Case Law Update November 2021

Case Law Updates

Updated 11-15-21

Hospitals East LLC d/b/a Kindred Hospital – N. FL/Sedgwick v. Hampton, ___ So.3d ____ (Fla.1st DCA 2021)
Statute of Limitations/Reservation of Fees/Tolling

The DCA reversed the JCC’s holding that a prior Order’s reservation of jurisdiction on amount of fees and costs tolled the SOL.  Claimant’s 2013 PFB sought indemnity arising out of her 2011 WC accident. The JCC awarded indemnity in a 2015 Order which awarded entitlement to fees and costs but reserved as to amount. The DCA issued a PCA affirming that Order. Nothing occurred thereafter until a 2020 PFB sought medical benefits. The E/C asserted that no benefit had been paid since 2016 and the SOL had run.  The JCC disagreed, ruling the prior Order’s reservation on amount tolled the SOL, relying on Black v. Tomoka State Park and Longley v. Miami-Dade School Board (pending claims asserted via PFB—even claims for fees and costs—toll the statute of limitations). The DCA agreed with the E/C that reservations as to amount of fees and costs does not toll the SOL, noting that prior case law distinguishes fees/costs from medical/indemnity payments which operate to toll the SOL, and that Q rules state JCC’s “Shall” require filing of Fee Petitions for entitlement but “may” for amount.  Noting that Black and Longley were distinguishable because neither amount nor entitlement had been adjudicated, the DCA held that reservation as to amount of fees and costs alone does not operate to toll the SOL.    Click here to view Opinion

Doss v. UPS/Liberty Mutual, ___ So.3d___(Fla. 1st DCA 11/10/21)
Temporary Benefits/Constitutionality of 401-week cap

The First DCA affirmed the JCC’s denial of temporary benefits. The claimant had a compensable knee sprain in 1997. In 2016 the E/C authorized arthroscopic knee surgery, and the claimant was TTD  from 9/10/16 – 1/3/17, and thereafter placed at MMI with a 14 % PIR. The parties stipulated the claimant had received less than 260 weeks of temporary benefits. The E/C refused to pay, citing F.S. s. 440.15(3)(C), which states a claimant’s eligibility for temporary benefits “terminates on the expiration of 401 weeks after the date of injury.”  The claimant asserted that, similar to Westphal, this “gap” in benefits was unconstitutional as applied to the claimant, as a violation of his right to access to courts.  The DCA analyzed whether the legislature, in enacting the 401-week cap, failed to provide a reasonable alternative for redress under Kluger v. White. They also examined the Florida Supreme Court’s prior 1990 holding in Martinez v. Scanlon (affirming legislative reduction of temporary benefits from 350 weeks to 260 weeks) which approved that reduction, as it left workers’ compensation as a reasonable alternative to tort litigation. While the “gap period” in Westphal was found to be a “tipping point” in reducing benefits, here the claimant’s four-month TTD status, placement at MMI and potential ability to pursue permanent benefits did not create a situation void of remedy. They further noted that 440.15(3)(c) acts as a “Statute of Repose”,  and under WC the claimant sought temporary benefits 19 years after his accident, which would be well after any tort statute of limitations would have run.  *note – the 401 week cap does not apply to DOAs after 10/1/03    Click here to view Opinion