- Florida Appellate Court Clarifies Occupational Disease Presumption in Workers’ Compensation Cases
Florida Appellate Court Clarifies Occupational Disease Presumption in Workers’ Compensation Cases
In the recent case of Scherer v. Volusia County Dept. of Corrections, the Florida First District Court of Appeal had an opportunity to determine wither a correctional officer’s claim of heart disease fell within the scope of the workers’ compensation system. In Scherer, a correctional officer working in Florida took a break from working in 2009 when he was diagnosed with a heart condition. Sometime during 2010, the officer received a defibrillator implant in his chest. Ultimately, the officer decided to retire from his job as a result of his declining health condition in 2012. The next year, he received a heart transplant.
In 2013, the former correctional officer submitted five different petitions for workers’ compensation benefits, each of which cited Section 112.18. According to this section, a correctional officer who suffers from a heart condition and a corresponding disability may receive compensation benefits for the heart condition as a work-related accident, but only when there is no evidence indicating that the condition is not work-related.
In response to the petitions, the officer’s former employer claimed that Section 112.18’s presumption was not applicable to his claim because he failed to submit his request for benefit payments within 180 days after quitting his job. In reply, the officer contended that the 180-day requirement included in the statute’s language only applied to claims beginning on or after July 1, 2010. The Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) assigned to the case ultimately decided the issue in favor of the former employer and denied the officer’s petitions on the basis that he failed to file them within 180 days after terminating his employment.
The officer appealed the denial to the First District Court of Appeal. In reviewing the case, the court first indicated that occupational diseases, such as a heart condition, are not commonly compensable under Florida’s workers’ compensation benefits law. According to Section 112.18, however, the legislature created a rebuttable presumption that specifically listed public servants like correctional officers as eligible for benefits that result from an occupational disease.
Regarding the 180-day limit, the appellate court determined that the point at which the officer’s disability started determines when he was eligible to file a petition for compensation benefits. Based on the plain language of the statute, the JCC was incorrect in interpreting the 180-day limitation as applying to all claims and finding that the restriction was limited to claims that originated on or after July 1, 2010. Reviewing the officer’s petitions, the appellate court determined that the officer alleged two disability dates, one of which was before July 1, 2010. Additionally, all five petitions were submitted beyond 180 days after the second alleged disability arose. Based on these conclusions, the appellate court held that the officer could rely on the presumption for his single claim predating July 1, 2010, but not for his remaining claims. The appellate court then reversed the JCC’s holding denying this viable claim and remanded the case for adjudication.
If you have suffered an occupational disease as a result of your job, you may be entitled to compensation. Understanding the workers’ compensation system can be incredibly challenging. The law is very specific when it comes to filing deadlines and other requirements, so having a dedicated workers’ compensation lawyer on your side is essential to bringing a successful and stress-free case. At The Hoffman Firm, we have helped many South Florida residents file a claim for benefits and navigate the workers’ compensation system. We offer a free consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Call us now at (800) 223-1866 or contact us online to set up your appointment now.
Evan A. Hoffman
Mr. Hoffman’s philosophy is "our knowledge and experience is your best defense." He has been a featured author on criminal law issues such as driving under the influence, domestic violence and illegal searches.Read More