Manatee County Government Administrative Center Commission Chambers, First Floor 9:00 a.m. - December 3, 2013
REVISED December 3, 2013 - Regular Meeting
Agenda Item #6

Audra Stern v. Manatee County, OJCC No. 06-012323; workers' compensation claim; attorney's fee settlement


Contact and/or Presenter Information
Raymond Carter, Risk Manager, ext. 3750

Action Requested
Motion to approve an agreement to settle outstanding attorney's fees and costs in the respective amounts of $34,625 and $1,600.

Enabling/Regulating Authority
Florida Statutes Chapter 440 and Manatee County Ordinance No. 08-49

Background Discussion
The claimant, Audra Stern, is an employee in the Public Safety Department.  He suffered a work-related injury on 2/26/06.  The claim was initially accepted as compensable.  On 4/3/06, the employer/servicing agent elected to deny all further benefits based on a perception of a misrepresentation by the claimant.  The claimant retained counsel, and on 4/28/06 a Petition for Benefits was filed requesting medical care and treatment for the injury.  Upon further discovery, it was found that there had not been a misrepresentation by the claimant.  The County entered into a stipulation in October 2006 and the denial was rescinded.  The stipulation agreed to the authorization of  Dr. Bundschu for pain management and opposing counsel's entitlement to reasonable fees and costs.  Both parties agreed to the value of the indemnity benefits secured. 

In May 2011, a Petition for implantation of a spinal cord stimulator was filed with the Judge of Compensation Claims.  This was denied by the employer/servicing agent.  This matter proceeded to Final Hearing before Judge Beck in December 2011.  The injured employee prevailed.

An attorney's fee is due in any case where the employer/carrier files a response to a Petition denying benefits with the Office of the Judge of Compensation Claims, and the injured person has employed an attorney in the successful prosecution of the Petition (Florida Statute 440.34). Authority is being requested to resolve an attorney fee entitlement of $34,625.00 and payment of $1,600.00 in costs payable to Lancaster and Eure, P. A.

Case law is clear on entitlement to fees.  Fees on medical benefits are calculated on the value of the benefits for five years from the date of the initial Petition for Benefits.  This amount can be subject to the scrutiny of a medical expert.  The amount of the benefits secured is $357,388 (inclusive of both indemnity and medical benefits).

Both parties have agreed to compromise on the attorney's fees and costs.  Costs are the additional expenses above and beyond the attorney's fee.  Costs must adhere to the State Uniform Guidelines.  We have negotiated an agreement for the fees and costs contingent on County Commission approval.  That amount is $34,625.00 for the fee and $1600.00 for the costs.  

If this matter regarding fees goes to trial, the County would be exposed to additional expenses related to this issue.  The County Attorney's Office believes that a resolution of this matter is economically advantageous.

County Attorney Review
Other (Requires explanation in field below)

Explanation of Other
This is a County Attorney item.  See attached stipulation.

Reviewing Attorney

Instructions to Board Records
Please return a copy of the approved agenda to Risk Manager Raymond Carter (raymond.carter@mymanatee.org).

Cost and Funds Source Account Number and Name
5050001300-524000--Workers' Compensation account

Amount and Frequency of Recurring Costs
$36,225.00 one time payment

Attachment:  Audra Stern Stip.pdf