Florida Appeals Court Reviews Workers Compensation LawApril 3, 2015
A Florida appeals court will rule on the constitutionality of the state’s workers compensation law. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto ruled last August that the state’s workers compensation law denied workers the right to pursue civil lawsuits against employers. Judge Cueto ruled that the “exclusivity” of the law put it in violation of the state’s constitution. The state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in the case this week.
Amendments Hamper Workers Compensation Law
Judge Cueto’s ruling comes in light of amendments to the state’s workers compensation law put into effect in October 2003. The amendments attempted to simplify the state’s complex system of claims and benefits, while keeping down costs for businesses. Instead, the new version of the workers compensation law caused confusion for businesses and limited benefits for injured workers. Attorneys for injured workers have argued that the law prevents workers from receiving the benefits they deserve.
Ruling Jeopardizes Workers Compensation Law
The Cueto ruling stated that the current version of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act “does not provide a reasonable alternative to the tort remedy it supplanted.” He also ruled that the state’s workers compensation law “cannot be the exclusive remedy” for injured workers. The clauses that prohibit workers from pursuing legal actions against employers were intended to keep costs down for both parties. However, the Cueto ruling stated that the“exclusivity” promoted in the current workers compensation law limits the rights of injured workers.
Workers Compensation Law Rulings Highlight Problems
Judge Cueto issued his statement on the constitutionality of the workers compensation law while ruling on the case of an injured worker. Plaintiff Julio Cortes filed a workers compensation lawsuit after he was allegedly injured on the job at Velda Farms. When the issue of the law’s constitutional compliance was dismissed, two worker safety advocacy groups stepped in to re-open the question. The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and the Florida Workers’ Advocates requested that Judge Cueto address the limitations on workers’ rights established in the new law.
Judge’s Jurisdiction Questioned in Workers Compensation Law Ruling
A leading state attorney raised the question of whether Judge Cueto had the jurisdiction to rule on the workers compensation law’s constitutional status. Chief Deputy Solicitor General Adam Tanenbaum argued to the three-judge appeals court panel that the circuit court judge lacked the authority to determine the law’s constitutional status. An attorney for the workers’ advocacy groups stated that they had the right to challenge the workers compensation law, since it revoked a worker’s right to a trial by jury.
Source: Orlando Sentinel
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