After another round in front of the Government Appropriations Committee yesterday, Senate Bill 2072, which I posted about yesterday, was passed, but not without Frankenstein’s monster getting another appendage.  Next stop, the floor of the Senate for a full vote.

This time–in an obvious effort to calm the police and firefighters unions–the Senate added an exception to the heavily bloated bill that would give an exception to first responders by allowing the Emma Murray decision just to apply to them.   That’s right.  According to the latest and greatest SB 2072, which is headed to the Senate floor for a full vote, only attorneys for first responders (that is union attorneys) would be entitled to hourly fees.  The rest of Florida’s work force will have to hope to find an attorney that can get paid through the old bad faith law, now inserted within SB 2072.  You can read the new first responder amendments here

So the question remains as we all await the full Senate vote: is this bill worth the time spent lobbying for it?

My answer after the jump.

No.  And let me explain why:

First, how does removing the word “reasonable” in determining an attorney’s fee, and substituting it with the word “unreasonable” in determining bad faith lower insurance premiums for employers?   If the problem is that attorney fees are the reason for the need to raise premiums, then allowing bad faith attorney fees is a terrible solution.  In fact, it will only inflate the “problem.”  Isn’t that why so many of my Claimant attorney colleagues refer to the 1980’s as the “golden age” of Workers’ Compensation?  That was the decade of bad faith after all.

Second, with all due respect to first responders who risk their lives for our safety every day, how is giving them an exception even close to being constitutional?  How is favoring one class of individuals over others even closely represent equal protection?  I can see the trial attorney’s lobby already preparing their appellate briefs.

Finally, even if SB 2072 passes the Senate floor, how in the world are both houses going to reconcile it with House Bill 903 which simply removes the word “reasonable” s. 440.34?  And, reconcile the two bills with less than 8 days left in the legislative session? 

This seems like an awful lot of work just to write a law to overturn one Supreme Court case, which many lawmakers have unfounded fears will increase insurance premiums (without any evidence in support thereof). 

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