Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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.

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Florida’s First District Court of Appeal has reversed a Judge of Compensation Claims’ order denying an injured employee’s request for stipulated costs in a workers’ compensation case. In Gobel v. American Airlines, a Florida worker successfully pursued medical benefits payments from his employer following a workplace accident. After that, the parties jointly submitted a stipulation request related to the employee’s legal fees and costs to a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”). As part of the stipulation, the man’s employer agreed to pay him $200 in costs.

The JCC reviewed the parties’ request and ultimately denied the stipulation regarding costs. According to the JCC, it was unclear whether the $200 constituted actual costs or disguised legal expenses, since the parties failed to submit supporting documentation with their request. In response, the hurt worker argued that such supporting documentation was not required under Rule 60Q-6.123(5) of the Florida Administrative Code because the stipulated amount was less than $250. The JCC rejected the woman’s claim and stated the rule was not valid.

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In Moore v. Servicemaster Commercial Services, a commercial housekeeper apparently hurt her right shoulder at work. As a result of her workplace harm, the woman underwent surgery. Following her surgical procedure, the housekeeper was authorized to return to work with restrictions after about one week of recovery time. The woman’s doctor also recommended that she undergo three weeks of physical therapy. Although the woman’s employer offered to place the woman in a light-duty position, the housekeeper stated she was experiencing significant pain and refused to return to work until after she underwent physical therapy. About one month later, the housekeeper was terminated by her employer for failure to return to work or call in.

Approximately two months later, the housekeeper completed the physical therapy that was recommended by her physician. After that, her treating doctor determined the housekeeper obtained maximum medical improvement. In addition, the physician assigned the housekeeper a permanent impairment rating. Prior to completing physical therapy, the worker obtained a new job that began about six weeks later.

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In Frankel v. Loxahatchee Club, Inc., a 68-year-old Florida man apparently injured his spine while moving a heavy piece of furniture at work. Following the incident, the man’s employer accepted compensability for the injury. At a workers’ compensation hearing before a judge of compensation claims (“JCC”), the employee admitted that he hurt his right shoulder 15-20 years before the workplace incident occurred. The man also stated he received no further treatment following rotator cuff surgery and post-surgery therapy.

MRI images taken following the 2013 workplace injury showed the employee had degenerative arthritis in his shoulder bones. According to the worker’s treating physician, the arthritis was typical for someone who had reached the man’s age. At the workers’ compensation hearing, the man testified that he never sought treatment for the arthritis.

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In Edmond v. Avis Budget Group, Inc., a rental car company worker sought workers’ compensation benefits payments after he was hurt at work in Florida. According to the employee, he was rendered temporarily disabled as a result of the workplace accident. Following a workers’ compensation hearing, a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”) ordered the rental car business to pay the injured man more than $1,300 in temporary disability benefits and about $267.00 in legal fees. After that, the hurt worker filed an appeal with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

On appeal, the employee raised two constitutional claims and argued the JCC committed error by failing to issue an award for reasonable attorney’s fees for the work performed by his counsel in order to demonstrate the man’s entitlement to legal fees under Section 440.34 of the Florida Statutes. After filing his appeal, the court requested that the worker show cause why the court’s 2013 decision in another case was not controlling. Next, the employee admitted the case at issue controlled his two constitutional claims. The First District then turned to the man’s inadequate legal fees, or “fees on fees,” argument.

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In Babametovic v. Scan Design Florida, Inc., a Florida man apparently injured his back while lifting a heavy box at work in October 2013. After complaining to his employer, the man was authorized to seek treatment at an urgent care facility. The medical facility diagnosed the worker with radiculitis and indicated the injury was work-related. The facility also referred the employee to another doctor for follow-up treatment.

About one month later, the employee was examined by the follow-up physician, who then diagnosed him with a lumbar muscle sprain and a preexisting degenerative disc disorder. Although the doctor also indicated the man’s injury was work-related, he sent the employer a letter stating the worker’s harm was only 40 percent related to his work injury. The physician stated the man’s back issues were 60 percent caused by his preexisting condition.

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In Sierra v. Metropolitan Protective Services, a Florida man was providing security guard services at work when he suffered minor wounds in a knife attack. After receiving emergency room treatment, the guard was referred to two doctors for follow-up treatment. One of the physicians was apparently a professional psychiatrist. The man’s employer accepted compensability for the incident, and he returned to work about one week later.

Next, the security guard’s employer granted the man’s request to transfer to a different work location. Over the course of the following months, however, the worker was apparently involved in two car accidents that were not work-related. Although the first accident was not considered serious, the guard sustained severe harm to his shoulder when his scooter was hit by a motor vehicle in the second incident. Eventually, the man underwent surgery on his shoulder. In addition, the guard did not return to work after the second traffic wreck.

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In Slora v. Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In, Inc., a woman was injured when a tornado hit a security guard booth at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. At the time of the incident, the woman was employed by a security staffing agency that provided security services to an air show company whose operations were subject to the regulatory jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). Because of this, the company was required to file certain certificates of waiver with the FAA and agree to provide security and policing services in order to perform the show.

After the woman was injured, she collected workers’ compensation benefits from her employer. The worker then filed a negligence action against the air show operator in a Florida circuit court. According to her complaint, the severe weather that caused her injuries was foreseeable, the air show company failed to maintain the guard booth in a reasonably safe manner, and the business failed to warn her of the personal injury risks she faced in the event of severe weather.  As a result, the security guard asked the court to award her damages. In response, the air show company filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing the guard’s claims were barred by Section 440.10(1)(b) of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law.

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In Companion Property & Casualty Ins. Co. v. All Roof Systems, LLC, a Florida man was apparently severely injured when he fell through a hole that was concealed while working on a roof. At the time, the man was a contract employee who was leased to the roofing company by a staffing agency. As a result of his injury, the hurt man and his wife filed a lawsuit against the roofing company in state court. In the couple’s state court complaint, they argued the roofer was not entitled to enjoy workers’ compensation immunity under Section 440.11(1)(b)(2) of the Florida Statutes.

Next, the roofing company’s insurer filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings with the Middle District of Florida in Tampa. According to the insurance company, it had no duty to defend or indemnify the roofer because the plaintiff’s injury resulting from the concealed hole constituted an intentional tort. Under Florida’s no-fault workers’ compensation law, employers are not provided with immunity for intentional torts. In addition, the insurer claimed such a claim was not covered under the roofer’s insurance policy.

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In Cruz v. State of Florida Dept. of Legal Affairs, a Florida man suffered a compensable workplace injury. While collecting temporary disability for a heart and mental health condition, the worker sought additional temporary total disability or temporary partial disability payments. According to the employee, his work-related harm not only rendered him disabled but also exacerbated his preexisting gastrointestinal condition.

At a hearing before a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”), medical evidence was provided by two cardiologists who treated the worker. Both specialists apparently stated the man would reach his overall maximum medical improvement (“MMI”) for his heart condition before January 1, 2014. Similarly, the worker’s psychiatrists offered testimony that he would reach his overall mental health MMI about six months before that date. As a result, the JCC ruled that the employee was no longer entitled to receive temporary disability benefits as of December 31, 2013.

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