Make us your home page

Nurse case challenges workers' compensation law change

Nearly five years ago, Emma Murray, a nurse in her late 50s, suffered an injury while hoisting a patient at the nursing home where she worked.

Her employer's workers' compensation insurance company denied her claim, chalking up her injury to a pre-existing condition. She hired Port Charlotte lawyer Brian Sutter and won $3,244 in back wages and medical costs.

Murray's case would have garnered little notice, except that it happened about a month after controversial revisions of Florida's workers' compensation went into effect. Sutter has appealed a provision that capped fees for lawyers hired by injured workers, and will argue Emma Murray vs. Mariner Health Care today before the Florida Supreme Court.

The legislation, completed during a special legislative session in 2003, fulfilled its promise to cut the bill that businesses pay for workers' compensation. But it also sharply limited fees for attorneys who fight for injured workers, leaving many workers with few attorneys willing to help them fight for lost wages and medical bills, Sutter said.

Sutter spent about 80 hours preparing Murray's case. His fee? Just $648, or about $8.10 an hour. Mariner's attorneys earned about $16,000, he said.

Sutter said the legislation gives insurers an unfair advantage, since insurers face no cap on attorneys fees. That gives insurers incentive to deny legitimate claims like Murray's, since few lawyers will take on complex and expensive cases for such meager fees.

"If you have a law that works like that, the insurers can do whatever they want," Sutter said.

Tamela Perdue, general council to Associated Industries of Florida, a pro-business lobbying group, disagreed. "I think the law is fine the way it is."

Premiums for workers' compensation have dropped by more than 50 percent since the law passed, she said. Associated Industries led a coalition of business and industry in support of Senate Bill 50A in 2003, she said. The group has also filed a friend of the court brief arguing against Sutter.

"Before this law was passed, Florida had the highest rates for workers' compensation insurance in the country," Perdue said. "Now, we have some of the lowest rates in the country, so businesses stay in business and workers continue to have jobs."

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at or
(813) 225-3117.

Nurse case challenges workers' compensation law change 04/08/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 13, 2008 11:57am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Powerball jackpot climbs to $510 million, 8th largest


    DES MOINES, Iowa — The Powerball jackpot has climbed to an estimated $510 million, making it one of the largest in U.S. history.

    A store clerk pulls a Powerball ticket from the printer for a customer, Tuesday, in Hialeah, Fla. The Powerball jackpot has has rolled 18 times, since the June 14, drawing, resulting in an estimated $510 million for Wednesday night's drawing. [Associated Press]
  2. Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They're being rented

    Real Estate

    Oreste Mesa Jr. owns a modest 40-year-old house in West Tampa just off MacDill Avenue. It's an area where many homeowners are hearing the siren song of builders and cashing out while the market is strong.

    Attorney David Eaton poses in front of his rental home at 899 72nd Ave. North. in St. Petersburg. He's among a growing number of property owners who see more value in renting out unused homes than selling them. 
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Wanted: New businesses on Safety Harbor's Main Street

    Local Government

    SAFETY HARBOR — A green grocery store, a hardware store, restaurants, boutiques and multi-use buildings are all wanted downtown, according to discussion at a community redevelopment workshop held last week. And to bring them to the Main Street district, city commissioners, led by Mayor Joe Ayoub, gave City Manager …

    Whistle Stop Bar & Grill is one of the main stops on Main Street in Safety Harbor. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Q&A: A business leader and historian jointly delve into Tampa's waterfront


    TAMPA — As a native of Tampa, Arthur Savage has always had a passion for his hometown's history. And as a third-generation owner and operator of A.R. Savage & Son, a Tampa-based shipping agency, his affinity for his hometown also extends to its local waterways.

    Arthur Savage (left) and Rodney Kite-Powell, co-authors of "Tampa Bay's Waterfront: Its History and Development," stand for a portrait with the bust of James McKay Sr. in downtown Tampa on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. McKay, who passed away in 1876, was a prominent businessman, among other things, in the Tampa area. He was Arthur Savage's great great grandfather. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Tampa's connected-vehicle program looking for volunteers


    TAMPA — Drivers on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway can save on their monthly toll bill by volunteering to test new technology that will warn them about potential crashes and traffic jams.

    A rendering shows how new technology available through the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority will warn driver's about crashes, traffic jams, speed decreases and more. THEA is seeking 1,600 volunteers to install the devices, which will display alerts in their review mirrors, as part of an 18-month connected-vehicle pilot.