Louisiana Comp Blog’s July “Comp in Focus” luncheon met on Tuesday the 19th at Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans, with attendees gathering to discuss two current attorney fee issues. “Comp in Focus” is a bimonthly luncheon speaker series that addresses emergent issues in the workers’ compensation industry, with speakers from both employer/insurer and claimant/labor sides of the arena.
Local workers’ comp claimant attorney, mediator, labor representative on the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council, and former steel worker Chuck Davoli was the first speaker of the day. Chuck discussed the recent state Supreme Court decisions out of Utah and Florida (Injured Workers’ Association of Utah v. State and Castellanos v. Next Door Co., respectively), both addressing statutory attorney fee schedules. Borrowing language from the majority opinion in the Castellanos case, Davoli particularly emphasized the “chilling effect” that occurs when attorneys that represent injured workers realize that their services may garner comparatively miniscule compensation. While Davoli and the attendees largely agreed that Louisiana’s fees are reasonable, the larger issue of benefit reductions and associated Supreme Court challenges as a trend could filter down locally. Davoli predicted that after “two decades of cuts” the pendulum could be swinging back.
Nathan Schrantz, a New Orleans-based attorney who does mostly defense work with his own Nathan Schrantz LLC, followed Davoli, and addressed Louisiana’s inordinately high defense costs for comp cases. Using the latest Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) data, Schrantz offered his perspective on the issue, saying that claims of unreasonably high fees may be overstated. In fact, Schrantz blames the increasing complexity of the system as the reason for the large proportion of defense costs relative to the total claims management cost in Louisiana.
The next Comp in Focus luncheon will be in September. Subscribe and stay tuned for more details.