Miami Judge Rules Against Florida Workers Comp Law
A judge from the Miami area declared Florida’s workers comp laws unconstitutional on Wednesday, August 13th.
Since 1968, workers comp in Florida has been the “exclusive” legal remedy in the event that an employee is injured on the job. However, starting in 1990, legislators began to chip away at the benefits offered by the system, justifying the reductions as measures to keep Florida competitive against other states when attracting businesses. Subsequently, workers who are injured on the job often have no choice but to sue their former employers in order to get the medical coverage and wages they need while they are disabled.
The recent ruling was made by Circuit Court Judge Jorge E. Cueto, stating, “The benefits in the act have been so decimated that [workers comp] no longer provides a reasonable alternative” to filing a civil suit against a business.
Wednesday’s ruling stemmed from an account clerk who tripped on a walkway at her place of employment in 2012, after a coworker left boxes on the floor. Plaintiff Elsa Padgett sustained injuries to her hip and shoulder, so much so that she had to undergo shoulder replacement surgery and was in significant pain even after the replacement. Workers comp should have covered her costs, but instead, because she was close to retirement age, Padgett was forced to retire.
“The free ride for injuring workers on the job is over,” said one of Padgett’s attorneys, Mark Zientz of Miami. “The workers’ comp law has been eviscerated and now we have a judge who essentially admitted that.”
Padgett’s case is not the only one showing the deep flaws in Florida’s workers comp system. Plaintiff Bradley Westphal, a former firefighter from the St. Petersburg area, suffered severe injuries to his back in 2009. After his temporary wage-loss benefits expired, he was left without any income. The doctors assigned to him by his insurance carrier could not recommend that he seek work because of the damage to his back, but he could also not receive any further benefits from workers comp until his doctors declared that he was not able to improve medically any further.
“This system of redress does not comport with any notion of natural justice, and its result is repugnant to fundamental fairness, because it relegates a severely injured worker to a legal twilight zone of economic and familial ruin,” a three-judge Tallahassee appeals court panel wrote in a February 2013 opinion that struck down the statute.
An appeal is already planned in Padgett’s workers comp case, so the lawsuit will continue to move through the court system.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The South Carolina workers’ comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.