By a vote of 5 to 2, the Supreme Court of Florida today declared the mandatory fee schedule in section 440.34, Florida Statutes, unconstitutional in Castellanos v. Next Door Company.
This case asks us to evaluate the constitutionality of the mandatory fee schedule in section 440.34, Florida Statutes (2009), which eliminates the requirement of a reasonable attorney’s fee to the successful claimant. Considering that the right of a claimant to obtain a reasonable attorney’s fee has been a critical feature of the workers’ compensation law, we conclude that the mandatory fee schedule in section 440.34, which creates an irrebuttable presumption that precludes any consideration of whether the fee award is reasonable to compensate the attorney, is unconstitutional under both the Florida and United States Constitutions as a violation of due process.
Justices Canady and Polston dissented. Justice Canady began by stating “the majority fail[ed] to directly address the actual policy of the statute,” which he described as a “determination by the Legislature that there should be a reasonable relationship between the value of the benefits obtained in litigating a workers’ compensation claim and the amount of attorney’s fees the employer or carrier is required to pay to the claimant.” Justice Polston believes the majority opinion “has rewritten the statute to avoid the standard governing facial challenges.”
The opinion is available HERE.