FL Court Denies Medical Lien Amendment to Contingency Fee Contracts

Personal injury and wrongful death litigants will no longer be charged out of their contingency fee for specialized assistance on their cases.

In October, the Florida Supreme Court ruled, decisively, on a third-round amendment proposed by the Florida Bar Board of Governors. The amendment sought to use client contingency fees to compensate specialized lawyers brought in to assist with subrogation and medical liens related to personal injury and wrongful death claims.

The Board of Governors contended that the complex nature of subrogation and medical lien matters required the attention of specialized attorneys.

It seems, however, that the Supreme Court feels that is a problem for the attorney, not the client. According to a Florida Bar report, the Court stated in it’s decision that it was up to the attorney under a contingency fee contract with a client to provide that service.

What’s a Contingency Fee?

A contingency fee contract is a fee paid to an attorney handling a case that should result in some sort of monetary recovery or award of sums.

If an amount is awarded the attorney fees are earned from that amount, hence, attorney fees are contingent on what is awarded.

So What’s It All About?

Until recently, contingency fee-based cases involving the need for subrogation or medical lien settlements were usually fielded out by the retained attorney to a specialized lawyer who knew the ins-and-outs of those matters.

The fee for this service, in turn, came out of the client’s contingency fee.

Several years ago, the question was raised to the Florida Bar’s Professional Ethics Committe whether this was an acceptable practice. The question then came before the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors.

In 2012, they proposed an amendment allowing this practice be deemed ethical, as they pointed out, the client would pay higher fees but end up getting more money from these additional resolutions.

However, the Supreme Court disagreed… and the disagreed again… and once again this latest and seemingly final time.