Disability Benefits Denied Over Misrepresentations Made by Employee in Florida Workers’ Compensation Case

In Leggett v. Barnett Marine, Inc., a marine dock construction worker apparently hurt his back while moving a heavy object at a Florida workplace in May 2013. Following his injury, the man’s employer accepted compensability and provided him with authorization to pursue medical care. In addition, the employer began paying the injured man temporary total disability payments.

While undergoing physical therapy for his back harm, the man apparently hurt his hip. Due to this injury, the employee’s physician referred him to an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation. After stating the employee’s hip harm was not work-related, the man’s employer refused compensability for the worker’s subsequent hip injury.

Unbeknownst to the worker, the employer conducted surveillance on the man in October 2013 and documented him performing a number of physical tasks similar to his job duties. As a result, the employer stopped paying the worker disability benefits in December 2013. As part of the employer’s denial of workers’ compensation benefits, the company asserted that the employee committed fraud under Sections 440.09 and 440.105 of the Florida Statutes.

In 2014, the worker filed a formal petition for disability and medical benefits under the Florida workers’ compensation law. At a hearing before a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”), the worker testified that he had not performed any dock building work since suffering a back injury.  Following the hearing, the JCC found that the worker committed fraud and made material misrepresentations when he provided his testimony. Because of this, the worker’s disability benefits request was denied. Additionally, the JCC declined to award the employee benefits for the period beginning in December 2013 and ending when the dock worker made the misrepresentation. According to the JCC, the man’s right to receive benefits ended before he filed his claim. The employee then appealed his case to Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

On appeal, the court examined the two statutes at issue. Under Section 440.105, it is unlawful to make an untrue statement in order to obtain or refute the payment of workers’ compensation benefits. Section 440.09 states that a worker may not recover benefits if he or she intentionally made misrepresentations in order to secure such benefits. Next, the court said the worker admitted to violating Section 440.105. Despite this, the employee argued he should be allowed to recover disability benefits for the period prior to making his untrue statement.

After examining the worker’s claim, the appellate court said the man failed to establish he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits prior to making his misrepresentation. In fact, the man’s untrue statements were made because his employer contested the worker’s right to recover disability benefits. The court then said the language included in Chapter 440 indicates that all contested benefits are barred when fraud has occurred in a workers’ compensation case that has not yet been adjudicated. Finally, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal ruled that the JCC did not commit error when he denied the worker’s claim for benefits and affirmed the JCC’s decision.

If you were hurt at work in Miami, you should have a seasoned personal injury lawyer advocating on your behalf. To discuss your right to recover financial compensation for your harm with a dedicated South Florida workers’ compensation attorney today, give the knowledgeable advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Leggett v. Barnett Marine, Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015

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Florida Appeals Court Overturns Discovery Order Due to Constitutional Privacy Concerns, June 11, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Florida Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Negligence Case Filed Against Deceased Worker’s Employer, June 8, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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