BRETT A. PANTER, PANTER, PANTER & SAMPEDRO, AND BARRY STEIN WIN TRIAL FOR MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN BENEFITS
Brett A. Panter, founding and Senior Partner from Panter, Panter & Sampedro, was hired to represent Isaac Aelion in his claim for worker’s compensation benefits arising from his catastrophic injury while in the course and scope of his employment as a Sunny Isles Beach City Commissioner. On January 18, 2017, Mr. Aelion attended the Aventura Marketing Council meeting in his official capacity as a City Commissioner (1). The Aventura Marketing Council regularly met at the Newport Hotel, which happened to be next to the condominium building, where Mr. Aelion and his family lived.
The Aventura Marketing Council meeting was scheduled in early morning hours to allow attendees to head off on their normal workday duties by about 9:00 AM. On the morning of the meeting, Mr. Aelion got up early, as he did most mornings, and walked next door to the marketing meeting at the Newport Hotel. Once the meeting was over, Mr. Aelion attempted to return to his condominium building to pick up his car and move on with his daily work schedule. As he entered the condominium property, Mr. Aelion was hit by a car being operated by a valet driver. His life was instantly and permanently altered. Mr. Aelion was rendered quadriplegic, unable to move any part of his body below his neck. Mr. Aelion would need help in every aspect of daily living. Mr. Aelion needs attendant care 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The cost of this care is multi millions of dollars.
We presented Mr. Aelion’s claim to his worker’s compensation insurance company, informing them that this case arose out of Mr. Aelion’s scope of employment with the City of Sunny Isles Beach. The compensation insurance company initially paid for the medical benefits that Mr. Aelion required. However, a few months later, the insurance company denied all benefits, leaving Mr. Aelion and his family with mounting medical expenses and no income. Because of Mr. Aelion’s quadriplegia, he needed 24-hour care and assistance with all activities of daily living. Because of Mr. Aelion’s quadriplegia, he had to be lifted and moved throughout the day to prevent life-threatening pressure ulcers, circulatory, and respiratory problems. Without this 24-hour care, his ability to continue living was severely threatened.
The worker’s compensation insurance company defended Mr. Aelion’s claim by arguing that he was injured while going between his home and a work location, an exception to worker’s compensation coverage known as the going-and-coming rule. If that exception applied, Mr. Aelion would receive no benefits whatsoever. However, Mr. Aelion was on his way from one meeting attended in his capacity as a City commissioner to other City business. Therefore, our firm asserted that Mr. Aelion was in the course and scope of his employment with the City when he was injured, and he was entitled to compensation benefits.
Because of their continued refusal to provide the benefits amounting to millions of dollars that Mr. Aelion was entitled to, he filed a Petition for Benefits against the worker’s compensation insurance carrier. The worker’s compensation insurance carrier seized on the fact that Mr. Aelion’s calendar contained an appointment for a meeting unrelated to City business. However, the testimony and evidence proved that despite that calendar entry, City business took precedence. Mr. Aelion intended to go from the morning meeting to City Hall rather than the personal meeting.
The case was presided over by Jeffrey I. Jacobs, Judge of Compensation Claims. Brett A. Panter, of Panter, Panter & Sampedro, tried this case, along with Worker’s Compensation Specialist Barry Stein. The Judge observed the candor and demeanor of Isaac Aelion, Hans Ottinot, attorney for Sunny Isles Beach, and George (Bud) Scholl, Mayor for Sunny Isles Beach, all who testified at the final hearing found to be credible and the Judge accepted their testimony. The decision was rendered ten days after the contested hearing. Judge Jacobs entered a detailed order, which included 11 pages of findings with the ultimate conclusion that the case was compensable. (Click here to read the order.) The worker’s compensation insurance company was required to pay benefits that it had previously denied interest and penalties and all future benefits Mr. Aelion required as a result of his injury.
A contested hearing regarding the workers compensation lien, referred to as a “Manfredo” hearing was held in front of Judge David C. Miller, the trial judge for the third-party matter wherein the findings were that there would be a 21% payback. The issues in this matter were also highly contested. The worker’s compensation carrier asserted a lien and claimed that they were entitled to 77% of their payback. The trial judge ruled in favor of the claimant and entered a finding that the lien would be paid back at 21%. The compensation carrier unsatisfied with the results of the hearing, appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal. The appeal was argued on May 13, 2020. The Opinion of the 3d DCA was filed on July 22, 2020 Per Curiam Affirmed in part. Preferred Gov’t Ins. Tr. v. Aelion, 3D19-508, 2020 WL 4197376 (Fla. 3d DCA July 22, 2020).
In addition to his lawsuit for worker’s compensation benefits, Mr. Aelion filed suit against third-parties unrelated to his employer for their role in his injury. That case, which proceeded simultaneously with the worker’s compensation lawsuit, was resolved by Brett Panter and his partner, David Sampedro, with a confidential settlement.
- Our firm also handled the third-party case which was settled shortly before trial.