Appellate Court Holds Videotaped Depositions May be a Reimbursable Litigation Expense Under Florida Workers’ Compensation Statute

In Lane v. Workforce Business Services, Inc., a man sought benefits from his employer under Chapter 440 of the Florida Statutes after he suffered an injury at work. The hurt worker filed a petition seeking a determination regarding his entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits after his employer refused to compensate him for the harm he sustained in the workplace accident. Following extensive litigation, the man and his employer entered into an agreement that the employer would accept compensability for the man’s injuries. As part of the settlement agreement, the employer agreed to pay litigation costs and the worker’s statutory attorney’s fees.

The man next sought additional attorney’s fees before a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”) pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 57.105. The JCC denied the man’s request for additional legal fees and stated that such an award is not allowed in a workers’ compensation proceeding before a JCC. In addition, the JCC refused to award the injured man the costs associated with two videotaped depositions that were important to the case. The hurt worker then appealed the JCC’s decision to Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

On appeal, the court stated that Chapter 440 is the exclusive method for establishing an employer’s liability following a workplace injury in Florida. Next, the appellate court rejected the injured man’s claim that Section 57.105 was designed to supplement the workers’ compensation law. The court said the statute does not provide any direct authority to apply Section 57.105 to a workers’ compensation action. In addition, there was no indication the Legislature intended to apply Section 57.105 to such a case. Because of this, Florida’s First District held that the JCC was correct in refusing to grant the injured man’s request for additional attorney’s fees.

Next, the Court of Appeal addressed the worker’s request to be reimbursed by his employer for the costs associated with the videotaped depositions. According to the court, Section 440.34(3) requires that reasonable costs associated with court proceedings must be paid by the non-prevailing party. The JCC denied the associated fees because she determined the costs were unreasonable, since both witnesses could just as easily have provided live testimony in court. The appellate court disagreed, however, and held that the JCC used the wrong standard when she refused to order that the injured employee be reimbursed for his videotaped deposition costs.

Finally, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal affirmed the JCC’s decision refusing to award the man additional attorney’s fees under Section 57.105.  The court also reversed and remanded the JCC’s order denying the worker’s request to be reimbursed for the costs of the videotaped depositions.

If you were hurt at work in Florida, you may be entitled to recover financial compensation for your injuries. To discuss your case with a veteran workers’ compensation attorney, do not hesitate to call the caring lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. today at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Lane v. Workforce Business Services, Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2014

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