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Florida Appeals Court Reverses Lower Court Order in Workers’ Compensation Case

Recently, the First District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a workers’ compensation claim dispute. The claimant initially filed a Petition for Benefits (PFB) with the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) in the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (JCC) requesting medical and indemnity benefits. The employer responded that the JCC had no jurisdiction over the PFB filed because both parties were bound by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that compelled a resolution of claims via arbitration.

Subsequently, the claimant voluntarily dismissed the PFB and filed a request for arbitration as required under the CBA binding the two parties. The arbitration hearing denied all benefits sought by the claimant. Shortly thereafter the claimant filed a motion for a rehearing with the arbitrator that was promptly denied. The claimant then filed a motion with the DOAH to dismiss the arbitration determination. The employer responded that the JCC lacked jurisdiction in this matter. Ultimately, the JCC determined that there was jurisdiction and vacated the arbitrator’s determination, and ordered a rehearing with the same arbitrator subject to the arbitrator’s willingness and availability. The employer then appealed the decision by the JCC.

The court of appeals found that there was no PFB pending before the JCC when the claimant filed the motion to vacate. While the claimant initially filed a PFB, he voluntarily dismissed it and proceeded to arbitration as required by the binding CBA. The dismissal of the PFB removes the jurisdiction of the JCC in this case. The appeals court notes that it had previously held that JCC does not have general jurisdiction and can only address issues specifically conferred by statute. When all claims asserted through a petition for benefits are dismissed, the JCC loses jurisdiction to address those claims. Here, the appeals court found that the claimant filed his PFB before voluntarily dismissing it and conceded to the CBA-mandated arbitration process. It was only once he was denied benefits through the arbitration hearing and dissatisfied with the results that he filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award with the JCC, which was ultimately an inappropriate forum that lacked jurisdiction. Ultimately, the proper course of action remaining to the claimant was to seek relief through a court with appropriate jurisdiction as defined by section 682.

Have You Suffered Injuries While at Work?

If you or someone you love has suffered from a workers’ compensation or work-related injury in Florida, the lawyers at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada can help you understand your rights and the remedies available to you. Our team of attorneys has successfully advocated for workers throughout Florida for 46 years. Expenses and injuries sustained at work can quickly become overwhelming, and having an experienced roster of workers’ compensation attorneys by your side can make a world of difference for your claim. Contact our team at 305-448-8585 to schedule a free and no-obligation initial consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer at our office.

 

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