Florida Court Holds Workers’ Compensation Case May be Time-Barred

In Limith v. Lenox on the Lake, an employee was injured in a Florida workplace accident.  As a result, she filed a petition for benefits in 2011.  A Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”) later dismissed the petition but reserved jurisdiction over the employee’s claim for legal fees and costs.  In 2013, the JCC denied the employer’s request to dismiss the worker’s claim for lack of prosecution.  Next, the employee sought a follow-up medical visit related to her workplace injury.  Although the JCC denied the worker’s request, he also rejected the employer’s affirmative defense that the statute of limitations enumerated in Section 440.19 of the Florida Statutes had expired.  After that, both parties filed an appeal with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

According to the employer, the JCC committed error when he denied the employer’s motion to dismiss the workers’ compensation case for lack of prosecution.  In addition, the employer argued that the statute of limitations would have run and barred the worker’s subsequent request for a follow-up medical visit if the JCC had granted its motion.  The Florida appellate court agreed and stated Section 440.25(4)(i) of the Florida Statutes allows a JCC to dismiss a pending fee claim asserted in a workers’ compensation case.  In addition, the court said there was no authority to support the worker’s claim that the JCC’s reservation of jurisdiction over costs and fees meant the issue could not be dismissed for lack of prosecution. Next, the First District stated a JCC’s decision to dismiss a petition for lack of prosecution is not necessarily discretionary under Section 440.25(4)(i) even though the language of the statute uses the permissive word “may.”  Instead, the federal court said the JCC should have dismissed the case unless good cause for the worker’s lack of prosecution was evidenced.

Since the JCC failed to explain why he denied the employer’s motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal stated he committed reversible error and remanded the case. The appellate court instructed the JCC to determine on remand whether the worker could show good cause for her lack of prosecution in the fees and costs portion of the case.  If no such cause can be shown, the court directed the JCC to grant the employer’s motion to dismiss the worker’s remaining claims and deny her request for subsequent medical treatment as barred by the statute of limitations.  The federal court added that the record demonstrated the employee was fully healed from her compensable workplace injury by August 2011.  Because of this, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal directed the JCC to deny the worker’s request for follow-up medical care even if her request was not time-barred.

If you or someone close to you was injured at work in Florida, you should speak with a seasoned Miami workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you are able. To discuss your right to receive financial compensation with a veteran South Florida personal injury lawyer today, give the caring advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Limith v. Lenox on the Lake, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015

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