Recently, the First District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a workers’ compensation claim from a correctional officer who suffered a cardiac arrest. According to the record, while the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) initially accepted compensability under Florida’s “pay-and-investigate” law, the BCSO later denied the claim. The correctional officer countered the denial, stating his claim was valid under the so-called “Heart-Lung” statute, which creates a presumption in favor of firefighters, police officers, correctional officers, and others that any “condition or impairment” that is “caused by tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension resulting in total or partial disability or death shall be presumed to have been accidental and to have been suffered in the line of duty unless the contrary [is] shown by competent evidence.”
The judge of compensation claims (JCC) denied his claims, reasoning that the correctional officer “must have successfully passed the physical examination required by this subsection upon entering into service as a . . . correctional officer . . . with the employing agency, which examination must have failed to reveal any evidence of tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension.” While the JCC found that the correctional officer did not successfully pass a physical examination upon entering service as a correctional officer, that was due to the fact that the BCSO does not require correctional officers that were previously working part-time to take a physical examination upon beginning service as full-time correctional officers. The plaintiff passed a physical examination when he initially began work as a part-time correctional officer.
In fact, in a dissenting opinion, it is highlighted that the employer, BCSO, failed to require and affirmatively disavowed the need for a renewed physical examination for the plaintiff or any part-time correctional officer who is promoted to full-time employment. BCSO’s policy affirmatively prevents the physical examination required by statute. The dissenting opinion states that, by failing to either require an additional test when part-time correctional officers begin service as full-time correctional officers or by disavowing the need for a renewed physical examination, the BCSO forfeits the ability to contest the statutory presumption that would otherwise arise in this matter.
The dissenting opinion points to statements made by the BCSO, affirming that they did not feel the need for a second test in circumstances like the plaintiffs. The BCSO stated, “[w]e didn’t do a second physical [of existing employees] because they’d been there with us, they’d been observed, they passed their first drug test. We knew they were widely capable from . . . our previous experience with them. We didn’t retest.” While the appeals court found that the JCC was correct in denying the claim, one of the three members of the appeals court panel issued a dissenting opinion, finding that the plaintiff is entitled to the statutory presumption and that the BCSO relinquished their right to contest plaintiffs claim due to the lack of a physical examination when he began as a full-time correctional officer.
Have You Suffered Injuries While at Work?
If you or someone you love has suffered a work-related injury, the Florida workers’ compensation lawyers at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada can help you understand your rights and the remedies available to you. Our team of attorneys have successfully advocated for workers in and around Miami 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.