Florida Supreme Court to hear challenge to state workers’ comp system

Florida Supreme Court to hear challenge to state workers’ comp system | Insurance Business America

Florida Supreme Court to hear challenge to state workers’ comp system
The Florida Supreme Court will this spring hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the state’s workers’ compensation system since its 2003 overhaul.

The case, Daniel Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital, et al., questions whether Florida’s system is an adequate alternative for injured workers – particularly if the elimination of a type of partial disability benefits by lawmakers is legal.

The petitioner, Stahl, suffered an injury while working as a nurse for Hialeah hospital in 2003. Two years later, his treating physician found he had reached his maximum medical improvement and gave him a 6% impairment rating.

This meant he was restricted to lifting nothing more than 10 pounds – a career-ending classification. He received impairment income benefits of 12 weeks and was compensated $5,472 for the injury.

Later, however, Stahl’s claim for permanent total disability was denied after it was determined he id not meet the criteria.

Stahl is now claiming that the benefits available to him since the October 2003 workers’ comp reforms went into effect are “inadequate and therefore cannot be the exclusive remedy for on the job injuries.” He claims state laws violate the US constitution, and that Florida lawmakers have eliminated injured employees’ right to sue without creating an adequate replacement for partial disability benefits.

The case has attracted significant attention from the insurance industry, with organizations like the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America filing “friend of the court” briefs defending the hospital and existing law.

If the case were decided in Stahl’s favor, argued FAIA, it would “imperil the entirety of the workers’ compensation act, clog the court with costly lawsuits and weaken Florida’s economy.”

“[Stahl’s] efforts should be rebuked,” it said.

Stahl’s suit is among several that have been filed since the 2003 reform. While many have been tried by the Florida Supreme Court, the constitutionality of the state’s system has always been upheld.

The case is set to be heard April 16, 2016.