Appellate Court Issues Ruling Regarding Psychiatric Care and Resulting Temporary Disability in Florida Workers’ Compensation Case

In Boley Centers, Inc. v. Vines, a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”) awarded an employee temporary total disability and psychiatric benefits following a workers’ compensation hearing. In response to the JCC’s ruling, the worker’s employer appealed the judge’s decision to Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

According to the employer, the JCC committed error when he considered a particular physician’s opinion in the case because the doctor did not treat the worker, nor was the physician a neutral medical examiner or an expert medical advisor. The employer also asserted that the JCC utilized the wrong legal standard when determining that the worker suffered from a compensable injury, the judge improperly ordered the employer to pay certain medical expenses, and the JCC improperly awarded the employee disability benefit payments. In response, the worker filed a cross-appeal, claiming the JCC erred when he concluded that only one of the employee’s two psychiatric hospitalizations constituted compensable emergency medical care.

The appellate court first stated the employer was correct in pointing out that the JCC improperly utilized the medical opinions of a doctor who was not authorized under Section 440.13(5)(e) of the Florida Statutes. Despite this error, the court said the JCC’s mistake was harmless because it did not contribute to the result reached in the case, nor would its reconsideration on remand alter the outcome.

Next, the First District dismissed the employer’s claim that the JCC reached his decision regarding the worker’s compensable mental injury by using the wrong legal standard. The court also declined to reverse the JCC’s determination that the employee’s mental injury was disabling.

The appellate court then turned to the employer’s assertion that the JCC erred when he ordered the company to pay for the worker’s emergency care expenses and reimburse the employee’s third-party payers for his psychiatric care. According to the court, it was within the JCC’s power to determine such costs were medically necessary as the result of a compensable workplace injury. Despite this, the court ruled that the JCC committed reversible error when he ordered the man’s employer to pay such medical bills because the judge exceeded the scope of his jurisdiction.

Finally, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal examined the worker’s cross-appeal. After reviewing the record, the court stated the facts related to the worker’s two psychiatric hospitalizations were essentially the same. Because of this, the court reversed the JCC’s ruling that the employee’s first hospitalization was not compensable and remanded the workers’ compensation case.

If you or a loved one sustained a workplace injury in Miami, you should contact a veteran personal injury attorney who can vigorously advocate on your behalf. To discuss your legal rights with a seasoned South Florida workers’ compensation lawyer, call the experienced advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Boley Centers, Inc. v. Vines, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015

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