FREE CASE REVIEW
Workers throughout Florida should pay attention to a case that could result in workers being allowed to sue their employers for injuries and illnesses suffered on the job instead of being limited to seeking workers’ compensation benefits.
Last August, the Honorable Jorge E. Cueto ruled in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court that the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act’s “exclusive remedy” provision is unconstitutional because it takes away workers’ right to sue their employers without providing an adequate remedy in place of that right.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office appealed the decision. It is now under review by the Third District Court of Appeals. You can actually go to the court’s website to listen to the oral arguments heard by the Court on March 30.
The “exclusive remedy” provision can be found at § 440.11 of the Florida Statutes. It has been in effect since 1935.
The provision bars employees or their survivors from bringing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against an employer – except under rare circumstances (when an employer intentionally harms an employee or knowingly engages in conduct that is “virtually certain” to harm the employee).
In exchange for giving up the right to sue, which would require proof of the employer’s fault, the employee may file for workers’ compensation medical and lost-wage benefits, which can be obtained without proving fault.
However, due to many changes in Florida law since 1935, including changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act, the “exclusive remedy” provision no longer passes constitutional muster, the Circuit Court ruled in its August 13, 2014 decision.
Three changes in particular are important here:
It is important to note that, in 1935, there were no Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Medicare/Medicaid, food stamps or other “safety nets” available for employees.
“The Act may have been a reasonable alternative to tort litigation up to 1968 [when the Florida Constitution was adopted and ratified],” the Circuit Court states in the decision. “The benefits in the Act have been so decimated since then that it no longer provides a reasonable alternative to tort litigation.”
The law firm of Frank M. Eidson, P.A., will be watching this case closely. We will provide an update after the Third District Court of Appeals issues its decision.
In the meantime, we will continue fighting for the workers’ compensation benefits that injured and ill workers in Orlando, Winter Park and throughout Florida deserve. We will also help them to explore all other options for compensation, including personal injury or wrongful death claims against negligent non-employer “third parties.” To learn more, call or contact us online.