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NICA Gets Aggressive with Injured Florida Children and their Parents

NICA Gets Aggressive with Injured Florida Children and their Parents

The Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA) lost a case on appeal recently in which it took a page from underhanded insurance company tactics and attempted to deny benefits to deserving claimants.

Parents of birth-related neurological injuries filed a class-action lawsuit against NICA claiming NICA was not complying with its payment obligations. As reason for not meeting its payment obligations, NICA claimed that a law passed in 2002 applied to children injured during births that occured before 2002. That is akin to ticketing someone for not wearing their seatbelt four years ago even though Florida just passed its seatbelt law this year.

NICA’s aggressive tactics to avoid payment did not end there. NICA attempted to circumvent the class-action suit and Florida’s civil court system by asking a different judge, an administrative law judge (ALJ), in a different court system to “clarify” the plaintiffs’ situation.

This tactic resulted in the parents of the injured children having to incurr more legal costs to defend an additional suit. It also put the case before a judge who ruled in NICA’s favor. The ALJ granted NICA’s motions and denied the parents’ motion for attorneys’ fees.

However, that ruling was appealed and the appellate court concluded that the ALJ did not have jurisdiction, that the case belonged in civil court and that NICA must pay the parents’ legal costs associated with defending a case that should never have been brought against them.

Here is how it all happened … Ms. Magdalene Rodriguez and Lisa Basey both gave birth to babies who were neurologically injured from birth-related causes – Ms. Rodriguez in 1995 and Mrs. Basey in 1999. They and their children both received favorable orders from NICA settling their claims for benefits.

However, in 2007, 12 years after Ms. Rodriguez delivered her child, NICA sought “clarification” of those 1995 and 1999 orders. NICA sought these “clarifications” despite admitting that it “was not confused about the final orders.” This motion for clarification was simply a vieled attempt to circumvent the class action suit in civil court and put the case in administrative law court even though the administrative law court had no jurisdiction.

What is interesting is that the ALJ “clarifications” didn’t clarify anything according to the appellate court, which agreed with the Parents’ assertion that NICA sought the clarification only to circumvent the class action that was already pending in circuit court.

We here at Zimmet & Zimmet often say that we will tell you something that most lawyers wont – if you’ve been injured you might not need a lawyer. However, in some situations, lawyers can be very helpful in navigating the complexities of the legal landscape. This is one of those cases. Many NICA cases don’t need a lawyer but Ms. Rodriguez and Mrs. Basey were well represented at every turn and were fortunate to have such skilled lawyers.

For more on infant safety, see the library of articles by Daytona Beach child injury attorney.


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