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A law firm that represented a woman paralyzed in a botched operation should receive $500,000 more than the $1.07 million the state Legislature has already approved, a Broward judge ruled Thursday afternoon. Sheldon J. Schlesinger's Fort Lauderdale law firm was entitled to the money based on its contract with the parents of Minouche Noel, Broward Circuit Judge Leroy Moe ruled. The judge rejected Schlesinger's request to receive an additional $42,000 in legal costs.

Bruce Johnson, the Noels' current attorney, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that his clients were "very disappointed."

"We were surprised by the ruling, and we believe it was incorrect," Johnson said to the newspaper.

A telephone message left by The Associated Press at Schlesinger's office and with the attorney representing the firm, Bruce Rogow, was not immediately returned after hours Thursday.

Noel was left paralyzed from the waist down at 6 months old following surgery at a state clinic in 1999. Now 19, she suffers from spina bifida, a congenital defect in which the spinal column fails to close properly.

A Broward jury awarded $8.5 million to the Noels, but state law limits such payments to $200,000 without legislative approval. Lawmakers finally passed the claims bill this year after several failed attempts.

Schlesinger filed a lien asking for more money than the legislation allocated to the firm.

Last month, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink argued the Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale lacks jurisdiction on the case. A telephone message and an e-mail left after hours by AP for Sink was not immediately returned.

Noel and her family lived in Broward County when the surgery took place but have since moved to Brevard County, where she is attending college.


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