In Perez v. Southeastern Freight Lines, Inc., a Florida man was injured in a workplace accident. After the incident occurred, the man’s employer stipulated that his injury was compensable under state workers’ compensation laws. Despite this, a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”) denied the injured worker’s request for temporary total disability benefits because he failed to produce objective medical evidence related to his injury. At a hearing, the JCC adopted the test enumerated in Section 440.09(1) of the Florida Statutes which stated the worker’s disability determination must be based on such evidence.
Next, the employee appealed the JCC’s decision to Florida’s First District Court of Appeals. On appeal, the hurt man stated the JCC applied the wrong legal test when considering his worker’s compensation claim. The employee argued that Section 440.09 of the Florida Statutes instead applied to his case because it governed compensability in the workers’ compensation context. Since the worker’s employer stipulated to compensability, the employee claimed the JCC’s order should be overturned.
On appeal, the court agreed with the hurt worker. According to the court, a Florida employer is not permitted to challenge the cause of a worker’s harm once his or her employer establishes compensability. Still, the court said an employer may challenge how the compensable injury and an employee’s requested benefit are related. In addition, the appellate court said the burden of proof regarding “a break in the causation chain” is on the employer. In the case at hand, the employer did not claim that such a break occurred.
The First District Court of Appeals then said the worker was not required to provide additional medical evidence to establish the stipulated injury caused his disability. According to the Florida court, the employer’s stipulation combined with its lack of a challenge to the causal chain absolved the employee of the need to offer such medical testimony. Despite this, the court said the worker was obliged to provide proof of other elements such as medical necessity as required by state law. The employer, however, did not allege that the worker failed to do so. In addition, the court held that the JCC’s findings indicated the employee met this burden.
The Court of Appeals next dismissed the employer’s argument that it failed to assert the specified defenses because causation was not at issue in the workers’ compensation benefits case. Instead, the employer claimed the man’s temporary total disability was not caused by his workplace accident. Because the employer stipulated that the man’s harm was compensable under state workers’ compensation laws, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals reversed the JCC’s decision and remanded the case with directions to order that temporary total disability benefits be awarded to the injured employee.
If you or a family member was hurt at work in South Florida, you should speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you are able. To discuss your right to receive financial compensation with a dedicated Miami personal injury lawyer today, give the hardworking advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.
Perez v. Southeastern Freight Lines, Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015
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