Castellanos Certified to the Florida Supreme Court

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

The First District Court of Appeals showed some courage and backbone recently in the case of Castellanos. The panel of Padavano, Benton, & Van Nortwick affirmed the lower court but agreed that the questions regarding the Constitutionality of the Workers Compensation fee provisions should be decided by the Florida Supreme Court.

Castellanos is big news, because many in Florida have felt the First District Court of Appeals had been obstructionist by refusing to allow the constitutional challenge to make it through to the Florida Supreme Court. The Appellate courts are appointed by the Governor, and many thought they wouldn’t have the courage and backbone to do the right thing by the injured workers of Florida.

The politics of the Special Interests who run Florida are against the middle class protections that were built into the original workers compensation law in Chapter 440. HB 941 was passed in 2012 allowing the Special Interests to keep over 200 million dollars worth of excess profits earned by denying injured workers Access to Courts, so expect a huge push back from the corrupt against the Castellanos decision. HB 941 abolished the law that mandated excess profits be returned to policyholders.

Our present Appeal, cited as the companion case/similar case to Castellanos, is still at the 1st DCA being briefed. It will be interesting to see if the courage of the 1st DCA withstands the pressure of the Special Interests, as we are asking for similar reief in our case.

Recertified by The Florida Bar for the 3rd time

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

Charles Leo received confirmation today that he was recertifed for the 3rd time in Workers Compensation. Charles Leo has been continuosly Board Certified in Workers Compensation since 1998.

Board Certified Lawyers have met the Florida Bar’s highest standards for special knowledge, skills, proficiency, professionalism and ethics in the practice of law. No matter how much experience a lawyer may have in workers compensation law, only Board Certified Workers Compensation lawyers are allowed to identify themselves as specialists or experts in the area of law.

To become Board Certified, a lawyer is required to:
*practice law for at least 5 years
*devoted at least 30% of his time to the practice of Workers Compensation
*tried a minimum of 25 contested workers compensation cases
*been evaluated for competency, ethics, professionalism by judges & peers
*completed 45 hours of Continuing legal education
*passed a written examination demonstrating knowledge, skills and proficiency in the field of workers compensation law to justify the representation of special competence in this area of law to the legal profession and to the public.

Board Certification is valid for 5 years, during which time the attorney must continue to practice law and attend education courses. Recertification requirements are similar to the initial certification.

At any given time, approximately 220 lawyers in all of Florida are Board Certified in Workers Compensation, with less than half of those representing injured workers. Hire an expert for your Workers Compensation injury.

Westphal En Banc opinion reverses panel of 3

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

The panel of 3 Judges who struck the 104 week cap on Temporary Total disability has been reversed by the “en banc” ruling, where every 1st DCA judge has a vote on the issue. The en banc ruling puts the 104 week cap back in place, but closes the donut hole by allowing Permanent Total Disability benefits to be awarded once the 104 weeks runs out, regardless of MMI, as long as claimant is still totally disabled.

Although disappointed that the en banc didn’t uphold the original Constitutional ruling, seeing a window of fairness for workers who burn through their 104 weeks while trying to heal was positive.
The dissents were the most distressing, because they showed which Judges feel Legislative power is more important than protecting the Court’s own power to insure fairness in the laws passed by the Legislature. None of the sitting Judges on the First DCA were ever Board Certified in Workers Compensation, so their firsthand understanding of the employers & insurance companies’ scorched earth tactics during litigation is limited.

Filed Constitutional Challenge to Statute 440 with 1st DCA

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

An Appeal has been filed with the First District Court of Appeals challenging the Constitutionality of the draconian fee provisions passed by the State legislators corrupted by the Insurance Companies. The Special Interests who dictate to the politicians seem hellbent on destroying the Constitutional rights of the weakest members of society. The Special Interests are terrified of workers having a level playing field against employers and insurance companies.

Under the current law, insurance companies can spend an unlimited amount of money defending every claim, unfettered by statutory limitations. Unfortunately, the same Employers & Insurance companies wrote the law that their lapdogs in the Legislature passed verbatim. The law severely limits injured workers’ rights, including limiting workers’ Access to courts and violating the Separation of Powers by putting caps on what Judges can award in fees to workers’ lawyers.

Although the District Court of Appeals deferred on our Motion to certify our appeal to the Supreme Court, we are hopeful it will be sent up once the panel reviews the Motion. It only takes one panel of Judges to have the requisite character and courage to stand up for their own powers to strike down bad laws passed by a corrupt legislature.

There has been a steady erosion of workers’ rights under the Special Interest rule. However, during a recent Oral Argument in the Castellanos case, it appeared that Judge Padavano had enough vision to see the hypocrisy of allowing Insurance Companies to wage a war of attrition against injured workers. Florida is hopeful that the panel in Castellanos has enough guts to certify the question to the Supreme Court of Florida and not rollover in the face of the Legislature’s over reach.

If the Court has the courage to certify in Castellanos, Floridians’ confidence may get restored. Ever since the resignation of the 1st DCA’s Chief Judge while under investigation of a complaint of bias, the 1st DCA’s image has suffered. Striking a blow for fairness in the Workers Compensation Court system would go a long way to restoring the reputation of all Courts.

Won Workers Compensation Trial over Temporary Total Disability

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

A woman who was severely injured while working for a well known food service and uniform company was refused benefits by the Workers Compensation carrier. Despite winning Social Security Disability for the woman as a result of the severe injury, the Employer and Insurance company refused to pay Temporary Total disability for several months, even though the Doctor they authorized took the woman totally out of work. At the trial, the employer finally agreed to pay the remaining benefits owed under the law while boosting her weekly pay by over $ 100.00 per week. Penalties and interest were also assessed against the Employer/Ins. for the delay and late payment. Glad to see some justice served.

Won Social Security Disability for A/C Tech

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

Longtime worker for local AC company had blown out his shoulder. After settling the Workers Compensation aspect for close to $200,000.00 dollars, we were able to go back and get him approved for Social Security Disability after several denials. The hearings were in Orlando for both cases. Happy to see financial security and medical benefits for a great guy dealt a tough hand by a Workers Compensation injury.

Won Social Security Benefits for Workers Compensation client with RSD

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

Last week we were successful in obtaining Social Security Disability for a client with an ongoing Workers Compensation case. The woman and mother had a relatively minor injury, but the surgery left her with nerve damage and Relex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a terrible nerve disorder that can progress to all parts of the nervous system.

Very happy to at least give her the safety net of Social Security as a backup to her Workers Compensation benefits. RSD is a very complex attack on the body’s nervous system and can be crippling. If you are sufferring from RSD after trauma, or suspect you are more injured than the doctors are letting on, please contact our office for a free consultation.

Corrupt Tallahassee responds to 440.105 dicta

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

After the Jacobsen case referred to the potential criminal liability of insurance lawyers for violating 440.105 3 c and 440.105 4 e, the Special Interests in Tallahassee who control the Legislative process are moving to protect Insurance lawyers and the Judges from Criminal liability.

The Florida Workers Compensation Law, Chapter 440, was written by the Insurance Industry. The Insurance & Employer Lobbyists than donated heavily to their elected lapdogs in the Legislature who passed the law almost verbatim. While Florida was distracted by the 2003 Special Session called by JEB Bush over Terry Schiavo, JEB and his cohorts slipped the terrible new Workers Compensation Law past Floridians. The Courts are now forced to admit that the law is unconstitutional, but every time a portion is struck down by the Courts, Corruption reigns supreme and the language is tweaked to keep the Special Interests happy.

Floridians cannot sleep through another attack on their Constitutional rights. Since the JEB Bush attacks were passed in 2003, the overall claims filed for injured workers has dropped from over 150,000 to 61,000. The 60% decline is directly related to the erosion of the injured Workers Rights and the unconstitutional limitations unilaterally applied against workers and their lawyers. Not surprisingly, the Legislature passed HB 941 last year, allowing EXCESS profits for workers compensation insurance companies.

1st DCA declares portions of Workers Compensation Law unconstitutional

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

The First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee seems to have had an epiphany and has declared portions of the Workers Compensation law as amended to be unconstitutional.

WESTPHAL CASE: The law was written to cap temporary total lost wages that injured workers can receive at 104 weeks after the insurance companies lobbied and donated to the Legislature. The Court was faced with a worker who was not recovered from their original injury after 104 weeks were paid and required additional remedial treatment. Court held that the limitation was unwarranted, and reverted back to the last Law limitation of 260 weeks. THIS was a blow to the insurance companies, who have requested and received an “en banc” rehearing, so decision not yet final.

JACOBSEN CASE: Court held that 440.105 (3) (c) is unconstitutional under the Federal Constitution and State Constitution. Left open was whether employer/insurance attorneys must now get their own fees approved by JCC. Claimants can now file criminal complaints against insurance lawyers under strict reading of 440.105(3)(c), it will be interesting to see how the JCCs react to the criminal behavior alluded to in Jacobsen. As it now stands, the JCCs have been unilaterally applying the statute to Claimant Lawyers, despite the plain language of the statute that reads to apply to ALL lawyer fees.

SETTLED FOR 289,000 injured Worker on Social Security

Written by Charles Leo on . Posted in Uncategorized

Theme park worker with multiple injuries. Originally settled the lost wage portion of her claim for $ 150,000. Settled her medical after Social Security approvel for $ 289,000. Claimant received total of over $ 439,000 worth of settlements and benefits after hiring the Law Offices of Charles H. Leo, PA. If you are on Social Security Disability and Workers Compensation, there are very complex issues involved, hire a Board Certified expert to help you maximize your recovery.