Case Updates

Black v. Tomoka State Park and Division of Risk Management/State of Florida decision

In this case, the claimant appealed the JCC’s denial of future benefits on the basis of the statutory of limitations.The Court found that the claimant had previously filed a Petition for Benefits (compliant with the Florida Statutes) asserting claims for medical benefits and claims for attorney’s fees and costs.The claim for medical benefits was ultimately resolved and the claimant voluntarily dismissed the Petition.Importantly, however, claimant’s dismissal reserved on entitlement to attorney’s fee.The outstanding claims for fees and costs were not thereafter resolved.
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Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg

In the case of Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg ,  the First District Court of Appeal determined that section 440.15(2)(a), Florida Statutes (which subsection limits a claimant to 104 weeks of temporary disability benefits) was unconstitutional as applied to the claimant’s circumstances and found him to be entitled to 260 weeks of temporary total, to which he would have been entitled under the pre-1994 amendments to the subsection.

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Disability Requirement of Section 112.18 - Rocha v. City of Tampa/Commercial Risk Management

The opinion is titled Rocha v. City of Tampa/Commercial Risk Management.  In Rocha, the Claimant (a firefighter) underwent a stress test as part of his annual physical.  It was abnormal and the administering physician immediately placed Claimant on light duty restrictions and prohibited him from firefighting.  Based on the recommendations of the doctor, Claimant could not work as a firefighter from November 3, 2009 until November 11, 2009.  Notably, the opinion does not address whether Claimant was offered light duty work and/or whether he actually worked at all.  From a treatment standpoint, Claimant’s date of accident resulted in an adjustment to his hypertension medication.

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Rebutting the presumption - Walters v. State of Florida Division of Risk Management

The opinion is titled Walters v. State of Florida Division of Risk Management.  In Walters, the Claimant contracted cardiomyopathy as a result of a gastrointestinal virus.  It was undisputed that Claimant’s cardiomyopathy was heart disease and his stomach virus caused the heart disease.  It was also undisputed that the cause of the virus was unknown. The dispute regarding the compensability of Claimant’s heart disease came down to whether the Employer/Servicing Agent could rebut the presumption. 

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LaBlanc v. City of West Palm Beach; 1st DCA reverses JCC

In a recent case published by the First DCA, LaBlanc v. City of West Palm Beach, the issue was whether Claimant's condition of cardiac arrhythmia was compensable. There was no dispute that Claimant satisfied each of the requirements of section 112.18. Instead, the dispute was whether the employer presented sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption.

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Gore v. Lee County School Board and Johns Eastern Company - Statute of Limitations Defense

This article is intended to update you on a recent decision published by the First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) in Gore v. Lee County School Board and Johns Eastern Company addressing the statute of limitations defense.

In this case, the Claimant appealed the Judge of Compensation Claim's Order denying her claim for benefits on the ground that same was barred by the statute of limitations.The Judge's decision was based on his rejection of Claimant's argument that her prosthesis, inserted into the Claimant's leg in her 2002 surgery, represented a continuous provision of remedial care that tolled the statute of limitations (pursuant to section 440.19(2), Florida Statutes (2001)). He noted that, in 1993, the Legislature removed the statutory provision found in section 440.19(1)(b) excepting prosthesis from the statute, which he interpreted as being an intentional, specific alteration of the law. And, as this was the only alleged "treatment" that transpired between the surgery and Claimant's 2009 Petition for Benefits, the JCC found that the claim was barred by the statute, and denied the claim.

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Gauthier v. Florida International University et seq; Statute of Limitations Defense

This is an update on a recent decision published by the First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) in Gauthier v. Florida International University and Division of Risk Management, State of Florida. In this decision, the First DCA addressed the statute of limitations defense.

In this case, the Claimant appealed a JCC's Order denying her claims for benefits on the grounds that tjhe claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The Judge's decision was based on the fact that over one year (approximately 14 months) elapsed between Claimant's appointments with her authorized provider, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

Effects of Senate Bill 2176

On June 1, 2010, Governor Crist approved senate bill No. 2176, which was codified as Chapter Law 2010-175. The law contains significant changes to (1) the course and scope of employment of deputy sheriffs; and (2) the availability of the section 112.18 presumption to law enforcement, correctional, and correctional probations officers. A summary of the specific provisions are as follows:

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Disability in the Context of Presumption Analysis

This letter will serve to update you on a recent decision published by the First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) in Martz v. Volusia County Fire Services/County of Volusia Risk Management. In this decision, the First DCA addressed the issue of disability in the context of the presumption analysis.

In this case, the Claimant challenged the finding of the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) that he was not entitled to the presumption afforded by section 112.18(1), Florida Statutes. Claimant specifically asserted that the JCC erred by 1) finding Claimant failed to satisfy the disability requirement of the statutory presumption, with respect to his heart disease; and 2) finding Claimant was not entitled to compensation for treatment of his hypertension under the "hindrance to recovery doctrine." The First DCA affirmed as to the second issue without further comment.

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Admissibility of medical opinions

This letter will serve to update you on a recent decision published by the First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) in Russell v. Orange County Public Schools Transportation and United Self-Insured. In this decision, the First DCA addressed the issue of the admissibility of medical opinions.

In this case, the Claimant challenged the JCC's refusal to order an expert medical advisor (EMA) based on the disagreement of two medical opinions. In her request for an EMA, Claimant had cited a disagreement between two orthopedic providers, Dr. Richard Smith and Dr. Jeffrey Rosen. Dr. Rosen, Claimant's later authorized orthopedic provider, opined in his deposition that Claimant's accident was not the major contributing cause of her current knee condition. Dr. Smith testified to the contrary. Still, the JCC denied the request for an EMA, finding "the foundational support for the conflict did not exist because the opinion that reportedly established the conflict came from a physician whose opinion could not be accepted pursuant to section 440.13(5)(e)." This, as Dr. Smith had apparently been deauthorized.

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Definition of heart disease as contemplated by Presumption Statute

This letter will serve to update you on a recent decision published by the First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) in City of Venice and PGCS v. Michael van Dyke. In this decision, the First DCA addressed the definition of "heart disease" as contemplated by the presumption statute.

In this case, the E/C appealed the Judge of Compensation Claim's Order finding Claimant's thoracic aortic disease compensable under the presumption. Specifically, the E/C argued that this condition was not "heart disease." In support of this argument, the E/C asserted that the exact structure affected by the condition, the ascending aorta, is not "in the heart."

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Williams v. City of Orlando/City of Orlando Risk Management

The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) recently issued their Williams v. City of Orlando / City of Orlando Risk Management decision, wherein they addressed the issue of compensability of hypertension.

In this case, the Claimant appealed an Order of the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denying compensability of her hypertension on the ground that she failed to establish eligibility to the statutory presumption, found in section 112.18, Florida Statutes (2010). Specifically, the JCC found that the Claimant had not established the “covered condition” prong of the statute.


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