Estate of McKenzie v. Hi Rise Crane/Bridgefield Employers Ins. Co.,So.3d__(Fla. 1st DCA 8/19/21)
Dismissal of Claims/Relation Back
The DCA reversed and remanded the JCC’s dismissal of a PFB filed by the deceased claimant’s sister. The claimant’s accident occurred on 1/26/18 and he passed away in August of that year. The claimant’s attorney filed two PFBs for that date of accident and dismissed the PFBs shortly before his death. On 1/24/20, the same attorney filed a PFB on behalf of the claimant’s sister, identifying her as the claimant/PR. Attached to the PFB was the signed fraud acknowledgment signed by the decedent in February of 2018 that had been attached to the prior PFBs. The claimant attorney argued the sister, prior to her appointment as PR, could not sign the fraud statement. The sister received her appointment as PR in July of 2020, and the E/C moved to dismiss the PFB, arguing she was not the PR at the time the PFB was filed, and arguing the PFB could not be accompanied by the decedent’s prior fraud statement.
The sister then amended the PFB, arguing her PR appointment should relate back to the 1/18 filing date, and attaching her own signed acknowledgment to the PFB. The JCC rejected the claimant’s relation back doctrine argument and that the original PFB listing her as the claimant required her signed acknowledgement. The DCA found the sister being named as claimant in the 1/2418 PFB was sufficient and that Padilla v. Collins does not provide for dismissal when a PFB lacks the acknowledgment. Benefits are merely suspended until the proper acknowledgment is attached. Further, 60Q-6.107(1) indicates dismissal is proper only when a PFB fails to comply with F.S.s. 440.192(2)-(4). The DCA found the JCC’s erroneous conclusion that the decedent was the claimant led to her error in interpreting the relation back doctrine. They held that under F.S. s. 733.601 a PR’s powers “relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed, occurring before appointment and beneficial to the estate, the same effect as those occurring after appointment.”
Click here to view Opinion