offensive rebounds overall, leading to 22 second-chance points.UP NEXTMissouri returns to the road when it travels to Vanderbilt on Saturday.Arkansas is at Mississippi State on Saturday.last_img read more

Thousands grieve for slain Chicago police commander

first_imgWLS-TV(CHICAGO) — Thousands of people gathered Saturday morning to mourn a decorated Chicago police officer, who was gunned down while on duty this week.A line of mourners wrapped around the street as they waited to enter the Nativity of Our Lord Church for the funeral service of Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer, according to ABC station WLS-TV. Bauer’s wife, Erin, and their 13-year-old daughter, Grace, stood on the church steps to greet family, friends and law enforcement officers as they went inside.Grade did the first reading for her father’s funeral Mass. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, police Capt. Mel Roman as well as John Escalante, who retired from the department in 2016 and is now the police chief at Northeastern Illinois University, were among those who delivered remarks about the fallen officer.“Chicago is blessed to have known and been served by Paul Bauer,” Emanuel said. “Chicago will never forget his grace and his goodness.”After the funeral mass, a sea of officers in blue as well as local citizens lined the procession route from Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood to the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in honor of the slain officer and the loved ones he leaves behind.Bauer was shot and killed after engaging with a suspect near the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago on Tuesday.There was a report of a suspicious person spotted by a police officer who was patrolling the grounds by the Thompson Center, otherwise referred to as the State of Illinois Building, which has businesses on the first floor and a food court on the floor below. An officer made initial contact with the suspect but the person fled, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told a press conference Tuesday.Bauer spotted the suspect and engaged him, but was shot multiple times, Johnson said.The suspect, 44-year-old Shomari Legghette of South Side Chicago, was later arrested. A weapon was recovered at the scene.Legghette, a convicted felon, faces felony charges in the brazen shooting death, including first-degree murder and armed violence. He is being held without bond.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.Powered by WPeMatico Relatedlast_img read more