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Florida Supreme Court rules that limitation on attorney's fees in Claims Bill was an unconstitutional impairment of contract

On January 31, 2017, in Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley v, State of Florida, No. SC15-1747, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the portion of a legislative Claims Bill that had sought to limit the attorney's fees payable on the amount awarded to the plaintiff in the Claims Bill to $100,000, notwithstanding the fact that the fee agreement between the plaintiffs and their attorney would have provided a $2.5 million fee on the $10 million Claims Bill in accordance with the 25% statutory cap on attorney's fees in sovereign immunity cases. In concluding that this amounted to an unconstitutional impairment of the contract between the plaintiffs and their attorneys, the Florida Supreme Court receded from its previous position allowing such a fee cap in Gamble v. Wells, 450 So. 2d 850 (Fla. 1984), noting that its previous decision had been issued prior to the enactment of the statutory maximum attorney's fee rate of 25% in sovereign immunity cases in Fla. Stat. 768.28.

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