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Is the idea of workers’ comp as the ‘sole remedy’ on its way out? p3

Wed Aug 19th, 2015 on     Insurance Law,    

The Florida Court of Appeal decision we have been talking about skirts an important question, and the appellees have asked the state Supreme Court not only to review the decision but to address the central issue. The court has asked for revised filings, but it is still not clear whether the case will be added to the docket.

The central issue, as we’ve said, is whether the workers’ compensation system’s standing as a worker’s sole remedy is unconstitutional. The appellees allege that exclusive remedy provision

violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Access to Courts provision of Article 1, § 21 of the Florida Constitution, a violation of the Florida Constitution’s right to trial by jury; and a violation of the Florida Constitutions right to be Rewarded for Industry.

As any civil procedure law professor will tell you, cases rise and fall on procedural matters. The rules in civil cases are just as important as the Miranda warning is in a criminal case. A missed deadline or a mistake in filing a document can cost either a plaintiff or a defendant the case. As a result, you can imagine that both parties look carefully at procedural matters and point out an opponent’s mistakes to the court. If the court agrees, the case is dismissed.

That is what happened here. The original complaint involved an injured worker and his employer. Workers’ rights advocates were allowed to join the lawsuit on the plaintiff’s side, and they brought up the constitutional issues. As soon as the constitutional issues were raised, the employer settled the underlying case with the worker.

The case continued with substitute workers and employers, but, according to the state, by the time the case was heard by the court, the dispute was so far removed from the initial case that it was no longer viable. With each step away from the original worker/employer complaint, the state said, the case lost its integrity; the complainants had no legitimate beef with the state, and the court is there to resolve controversies, not to answer hypothetical questions.

The Court of Appeal agreed. Now what?

We will finish this up in our next post.

Sources:

Cortes v. Velda Farms, 2014 WL 6685226 (Fla.Cir.Ct.), via WestlawNext

State v. Florida Workers’ Advocates, 167 So. 3d 500 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2015), via WestlawNext

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