Florida Appellate Court Affirms ALJ Opinion in Oxygen Deprivation Birth Case, Denying Benefits

Recently, the district court of appeals for the State of Florida Fifth District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a claim by the Appellant, Nekeisha Wilson, who petitioned for benefits from the Appellee, the Florida Birth Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association (“NICA”). Ms. Wilson and NICA agreed that the Appellant’s daughter experienced “some degree of birth-related oxygen deprivation,” but disagreed about whether the oxygen deprivation caused a brain injury that rendered the child permanently and substantially impaired. The parties stipulated that the sole legal issue for the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) adjudication was whether the child “suffered a birth-related neurological injury” as defined by section 766.302(2), Florida Statutes.

Facts of the Case

The Appellant petitioned for benefits from NICA. NICA determined that the Appellant’s claim was not compensable, and the case proceeded to a hearing before ALJ. Each side presented expert deposition testimony concerning the disputed facts before an ALJ. The ALJ’s final order evaluated this testimony and the rest of the evidence, including the child’s medical records, in detail. Based on her evaluation of the evidence, the ALJ found that the child “suffered oxygen deprivation during the course of labor, delivery, and the post-delivery period.” However, the ALJ did not find that this oxygen deprivation caused a brain injury—let alone one that resulted in the child’s permanent and substantial impairment. Because the ALJ did not find the existence of a “birth related neurological injury,” the ALJ dismissed the Appellant’s petition for NICA benefits with prejudice. The Appellant appealed to the Fifth District court of appeals.

On appeal, the Appellant contends the ALJ failed to apply a statutory presumption that relieves NICA claimants from having to prove when an injury occurred if they show the other elements of a “birth-related neurological injury.” The appeals court opinion stated that the ALJ found the presumption in question did not apply because the Appellant did not prove the existence of a brain injury resulting in permanent and substantial impairment, elements without which the timing presumption remains inactive. The ALJ’s findings about the absence of a brain injury and resulting impairment are supported by competent,
substantial evidence. Subsequently, because the ALJ concluded that the Appellant did not show a “birth-related neurological injury” as defined by section 766.302(2), and because the findings underlying this conclusion are supported by competent, substantial evidence, the appeals court affirmed the ALJ decision.

Have You Suffered Injuries in Florida?

If you or someone you love has been injured in Florida, let the negligence attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada fight to help you recover the damages you deserve. Expenses and injuries sustained in a negligence accident can quickly become overwhelming, and having an experienced roster of Florida accident attorneys by your side can make a world of difference in the compensation you receive. Our experienced attorneys have successfully represented Florida injury victims at every stage of their claims, ensuring that they obtain the damages that they deserve. With our team, you can have faith that your negligence lawsuit is being pursued properly. If you have questions about your case, call us today at 877-448-8585 and schedule a free and no-obligation initial consultation with a Florida negligence lawyer at our office.

Contact Information