Moving for Continuances Based on Difficulties Generated by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Law firms practicing in Florida have largely accommodated to the difficulties of social distancing. Some firms are even advertising the new social distancing, remote conferencing and other methods of preventing COVID-19 spread due to contamination from corona virus.

The Courts have adapted by implementing social distancing policies and canceling or postponing most hearings and procedures which require litigants, jurors and court personnel to gather in close proximity. Jury trials, grand jury proceedings and, in many cases, face to face hearings have therefore been cancelled or continued until safer times.

It would be dangerous, however, to assume that trial and appellate proceedings will automatically be extended due to the difficulties of litigating during the pandemic.

So, while many Federal and State Courts have entered orders generally changing deadlines for filing appeals, litigators must be aware that absent an order of general applicability, courts will not automatically extend deadlines absent specifically alleged details as to why corona virus is contributing to or causing the need for extension said to be needed. These decisions are fact based on the particular circumstances of a given case.
Judges are not, however, willing to allow “litigation to grind to a halt”, as that would only “exacerbate … the detrimental effects of the crisis” (Horning v. Resolve Marine Group 1S.D. Fla. Mar 30 2020)

In Horning, the parties filed a joint motion to continue a workman’s compensation case because the accident victim had not reached maximum medical improvement. This, argued the parties, was preventing experts from determining the victim’s permanent injury and degree of disability. The court denied the motion, stating that experts would be able to come to opinions, from review of records of treaters and examination of the victim.
The parties then moved for reconsideration of the court’s order denying continuance saying, that the proceeding should be continued due to “significant change of circumstances due to newly imposed difficulties directly imposed by COVID-19”.

The Court denied the motion for reconsideration stating itself to be “empathetic with the difficulties the parties and attorneys are now facing with respect to the orderly litigation of their cases. However, the court ruled, there are still many aspects of litigation that can continue remotely and while maintaining social distancing despite the circumstances.”

The Court went on to make it clear that in absence of general court orders addressed to specific areas of practice, there would be no blanket approval of continuance motions based simply on difficulties presented by COVID-19.
Instead litigants would be required to file a motion for extension of time of particular deadlines specifically tailored to the facts and circumstances of the litigation. Other parts of the litigation that could be accomplished would not be stayed or extended.

Extensions of discovery and other deadlines continue to be available for problems specifically caused by the pandemic, but only as the facts and history of any specific case dictate. Parties should generally comply with all time limits or, if applicable, should plead for very specific relief supported by the specific circumstances of the case.

Based on Horning, it appears wise for movants for a continuance not only to factually justify motions for continuance with the specific circumstances of their cases, and to state how they are otherwise dealing with potential delays to litigation posed by COVID-19. Requests generally for delays due to the difficulties posed by the Pandemic without specific application to a specific circumstance of the case will likely be denied.

At Barrett Nonni & Homola, we are dedicated to providing the best legal counsel in the Tallahassee area. If you have suffered a personal injury, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today!

How Does a Personal Injury Attorney Get Paid?

How Does a Personal Injury Attorney Get Paid?

Most attorneys work on an hourly basis, charging clients an agreed upon hourly fee for the work performed.  For instance, if you were to hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce or to defend you against a criminal charge you can expect to pay, on average, about $200 per hour.  Personal injury attorneys are different in this regard, as most work on what is known as a “contingency fee.”

What is a Contingency Fee?

A contingency fee is an agreement whereby an attorney takes on a case based on the agreement that if the attorney is successful in recovering damages for the client, the attorney receives a percentage of the recovered amount as a fee for services.  Most personal injury attorneys in Florida charge 33.33% of the gross recovery amount as a fee for cases where a lawsuit is not filed.  Most often the fee goes up to 40% of the gross recovery in cases where a lawsuit is filed, and the case is litigated through the court system.  For instance, if a car accident attorney recovers $10,000.00 for an auto accident client and didn’t have to file a lawsuit, the attorney fee would be $3,333.33.  In the same situation where a lawsuit is filed, the attorney fee would be $4,000.00.

It is also important to keep in mind that if an attorney pays cost for certain things throughout the case, such as: ordering medical records, postage, filing fees, expert fees, etc., the attorney is entitled to recoup those fees out of the recovery as well.  Those costs are deducted in addition to the fees paid for the attorney services.  For instance, using the example above, if an attorney is recovers $10,000.00 for an auto accident client without a lawsuit, and spent $500 in costs getting the case to the point of settlement, the attorney fee would be $3,333.33 and the attorney would also be entitled to an additional $500 out of the $10,000.00 recovery to recoup costs.

On the flip side, if an attorney takes on a case and is unable to recover money damages for the client, the client does not owe the attorney a thing.  This is true even in situations where the attorney has spent hundreds of hours and spent thousands of dollars on the case.  In many ways, when a personal injury lawyer agrees to accept a case, the attorney is betting on himself to be able to get a recovery.

Additionally, most injury lawyers offer free consultations to discuss the facts and likelihood of success of a case before signing it up.  The personal injury attorneys of Barrett Nonni & Homola are no exception.  If you or a loved one have been injured as the result of negligence, call our Tallahassee Personal Injury Lawyers today. Give us a call at 850-601-1111 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.

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