Section 440.34(3) has gone through a defining phase over the last two years–to coordinate with the rise and fall of Claimant hourly fees.  The First DCA seems to place the E/C’s right to tax costs on the same footing as Claimant’s right to tax costs.  However, some of the lower courts have not embraced this quite yet.  Hence, the Court’s most recent decision mandating JCC’s to treat an E/C’s Motion to Tax Costs the same as Claimant’s Verified Fee Petition.

In the eyes of the First DCA, the procedure in taxing costs should be the same for both parties.

In Hillsborough Co. Sheriff’s Office v. Hilsman, the JCC denied Claimant’s Petition for Benefits in a Final Compensation Order.  The E/C file a verified motion to tax costs as dictated under s. 440.34(3).  In the verified motion, which was a sworn affidavit by the E/C’s attorney, the E/C presented an itemized list of costs associated with the claim and its dismissal. 

The JCC however denied the Motion on the grounds that the E/C did not submit the actual invoices and reciepts of the costs itemized in the verified motion.  The First DCA reversed, citing Florida Administrative Code that a detailed listing of costs is all that is required.

This case is significant in that the Court clears the way of any misinterpretation that an E/C’s right to tax costs is any different from a Claimant’s right to tax costs.  Whenever a Claimant successfully obtains benefits through a mediation agreement, stipulation, or Final Compensation Order, all that is required for her attorney to submit an affidavit of detailed costs related to the pursuit of said benefits.  The same procedure should be afforded to E/C’s.

On a final note, the Hilsman decision also noted that an E/C–like a Claimant–must be specific on what the costs are for.  The Sheriff’s Office listed 27 separate court reporting charges without detailing the witness or what the charge was for.   E/C’s need to be as specific as Claimant’s when delineating taxable costs.   Adjusters should keep good records of payments made as litigation costs (IME’s, surveillance, deposition charges, etc. . .)