In a case challenging Florida’s workers’ compensation laws brought by a police officer, with the assistance of the Fraternal Order of Police, the First District Court of Appeals in Florida issued a lengthy 26 page opinion that stuck the cap on attorney’s fees injured workers can pay their attorney’s to represent them, that was first passed by the Florida Legislature in 2003, as unconstitutional. The court ruled the restrictions violate the injured worker’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to contract, and one’s right to petition for redress
Martha Miles, a law enforcement office, was employed by the City of Edgewater Police Department when she was injured at work on two separate occasions due to her exposure to chemicals used in drug labs to produce methamphetamines. She had a legally complex exposure case that would take a lawyer of great skill for her to meet her burden of proof of a preponderance of the evidence under Florida law.
But when she attempted to have a Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) approve her and the Fraternal Order of Police’s retainer agreements with the lawyer of her choice the JCC denied her and said that the retainer agreements violated Florida’s workers compensation laws which limit the amount an injured worker can pay their attorney while placing no such restriction on the amount her employer or insurance carrier can pay their lawyer to defend the case against the injured worker/claimant, Ms. Miles. The JCC stated that he was not able to decide if the law is fair and that his job was to enforce the law that was on the books at the time.